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McBride's two goals spark 4-0 romp over Honduras as Reyna reaches 100-cap milestone.

U.S. heads into qualifying on positive note after drubbing Honduras.

Pope knocks home rebound in stoppage time to defeat Mexico 1-0.

U.S. put in impressive effort against Mexico, even before Pope won it.

Beasley goal defeats Poland 1-0, hands Arena first win over host Europeans.

Gritty American effort defeats Poland for first win of 2004.

Califf's tally late in stoppage time salvages 1-1 draw with Haiti.

Outplayed by Haiti, Americans are fortunate to gain 1-1 draw.

Goal by teen Robben sends Netherlands past U.S. 1-0.

Netherlands was clearly superior in victory over Americans.

  • Beasley's pair sparks 3-0 victory over Grenada to open qualifying series.

    Analysis

    Second-half goals relieve pressure for U.S. in Grenada return leg.

    By Robert Wagman
    SoccerTimes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio (Sunday, June 13, 2004) -- Whew!!

    After nearly 46 nerve-wracking minutes, midfielder DaMarcus Beasley finally scored for the United States. He added another midway through the second half and defender Greg Vanney added one a minute from time, giving the U.S. men a 3-0 victory over Grenada and a healthy cushion going into the return leg of this two-game, second-round CONCACAF World Cup qualifying series.

    As expected the Americans completely outclassed the visitors from one of the world's smallest independent countries. However, the U.S. had nothing to show for it until Beasley gave it a big lift with his tally as first-half stoppage time began.

    Still, without the second-half strikes from Beasley and Vanney, the U.S. could have faced considerable pressure in the second leg next Sunday in St. George's Grenada. Now, it is hard to imagine the Grenadians being capable for scoring three times to even this series.

    Throughout the game, the Spice Boyz dropped five, six and even seven men into their penalty area, but that didn't stop the U.S. from generating chances. Outshooting Grenada 34-6, 14-1 on frame, Americans Landon Donovan and Brian McBride came up empty on prime opportunities in the box and Grenadian defenders made acrobatic goal-line stops of U.S. point-blank shots on three occasions in the first half.

    Grenadian keeper Kellon Baptiste had a career match with a total of 11 saves. "It was fun out there today, very exciting. I think we did extremely well," he said. "We held them scoreless for almost the entire half. Now we'll go home and next weekend hope we have a bit more luck."

    As often happens in these kinds of matches, when nothing much is expected of the much lower-ranked team, the pressure is on the heavily-favored home team. The tension grows and frustration begins to set in when the minutes pass and, despite shot after shot, the score remains 0-0.

    "If I can be critical of anything, it was our finishing" U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "We could have come away with five, six seven goals. But our sloppiness in front of goal cost us. But at the end of the day, I'm satisfied with three."

    In the opening 20 minutes, the Americans had a dozen scoring chances, but just couldn't push one over the goal line. At one point, Ricky Charles, a star offensive force at NCAA Division II South Carolina-Spartanburg in 2002 and 2003, cleared two seemingly sure goals in succession off his line and then a third shot hit the crossbar.

    "That first half was weird," U.S. defender Greg Vanney said. "Every shot we took seemed to hit someone. I thought I had one or two that were going in, but with that many people in the box, there is not a lot of room."

    The game broke open in the 46th minute of the first half when U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna sent a long cross to the far post and found Beasley who headed it home.

    "We prepared by concentrating on getting the ball to the far post," Reyna said. "I saw him out there and sent the ball across. He got his head on it."

    Beasley, who is yet to score in 10 games this season for the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer, added his second goal today after an amazing 50-yard run to catch up with a breakaway started by Donovan. The attacking midfielder, Beasley's friend and teammate since the two were in U.S. under-17 residence camp, spotted his pal coming down the center of the field and laid the ball into his path.

    "I wasn't quite sure what to do with it," Beasley admitted. "My first thought was to try to carry it past the keeper, but when I looked up and he had not come out, I just tried to first-time it into the corner."

    A key match-up for the U.S. today was defender Eddie Pope against Grenadian striker Jason Roberts, a 10-year veteran of upper-division English soccer. Roberts, a big strong, very physical forward, constantly tried to muscle his way open, pushing, grabbing and strong-arming Pope.

    Twice in the first 16 minutes, he slipped free behind the U.S. backs, but could only manage a weak header in the 12th minute and then drilled a shot from seven yards out well over the crossbar as defender Carlos Bocanegra nipped at his heels.

    Otherwise, Pope won the battle. "It was hard out there," said Pope, who picked up a yellow card in the 25th minute. "It's very tough when they let the forward use his hands and don't let the defender. I expected that style of play from him and was ready for it. We're fine as long as we can deny him the ball."

    Coach Alister Debellotte, who surely must know his side's chances of a stunning upset disappeared with the two second-half U.S. goals, promised his team would push numbers forward next Sunday in an attempt to win the series. "Overall, it was a good performance," he said. "If we could have gone into the lockerroom at the interval nil-nil, then maybe we would have regained some energy, and gotten a more favorable result. But we are satisfied. . . Yes, definitely, we'll push forward a lot more."

    Arena does not seem overly concerned, saying, "They'll have to attack with more than one player. They're not going to do very much just with Roberts."

    After the game, Arena announced three changes to his roster for preparations and next weekend's match. Defender\midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, who was dropped from this roster when the Colorado Rapids would not release him from their midweek MLS match, was added. Striker Josh Wolff and midfielder Kerry Zavagnin, who were also dropped (along with K.C. goalkeeper Tony Meola) so Colorado would not have an advantage over the Wizards in the Wednesday MLS match, were summoned back.

    Striker Conor Casey, who sprained his right knee this afternoon and will be out for six weeks, was dropped from the roster. Pope and midfielder Eddie Lewis were also removed, having picked up yellow cards. A second caution would leave them suspended for the first match of the semifinal round.


    U.S. player ratings

    Starters

    Goalkeeper Kasey Keller - 6: Only made one save, but he gave his teammates confidence and direction he became the winningest goalkeeper in U.S. men's history.

    Defender Greg Vanney - 6: A potentially huge goal in stoppage time after a sound match for the previous 90 minutes.

    Defender Eddie Pope - 7: Just a brilliant effort against a very experienced, big-touch forward in Roberts. His man marking abilities are unmatched for the U.S.

    Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 5.5: He was outrun once or twice when he wound up one-on-one with a fleet forward, but otherwise a solid match.

    Defender Steve Cherundolo - 6: Was solid on defense, but had close to a breakthrough match offensively. At one point early, he took four shots in a row, any one of which could have found net with a little better luck.

    Midfielder Chris Armas - 5: Had an odd match. At times, he acted almost as a sweeper, deep in defense, then pushed far forward in offense. He seemed to tire and was not as productive in the second half.

    Midfielder Claudio Reyna - 6: Still the engine that keeps this team moving. Played extremely well except on corner kicks, of which he took more than a dozen. The first couple were excellent, but most were off the mark.

    Midfielder Landon Donovan - 6.5: A very good game. Played hard for the entire 90 minutes, often coming back deep into the defense end to help control the midfield.

    Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 7.5: Showed he really has become a complete player and one the U.S. needs on the field. He had two exceptional goals, but much more than that, was a constant threat on offense and a defensive stopper when one was needed.

    Forward Brian McBride - 5.5: Had some difficulties given the number of Grenadian bodies that were constantly in the penalty area, but he showed more range than recently and his game has improved since he has moved full-time to England.

    Forward Conor Casey - 5: Never really settled in with the helter-skelter pace of the first 20 minutes, before going down with a knee injury after a challenge to Grenada defender Franklin Baptiste

    Reserves

    Forward Jovan Kirovski (20th minute for Casey) - 4.5: To put it charitably, he had a nightmare of an outing. Just seemed a step slow or a few seconds late for the entire game. He gave it a big effort, but was lacking.

    Midfielder Eddie Lewis (73rd minute for Armas) - 5.5: It was interesting to see him on the field at the same time as Beasley. He pushed forward more than usual and had several good chances. Made solid passes and his twisting chest pass set up Vanney for his closing goal.

    Midfielder Earnie Stewart (93rd minute for McBride) - no rating: Earned his 99th cap in the dying seconds.

    Robert Wagman is a SoccerTimes senior correspondent. E-mail Robert Wagman.

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