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

    U.S.-Poland analysis

    Gritty American effort defeats Poland for first win of 2004.

    By Robert Wagman
    SoccerTimes

    (Wednesday, March 31, 2003) -- With a grueling and gusty performance, the determined United States men outlasted a tall and physical Poland 1-0, making midfielder DaMarcus Beasley's first-half goal stand up for their first victory in 2004 at Kazimierza Gorskiego at Plock, Poland.

    The U.S. was 0-1-2 this year and manager Bruce Arena had been upset with the level of intensity his team exhibited in these outings. He also has made it clear that he expects greater effort from players who expect to start when World Cup qualifying starts this summer. Tonight, that message seemed to get through.

    The U.S. squad was quite different from the one that was lucky to draw 1-1 with Haiti March 13 in Miami, Fla. That team was comprised mostly with players from Major League Soccer; tonight's side included many Americans who play in Europe and the attitude tonight was clearly improved. The U.S. seemed complacent in recent matches, with players showing little fire and aggression. Tonight, the Americans appeared much more determined than the Poles.

    The U.S. controlled play in the midfield for long stretches and created a number of chances. Contrary to recent matches, the Americans took on defenders and, while their timing still could use some work, they looked much more dangerous. While the U.S. had trouble stringing together passes in games earlier this year, tonight they displayed several nice combinations, including leading up to Beasley's decisive tally.

    Beasley's speed remains a problem to opposing defenses. On the goal, Beasley raced by three defenders to catch up to Josh Wolff's perfect lead pass and Beasley was confident and accurate with his first-touch finish.

    This was a hugely important match for a number of the U.S. players. On the offensive end, Clint Mathis and Josh Wolff must prove they have returned to the form that made them national-team starters in the past. Newcomer Conor Casey, who marked his first international appearance by starting the sequence leading to Beasley's goal, must make the most of his opportunity. Tonight, Casey probably had the best game on any American forward this year.

    All four of tonight's defensive starters had something to prove to Arena. He has signaled that the outside defensive positions are the team's major question marks. Tonight's starters, Greg Vanney and Steve Cherundolo, needed to show they can play consistently well and can be counted on as was the case against Poland. In the middle, Gregg Berhalter was in much the same situation -- needing to prove himself -- and performed well. Finally, Pablo Mastroeni, needed to show he can play on the back line on the international level, not just in the midfield.

    Match after match, the U.S. features different lineups as a result of injuries, club commitments or Arena wanting to look at different players. As a result, the U.S. often lacks flow or cohesiveness, especially in attack. That was still the case tonight, but Mathis, Wolff, Beasley and Casey did work well together at times, as shown by the very nice passing play resulting in Beasley's goal.

    The U.S. still has fitness problems. The European contingent is deep into its club seasons and many are banged up. The MLS players are just starting their season and are not completely match fit. Tonight, was a vastly better effort than the one against Haiti in the Orange Bowl and the 1-0 setback February 18 to the Netherlands in Amsterdam.

    Still, the U.S. can take a lot of positives away from this match and Arena expressed happiness with the effort.


    U.S. player ratings

    Starters

    Goalkeeper Brad Friedel - 7: Not an overly busy nigh,t but came up big when he had to. He controlled his area from the opening moments. Only a late dropped ball -- cleared by his defense -- marred a close to perfect outing as he earned his 24th career international shutout.

    Defender Greg Vanney - 6: In a solid effort, not only protected the outside, but often came into the middle to help. Seemed to tire late and gave up a couple of chances, but otherwise did very well.

    Defender Pablo Mastroeni - 5.5: Played in the center of defense where is expected to play in MLS this season. Gave up a height advantage and had trouble in the air at times, but otherwise showed well until a sore neck and lower back sent him to the sidelines early in the second half.

    Defender Gregg Berhalter - 6: Shut down the tall and speedy Polish forwards he faced. Was good both in the area and as a stopper. One of his better national-team efforts.

    Defender Steve Cherundolo - 5.5: A strong first hour, but faded late. Was not beaten to the outside, but did give up some ground in the middle. He certainly improved his long-range chances with the team.

    Midfielder Chris Klein 6: A late addition to the squad, gave a very energetic performance, pushing the ball forward and then dropping back on defense. Seemed to lose his legs in the second half, but still put in a lot of effort until replaced.

    Midfielder Clint Mathis - 5.5: A key part of the U.S. attack. Worked well with the forwards in the first half and then as a forward in the second. Botched an open opportunity 12 yards from goal, failing to control Klein's perfect pass. Otherwise, seemed confident.

    Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 6.5: Despite taking a physical pounding, was consistently on the attack, yet dropped back and defended when necessary. Confidently finished the winning goal in a well-rounded performance.

    Midfielder Claudio Reyna - 6: A typical excellent, but understated performance. Essentially played the defensive midfield position and won ball after ball in the midfield. Was less effective on attack where a couple chances slipped away from him.

    Forward Conor Casey 7: In his first international outing at the senior level, was something of a revelation. Was the best American, repeatedly pushed forward and was always a threat while also getting back on Polish set to win balls in the air. Made a statement to Arena that he belongs in this team.

    Forward Josh Wolff - 6: Played inmost of the first half in obvious pain after injuring his shoulder early. Slipped a perfect pass through three Poland defenders to set up Beasley's goal. Showed flashes of what made him a starter two years ago, but also the bad luck that has caused him to spend much of his career injured and on the sidelines.

    Reserves

    Midfielder Bobby Convey (46th minute for Wolff) - 5.5: As usual, played with a lot of determination and pushed forward. However, he did not seem to be completely in sync with his teammates and was not as effective as in some recent matches.

    Defender Carlos Bocanegra (52nd minute for Mastroeni) - 6: Showed again he can play either in the center of defense, as he did tonight, or on the outside. Was particularly solid, especially when Poland started to apply pressure late.

    Midfielder Tony Sanneh (74th minute for Klein) - 6.5: Came in to help kill off the match and was extremely effective both deep in defense, pushing forward and then holding the ball to run out the clock. A short, but solid appearance.

    Midfielder Kerry Zavagnin (85th minute for Mathis) - no rating: With fresh legs, did well clearing the ball out of danger and supporting a tiring defense.

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

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