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Adu, Ralston leave Carson training camp.

Twellman nets three; U.S. rolls over Norway 5-0.

World Cup-bound U.S. outclasses young Norway team.

Adu earns first cap, subbing for injured Johnson in 0-0 draw with Canada.

Final U.S. World Cup preparations will take place in Cary, N.C.

Mastroeni injures left quadriceps, will miss 6-8 weeks; game with Guatemala set.

Women players sign new contract that carries through 2012.

USSF, men's player's union reach deal through 2010.

All six national teams will train at HDC in January.

Keller, Lilly are over 30 and named best players of 2005.

Lilly is invited to training camp, ready to earn 300th cap.

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Analysis

U.S. rises to occasion and dominates tough foe in victory over Japan.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

SAN FRANCISCO (Friday, February 10, 2006) -- In what was supposed to be their most difficult match of 2006, the United States men, led by striker Taylor Twellman, swarmed all over Japan to gain a three-goal lead, but had to hang on late to win 3-2 in a meeting of World Cup-bound teams front before 37,365 at SBC Park tonight.

Twellman, who needed to step up his play on the international level if he hoped to make the U.S. World Cup team, has done just that in the last two games. He assisted the first two American goals, before scoring one himself against Japan after putting away three goals himself in a 5-0 rout of Norway on January 29 in Carson, Calif.

Japan had no answer for Twellman's energy and effort, as he continually made the American attack dangerous throughout the first half and much of the second while also hustling to help on defense.

Tonight's match was not nearly as close as the final score might indicate. The U.S. dominated the first hour, but seemed to lose some of its focus after making a few substitutions in the second half. Japan didn't quit and rallied, but its comeback fell short despite four tense minutes of stoppage time.

"Despite the final score-line, it was a dominant performance tonight," U.S. manager Bruce Arena said. "Our substitutes broke the flow of things a bit. But, for 65 minutes, it was a dominant job by our team. Overall, I'm quite pleased."

Both teams were playing without their foreign-based players, which left the game a match-up of the better players from Japan's domestic J. League against the best Americans from Major League Soccer. Japan had more of its likely starters for the World Cup in Germany tonight than did the U.S., but the Americans controlled the first half with aggressive play and sheer effort.

Japan employed a 3-6-1 formation it first used in a late World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain. Veteran Tatsuhiko Kubo played as the lone striker, with Shinji Ono and Mitsuo Ogasawara lurking behind him as attacking midfielders. Zico, Japan's Brazilian coach, said through an interpreter he uses the alignment because it is suited to allow his players to control the midfield.

Still, it was the U.S. that controlled play in the middle. Arena was well-prepared and effectively used a 3-5-2 to crowd the Japanese midfield. American midfielders consistently pressured the Japanese deep in their own end and did not allow Japan any rhythm to get into its Brazilian-style short passing offense.

While Japan could create no room for its attack, the U.S. crafted one chance after another, outshooting its opponent 12-1 in the first half while forcing seven corner kicks.

The U.S. did not have many breakdowns, but the first allowed Japan to narrow its deficit to 3-1 in the 61st minute. U.S. midfielder Pat Noonan could not prevent a cross, defender Jimmy Conrad could not get high enough to block it and midfielder Chris Klein allowed Seiichiro Maki to get inside position on him for a header past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.

At the home of baseball's San Francisco Giants, grass was laid over the infield, but it looked better than it played. The field was extremely slick and players from both sides slipped and slid at key moments.

Zico was not happy about the conditions and had complained repeatedly during the week. "For me, it's disappointing that in a World Cup year, this match was played in a baseball stadium," he said.

Overall, it was a good night for the U.S. with a number of players having outstanding nights.


U.S. player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Kevin Hartmann - 6: Only two saves, but they were good ones. Played quite well.

Defender Todd Dunivant - 5.5: Good effort. Helped the attack on occasion with good service.

Defender Eddie Pope - 7.5: Starting to look like he his old self of four years ago. A wonderful goal and numerous defensive stops. "Man of the Match."

Defender Jimmy Conrad - 6.5: For the second week in a row was very good. Almost never out of position. A fine night.

Midfielder Kerry Zavagnin - 6: Did much to break up the Japanese short passing game. Was key to the U.S. dominating the midfield.

Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 6: Scored a lovely goal, created through a long run off the ball. Was active thoughout the match all both on offense and defense.

Midfielder Landon Donovan - 5.5: Picked his spots, but was a constant threat.

Midfielder Chris Klein - 5: Was a bit off all night. Certainly made an effort, but was not effective.

Midfielder Pat Noonan - 6: His best effort so far this year. Was very effective on both ends.

Forward Josh Wolff - 5: Put forth a terrific effort, but without much effect. Came close to scoring several times, but he continues to be slight off target despite getting good chances.

Forward Taylor Twellman - 7: Played a solid two-way game scoring once and assisting twice while making defensive stops at times deep in his own end.

Reserves

Forward Eddie Johnson (58th minute for Wolff) - 5: Showed he is regaining his fitness after layoff for injuries, made some nice moves, but seems to have a way to go.

Forward Brian Ching (68th minute for Twellman) - 5: Didn't make much of an impression. Did not seem able to match the pace.

Midfielder Ben Olsen (69th minute for Dempsey) - 5.5: Probably saved a goal with a tremendous clearance. Push forward, but without accomplishing much.

Midfielder Brian Carroll (79th minute for Klein) - 5: Displayed intelligence, but not much else in the helter-skelter final minutes.

Forward Chris Rolfe (87th minute for Noonan) - 5: Forced into a mostly defensive role in the closing minutes.

Defender Heath Pearce (91st minute for Dunivant) - no rating: A brief appearance in final moments.

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

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