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

    Analysis

    World Cup-bound U.S. outclasses young Norway, building for future.

    By Robert Wagman
    SoccerTimes

    (Sunday, January 29, 2006) -- The United States men took advantage of a weak opponent and overwhelmed a young Norway side 5-0 in a friendly this afternoon at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

    Striker Taylor Twellman scored three times, while defender Eddie Pope and midfielder Chris Klein each added one goal as the U.S. cruised to an easy victory.

    To put the romp in perspective, the U.S. faced what was essentially Norway's under-23 men today. The Norwegians failed to qualify for the World Cup this summer in Germany after they were dealt a pair of 1-0 defeats by the Czech Republic in a two-match playoff.

    So Norway is now pointing toward the 2008 European championships. Only one player in today's lineup was with Norway when it faced the Czechs. Earlier in the week, a team of mostly reserves for Mexico downed this Norway team 2-1 in San Francisco.

    After what U.S. manager Bruce Arena called "our best week of training so far," the U.S. came out much more aggressively today than in last Sunday's 0-0 draw with Canada in San Diego. The Americans pushed the ball from the start and the intensity quickly paid dividends.

    Twellman settled a nice cross from midfielder Clint Dempsey and put the ball under Norway goalkeeper Espen Johnsen for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute. In the 21st minute, Twellman got under a free kick from defender Todd Dunivant and headed it past Espen. The result was never in doubt after that.

    The U.S. was helped by some really poor marking on Norway's part. Twellman was pretty much unmarked on all three of his goals. Pope was given an open point-blank shot for his goal and no defender was able to reach Chris Klein when midfielder Landon Donovan fed him for an open 20-yarder that became the final American tally.

    The lack of defending was surprising because Norway consistently dropped six and seven men behind the ball. All this strategy accomplished was giving the U.S. all kinds of room in the midfield.

    The U.S. back-line was hardly challenged. Pope and Jimmy Conrad were solid and organized in the central defense while Frankie Hejduk regularly pushed the ball up the right wing.

    The U.S. dominance was demonstrated by its 24-2 shots advantage, 13-1 on goal.

    It has been four grinding weeks for the U.S. players in a long training camp in Carson. A victory such as this can be enjoyed, but not for long. A more difficult challenge awaits with a match against Japan in San Francisco in two weeks as preparations for the World Cup intensify. It will be interesting to see if the Americans can put together two solid efforts in a row.


    U.S. player ratings:

    Starters

    Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman - 6: Not pressured at all, but was sharp to make the save on Norway's one good chance.

    Defender Todd Dunivant - 5.5: Was not called on to do much. He did send in some good crosses and got a well deserved assist on Twellman's second goal.

    Defender Eddie Pope - 6.5: He was not pressured in the defensive end, was always well positioned, made few errors and added a bonus by scoring a goal.

    Defender Frankie Hejduk - 6: Used his speed well to push the ball up the flank.

    Defender Jimmy Conrad - 6: Solid in the middle. At times, he pushed into the midfield to break up plays, but was able to always be in position.

    Midfielder Kerry Zavagnin - 5.5: Did not make much of an impression. With Norway laying back, he was not pressured and had little to do.

    Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 6.5: Needed a good performance to impress Arena and got one. He passed the ball very well, but still has a problem keeping his feet when pressured physically.

    Midfielder Landon Donovan - 6: Picked his spots and played well. Moved the ball and set up a number of good chances. Was unselfish in feeding Klein for the final goal.

    Midfielder Pat Noonan - 5.5: Had some good touches, especially in the second half, but disappeared for long periods, especially in the opening 45 minutes.

    Forward Josh Wolff - 5: Had good chances, but was off target. He should have had at least one goal.

    Forward Taylor Twellman - 7.5: A good striker takes advantage of what he is given and today Twellman exploited some miserable marking to score three goals. More than that, he dropped deep into the midfield and contributed on the defense. His best game for the national team.

    Reserves

    Forward Nate Jaqua (66th minute for Wolff) - 5.5: Had several good late attempts late, and showed he can control the ball and get off shots. Did miss a good late chance and needs to gain experience.

    Midfielder Santino Quaranta (70th minute for Dempsey) - 5:An uneventful 20 minutes in which he did not see much of the ball.

    Midfielder Chris Klein (77th minute for Noonan) - 6: Several fine touches and clinically finished his goal.

    Midfielder Ben Olsen (79th minute for Zavagnin) - 5.5: Made a couple of good defensive plays and pushed the ball forward well. Set up the final goal.

    Forward Brian Ching (82nd minute for Twellman) - 5.: Made little impression in his short stint.

    Defender Ugo Ihemelu (84th minute for Pope) - no rating: A few minutes of mop-up as a reward for working hard in training.

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

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