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Reyna, Keller are each named to their fourth World Cup team.

Poor U.S. effort leads to disappointing 1-1 draw with Jamaica.

Donovan becomes leader in career assists as U.S. draws 1-1 with Jamaica.

U.S. defense collapses, Germany hands rout to depleted Americans.

Hejduk has strained hamstring, is replaced by Feilhaber on roster for Germany match.

Donovan scratched for game against Germany with calf ailment.

Dempsey dropped from Germany roster after suspension by Revs for fight.

Gulati is acclaimed new USSF president; board size is slashed.

Three games in May are scheduled as final World Cup prep.

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Analysis

Americans have causes for concern after loss to Morocco.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, May 24, 2006) -- When the United States men lost 1-0 last night to Morocco, it proved once again how dependent the team is on its captain, Claudio Reyna.

In front of 26,141 fans at The Coliseum in Nashville, Reyna strained his hamstring in the 11th minute and went off five minutes later. After that, the U.S. simply could not get organized enough to break down a quick, physical and defensive opponent.

The Americans scheduled Morocco as the opener of the three-game sendoff series before leaving for the World Cup in Germany, hoping to face a moderately strong opponent, but probably got more than they bargained for.

Morocco coach Mohamed Fakhir brought a mixed squad missing at least four of his best players, a mixture of veterans and younger players out to impress him. He also brought a defensive game plan in which he employed five defenders and four midfielders, trying at all times to put nine or 10 players behind the ball, jam up the midfield and hope for a quick counterattack.

The Moroccans were quick and surprisingly physical, especially early, fouling the U.S. at will and generally disrupting the flow of the American game. After Reyna was forced off, the U.S. lacked any cohesion in its attack, except for a few elegant passes by John O'Brien,

"We weren't sharp. We were a little leg weary, a little over-trained at this point," U.S. manager Bruce Arena said. "Our team looked a little tired at times and I thought our passing was poor tonight. (We had) an inability to cross the ball. (It was) tough to break down the Moroccan team that got eight, nine, 10 players behind the ball the whole game.

"Give them a lot of credit. They took their chance well. We didn't do a good job creating chances, our last pass was poor and our crossing was poor tonight. After 90 some-odd minutes, that is the difference in the game."

With Morocco in a defensive shell and not really trying to push forward, Arena changed his tactics in the second half. He went to three defenders, pushing Steve Cherundolo forward into the midfield. With the planned substitution of Bobby Convey for O'Brien, he put Convey on the left and slid DaMarcus Beasley towards the middle with Landon Donovan. Late, he inserted Clint Dempsey as the right midfielder and slid Cherundolo back to defense. None of the combinations demonstrated much cohesion.

The U.S. seemed headed for a dreary scoreless draw when the usually dependable Cherundolo gave the ball away deep on his flank. His touch abandoned him, giving Bouchaib El Moubarki an easy steal. Moubarki quickly cut to his right and into the middle before feeding wide-open Mohamed Madihi at the top of the box. There was nothing advancing goalkeeper Kasey Keller could do to prevent Madihi from burying his shot just under the crossbar in the 90th minute.

There were some positives for the U.S. tonight. Although not pressured very hard, the four-back defensive set was solid in the first half. Eddie Pope and Oguchi Onyewu played well together in the center, while Cory Gibbs showed he can play on the outside left and can act as a backup behind Eddie Lewis, the expected starter in Germany.

Another positive note was O'Brien's effort in playing the first half. While he still was not sharp and still shows the signs of his long layoff from injury, his passing was the best among the Americans and he showed a vision that perhaps only Reyna can match.

"I did some things that I wanted to do," O'Brien said. "I was able to defensively get in on some tackles and was sharp in that and I was also able to make a couple of passes happen, so that was successful for me to. I had a couple of good passes, but I had a couple of bad ones too. There is definitely room for improvement. I've been out for awhile, but like I said, I am happy with how it went today. I felt fine."

The Reyna injury has to be worrying for the U.S. The 32-year-old midfielder was only able to play in 23 of Manchester City's 44 games in the recently-concluded season with a series of injuries, including an ankle that needed surgery and a dislocated shoulder.

"It just really tightened up on me," Reyna said of his hamstring. "I just kind of stretched out for a ball."

An MRI exam today showed no muscle damage, but a timetable for his return was not offered.

Tonight, the U.S. saw a better opponent then it expected and one which used tactics it probably won't see in its first two World Cup matches. Neither the Czech Republic or Italy is going to go into a defensive shell. But the match did have a quick pace and did show the Americans where problems clearly exist.

As Arena put it, "If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change anything we've done. Our objective is still to look ahead to June 12 and not necessarily these games, although we certainly would have liked to have a positive result tonight."


U.S. player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller - 5.5: Obviously frustrated that he had almost nothing to do until the end, then was left helpless. He cannot be faulted on the goal. He showed some good distribution, but otherwise was called on to do little.

Defender Steve Cherundolo - 5.5: Played a fine match until he ran out of gas in the late going and gave up the ball on the goal. Was dangerous coming forward and showed versatility by playing as a midfielder in the second half.

Defender Eddie Pope - 5.5: Had a fine night up to the end when he got caught out of position on Morocco's goal.

Defender Oguchi Onyewu - 6.5: Made few false steps and was clearly up to the pace of the match. Did especially well in closing down players in open space.

Defender Cory Gibbs - 5.5: Showed he can play on the outside, but is clearly more comfortable as a central defender. Went forward well at times, but some crosses lacked quality.

Midfielder John O'Brien - 6: A positive outing in his return to the national team. He played a solid first half, pairing well with Reyna, then holding the central role by himself after Reyna left early.

Midfielder Claudio Reyna - 5.5: Never really got started before straining the hamstring and being replaced.

Midfielder Landon Donovan - 5.5: On the positive side, he gave a good 90-minute effort and at times sparkled. He had one good shot at goal late, but otherwise created few quality chances either for himself or others, and muffed what was the best U.S. chance in the first half.

Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 5.5: His high work rate made him the best U.S. threat in the first half, but it was mostly in one-on-one and not particularly effective. Later, he seemed to disappear.

Forward Josh Wolff - 5: In what has become a common refrain, he worked hard, occasionally creating chances, but unable to convert.

Forward Brian McBride - 5: Was not a factor. Did not get quality service and was not able to fashion any chances. The timing on his leaps was off all night and could not get his head on several decent crosses into the box.

Reserves

Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, (16th minute for Reyna) - 6.5: Made a strong bid for a starting role, dominating defensively, especially when the U.S. moved to a three-back set in the second half. His only problem came on the goal when he pushed too far forward and could not recover in time.

Midfielder Bobby Convey (46th minute for O'Brien) - 6: Provided an offensive spark the U.S. lacked through much of the first half. Created chances for himself and for others with a high work rate. Missed scoring with a well-placed late free kick by inches.

Forward Eddie Johnson (60th minute for Wolff) - 5: Had a potential game-winner on his foot on a late rebound, but first shanked his shot, them could not beat the goalkeeper on the rebound.

Midfielder Clint Dempsey (74th minute for Onyewu) - 5: Never seemed to be able to establish himself. Came into a very crowded midfield and was not able to show much.

Forward Brian Ching (83rd minute for McBride) - 5: Likewise, never established a presence and was not a factor.

Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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