(Saturday, January 20, 2007) -- Interim manager Bob Bradley had a successful debut when the United States men took advantage of a far-from-fit opponent, pulling away with a pair of second half goals for a convincing, but not overly impressive come-from-behind 3-1 decision over Denmark before a sparse 10,048 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
U.S. player ratings
To put things in perspective, long-time Denmark coach Morten Olsen only brought players from the Danish domestic Superigaen, mostly younger players with little international experience. Olsen used the occasion to take a look a players who might strengthen his squad of European club veterans for a Euro 2008 qualifier against Spain on March 28.
While Denmark did not have its best team, it was highly organized and difficult for the U.S. to break down. Denmark came out in a 4-5-1 formation, crowding the midfield and defending in numbers. It relied in a counterattack and crossing the ball from the wings, taking a 1-0 lead because of an American defensive breakdown.
Simon Busk Poulsen was wide open on the edge of the penalty area without a defender in the vicinity, giving him more than adequate time to place a cross on the head of his front-line mate Dennis Sorenson for the first tally of the afternoon. Sorenson, who had beaten defender Jimmy Conrad, drilled the ball off the underside of the crossbar and in from six yards.
The lead was short-lived after Canadian referee Mauricio Navarro awarded what the Danes felt was a generous penalty-kick call. Landon Donovan converted the perceived gift to pull the U.S. even in the 44th minute.
The second half was a very different story. Both coaches substituted liberally -- each used six reserves after intermission -- and the U.S. substitutes were clearly superior, leading to goals by starting defender Jonathan Bornstein in the 57th minute and reserve striker Kenny Cooper in the 80th. Both Bornstein and Cooper were making their international debuts.
Bradley's squad was entirely from Major League Soccer with the exception of substitute defender Heath Pearce, who plays for FC Nordsjślland in Denmark.
The Superligaen and MLS seasons run almost concurrently. In Denmark, play starts in March and runs through November. MLS commences in April with the regular season closing in October and the playoffs running into November.
Even though Bradley had most of his players in a training camp here for the last two weeks, it was not surprising that the U.S. play was spotty. Neither starting forwards Eddie Johnson and Nate Jaqua, nor midfielders Landon Donovan and Chris Rolfe had much of a day. All were tentative, especially Donovan, and the attack as a whole was, at times, quite disorganized.
The four-man defense, especially with Bobby Boswell and Jimmy Conrad in the middle, was solid for most of the affair and Bornstein, the MLS "Rookie of the Year" made the most of his debut at left back. However, there were breakdowns. Twice Conrad lost his mark, the first time it resulting in Denmark's goal and the second allowing a short-range header that should have been placed in the net.
Yet, for an initial outing, the U.S. result was satisfactory, though the American must improve significantly for a February 7 meeting with Mexico in Phoenix. But two more weeks of training should help, as will the possible inclusion of some European-based players.
Goalkeeper Matt Reis - 5.5: Allowed a goal, but otherwise was not called on to make a save. At times, he showed an over-aggressiveness that could cause him problems.
Defender Chris Albright - 4.5: The converted forward slips at time into an offensive mindset that sees him push forward with abandon, but seems to make him forget he is a defender. Had big problems containing Danish winger Simon Busk Poulsen, whose crosses resulted in the goal and caused other problems. A good offensive effort, but a poor defensive one.
Defender Bobby Boswell - 5.5: In his first national-team start, the MLS "Defender of the Year" did quite well. Despite a few errors, he should have a solid future as he gains experience.
Defender Jimmy Conrad - 5: Generally played well, but twice lost his man with the result being a goal and a near goal. Given his experience, more should be expected.
Defender Jonathan Bornstein - 5.5: Scored a nice goal after a long run to gain position, but also made errors from inexperience, especially in his judgment as to whether push forward or to drop back.
Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni - 5.5: One of the most experienced U.S. players was solid in supporting the defense, but again displayed a penchant of making ill-considered fouls and often seems to near inviting a red card.
Midfielder Chris Rolfe - 5: He often seemed overmatched and unsure of his role, accomplishing little in the crowded midfield.
Midfielder Landon Donovan 5: Another puzzling performances. He often stayed wide and passed the ball, rather than taking on defenders. With the retirement of Claudio Reyna from international competition, Donovan is expected to become the organizer an on the attack, which he can't do it from deep in the midfield. His penalty kick, although successful, should have been saved. .
Midfielder Ricardo Clark - 5.5: Did some very good work, but was inconsistent and tended to disappear for long periods. Was too defensive in his approach.
Forward Nate Jaqua - 5: In his second international appearance, did little to distinguish himself.
Forward Eddie Johnson - 5.5: Showed flashes of his undeniable talent, but was not particularly effective. Seemed out of sync with his teammates.
Forward Justin Mapp (46th minute for Jaqua) - 6.5: He was the best U.S. player. His brilliant long run created the second U.S. goal, while his pace and tenacity caused problems for Denmark throughout the second half.
Forward Kenny Cooper (63rd minute for Johnson) - 6: Showed good pace and finishing ability in scoring the third U.S. goal. He has the size and the ability to become a key player for this team.
Defender Bryan Namoff (63rd minute for Albright) - 5.5: He made a couple of errors, given his einexperience, but generally shored up the right side of defense over the final half hour. Did well in earning his first cap.
Midfielder Heath Pearce (74th minute for Rolfe) - 5.5: Did some good things, including making the over-the-top pass to Cooper for the final goal. He was able to take advantage of a tiring Danish midfield.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman (86th minute for Mastroeni) - 5: His first international appearance was a short one, but briefly displayed some speed.
Defender Dan Califf (89th minute for Boswell) - no rating:: A token appearance, clearing the bench of field players.