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List of Americans Abroad

Nowak faces tough decisions as final Olympics qualifying cuts near.

Bradley learns much about his U.S. team in 2-2 draw with Mexico.

Despite lackluster effort, U.S. must be satisfied in shutout of Sweden.

World Cup qualifying will begin in June against Barbados or Dominica.

Despite so-so effort, U.S. defeats South Africa on Cherundolo goal.

Youth is served as U.S. kids combine to beat Switzerland.

Bradley's first goal comes late, defeats Switzerland 1-0.

Superiority evident, Brazil still is tested in defeating Americans.

Loss to Sweden displays weakness with World Cup qualifying on horizon.

U.S. reserves fall short, lose to Colombia in Copa América finale.

Young Americans fall 1-0 to Colombia, finish last in Copa América.

Copa América hopes die day before Colombia match.

U.S. about finished in Copa America for lack of scoring touch.

U.S. about finished in Copa America for lack of scoring touch.

U.S. hung tough in Argentina loss, until late collapse.

Late revival allows U.S. to shock Mexico, defend Gold Cup.

U.S. survives late Canadian onslaught with help of faulty offside call.

U.S. survives poor finishing, edges Panama in Gold Cup quarterfinals.

Beasley strikes twice, U.S. beats El Salvador 4-0 for Group B sweep.

Ching, Johnson goals down T&T 2-0, earn quarterfinal berth.

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Analysis

U.S. under-23 men dominate action, but draw 1-1 with Cuba to open Olympic qualifying.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, March 12, 2008) -- If his time as coach of Major League Soccer's D.C. United is any indication, United States under-23 men's coach Peter Nowak is known for doing things his way -- and only his way. This trait was vividly obvious in the in the U.S.'s disappointing 1-1 draw with Cuba to open Group A of CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Nowak started an unusual lineup and had his 11 playing in an odd formation. Jozy Altidore was the only forward for the Americans, while three semi-strikers played in withdrawn positions with Charlie Davies and Robbie Findley on the flanks and Freddy Adu in the middle. The plan was to attack down the flanks while opening the middle for Adu.

The strategy worked beautifully for the first 20 minutes. The U.S. came out flying at the start, especially Adu. He curved a shot around Cuba goalkeeper Jose Manuel Miranda in the first minute, but hit the post. He then set up several other chances before scoring from the right side for a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute when Miranda was screened by Davies. In the 30th minute, Adu's free kick was barely tipped over the crossbar by Miranda.

The U.S. could have, and should have, had a multi-goal lead by then, but inexplicably, the American back-line and deep midfielders suddenly started trying to send long balls over the top to either Altidore or the wings. The result was the Cuban defense ate them up with physical play.

Over the final 20 minutes of the first half, Cuba gradually took control of the middle of the field and began to move the ball forward on short passes. This culminated in a Cuba tying matters 1-1 in the 42nd minute when Leonel Duarte slotted the ball back to Yordany Alvarez, who rolled a ball toward goal for Roberto Linares to redirect into the net. .

On the equalizer, the U.S. had five people in the penalty area, none of whom appeared to have much of an idea what was going on. As often happened on the night, there was considerable confusion in the American end.

The U.S. started an odd back-line. Kamani Hill, an attacking midfielder for his club team VfL Wolfsburg, started at right defense with Hunter Freeman on the left side. It was obvious Nowak wanted both the push forward often and they did. In fact, Hill spent little time in back at all, especially in the second half.

The Americans played much better in the second half, although Altidore was replaced by midfielder Sacha Kljestan to save him from the pounding he was taking. With no true striker, the U.S. tried to attack out of the midfield, but Cuba bunkered and the Americans simply could not break down what quickly became an 11-man Cuban defensive effort. After pulling even, Cuba played for a draw and made it through the final 45 minutes despite the U.S. having a large edge in possession.

"We had enough chances to win the game. We have to capitalize on our chances we had in the first half and also in the second half," Nowak said. "As I said, it's the first game and we had a difficult game.

"We had a good side and we put the pressure on the Cuban team. We got the goal that we needed. All we need to is to keep our shape. I think in terms of the tournament, this is just the first game, so we should play better and we could play better."

Cuba was supposed to be the weakest team in Group A, though it is difficult to gauge the opposition at this age group, Regardless, the U.S. probably needs to improve if it wants to win its upcoming matches against Panama and Honduras and advance to the semifinals where the winners earn Olympic qualification. (Honduras defeated Panama 1-0 in last night's other match).


U.S. player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Chris Seitz - 5.5: Not tested much, but could not be faulted for the redirected Cuba goal.

Defender Hunter Freeman - 5: To his credit, he was able to keep up with speedy Roberto Lines most of the night, but left him unmarked when he knocked in Cuba's goal.

Defender Nathan Sturgis - 5.5: Best American defender, but considering the circumstances, that is faint praise indeed.

Defender Patrick Ianni - 4.5: His defensive instincts seemed to fail him. Out of position often, he let Cuba's tying assist run past him while doing nothing.

Defender Kamani Hill - 4.5: Ran around a lot, usually deep in the Cuban end, but to little effect. Not really a defender and that showed.

Midfielder Dax McCarty - 6: Next to Adu, he was the best U.S. player and probably the most consistent over 90 minutes.

Midfielder Maurice Edu - 4.5: Had a few good moments, but was wildly inconsistent. Did not exert much control in the middle when possession was needed.

Midfielder Robbie Findley - 5: Another player who had a few good moments, but also demonstrated little consistency.

Midfielder Charlie Davies - 4: Apparently the biggest lesson he has learned at Hammarby IF in Sweden is how to dive. A big sturdy player, he went down in a heap anytime anyone came near him, twice squandering good chances as he flew through the air and got a yellow card in the process.

Forward Freddy Adu - 6.5: Sharp early, but saw little of the ball in the final 20 minutes of the first half. Reemerged after intermission and twice came close to scoring late.

Forward Jozy Altidore - 4.5: Was provided few chances early and failed to capitalize on what came his way. Then, he was double- or triple-marked and chopped down often. Was removed at the half for his safety.

Reserves

Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (46th minute for Altidore) - 5: Was better able to maneuver to make himself available for service, but had no final touch. Should have scored on a perfectly played cross, but was out jumped by a Cuban defender.

Forward Chad Barrett (61st minute for Davies) - 5: Used his size to help create some opportunities chances, but was not able to do much with the Cuban defense clogged in its defensive third.

Midfielder Eddie Gaven (77th minute for Findley) - 5: Came on too late to have much of an impact, but did well enough to ask why he had not made an appearance much earlier.

SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Freddy Adu.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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