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List of Americans Abroad

U.S. clinches sixth straight World Cup berth behind Casey, Donovan.

Clark strike allows U.S. to edge T&T, near World Cup berth.

Donovan leads comeback, U.S. defeats El Salvador and moves nearer to World Cup.

Midfield woes cause U.S. to fall to Mexico in qualifier at packed Azteca.

Telemundo, its mun2 outlet, will broadcast U.S.-Mexico match.

Outmanned U.S. is overwhelmed 5-0 by Mexico in Gold Cup final.

With goal in each half, U.S. moves into Gold Cup final against Mexico.

Inexperienced Americans come back to post overtime Gold Cup win over Panama.

Late goal allows U.S. deep reserves to manage Gold Cup draw with Haiti.

Reserves provide lift, U.S. blanks Honduras 2-0 in Gold Cup.

U.S. encounters little resistance and blanks Grenada 4-0 in Gold Cup.

Despite surprising lead, U.S. wilts and Brazil wins Confederations Cup.

U.S. shocks Spain, advances to Confederations Cup final, with tenacious effort.

Strong effort sends U.S. past Egypt 3-0 and to improbable Confederations Cup semifinal berth.

American shortcomings are again obvious and Brazil wins easily in Confederations Cup.

Shorthanded Americans cannot hold off skillful Italy in Confederations Cup.

U.S. survives early lapse, to rally past Honduras in important qualifier.

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Analysis

Bornstein's late header gives U.S. draw with Costa Rica, first in group.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, October 14, 2009) -- After 16 months and two rounds of qualifying matches, the United States men ended up on top of the CONCACAF World Cup Final Round Qualifying after defender Jonathan Bornstein headed home an equalizer in the dying seconds of a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica in front of 26,243 at rainy, chilly RFK Stadium tonight.

The victory allowed the U.S. (6-2-2, 20 points) to finish a point ahead of Mexico (6-3-1) in the final six-nation round robin, while forcing Costa Rica into a two-match playoff with Uruguay -- the fifth-place finisher in South America - for a trip to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Bornstein's header in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time gave Honduras the third CONCACAF automatic World Cup berth because of better goal differential than Costa Rica after both countries tied for third place at 5-4-1 with 16 points.

The U.S. had qualified for the World Cup Saturday with a 3-2 triumph in Honduras. With more at stake, Costa Rica came out clearly more determined. By halftime, the U.S. had dug itself a deep hole, down by a pair of Bryan Ruiz goals, scored in the 21st and 24th minutes. The Americans were undone through a combination of dismal finishing, confused defending and shaky goalkeeping.

In the 21st minute minutes, Ruiz turned on U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu, went around him on the left side and drilled a short shot through keeper Tim Howard's legs from a sharp angle at the near post for a 1-0 lead.

Three minutes later, Ruiz attacked down the right side, played a give-and-go, beat a pair of defenders and drove a slicing 19-yard shot into the top left corner the net, over Howard, who was seven yards off his goal-line, to make it 2-0.

The U.S. rallied at the end of the first half and produced at least four golden chances to score, but squandered each opportunity.

In the second half, Costa Rica's Brazilian coach RenÚ Sim§es changed his tactics and had his team bunker in. The Ticos made no real threats on the American goal, usually having 10 players behind the ball. Coast Rica cleared ball after ball and keeper Kelor Navas made several nice stops while controlling his penalty area.

As American frustration grew, a break came in the 72nd minute when a shot from Landon Donovan was parried away by Navas. Sliding U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley, swept the rebound into the near left corner of the net to narrow the U.S. deficit to 2-1.

Costa Rica continued to hang on for dear life, but could not kill off the final moments of the lengthy added time despite having a man advantage from the 83rd minute. In the 95th minute, U.S. pressure forced a final corner kick. Reserve midfielder Robbie Rogers put into the middle of the box and an unmarked Bornstein elevated and nailed his header low and just inside the right post for the 2-2 tie.

According to U.S. coach Bob Bradley and U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, after defeating Honduras Saturday, both promised the Americans would do their best to defeat Costa Rica tonight, keeping the Honduran hopes of an automatic berth alive, Bradley did so by making only three changes from the 11 who started in San Pedro Sula -- Steve Cherundolo at right back, Benny Feilhaber in midfield and Jozy Altidore instead of the injured Charlie Davies on top. The new players might have made the U.S. stronger.

The Americans did not escape the final day of qualifying without a devastating injury. In the 83rd minute, a backpedaling Onyewu planted his leg badly as he attempted a header. He fell to the turf with a torn patella tendon in his left knee, leaving the Americans a man short since all three substitutes had been used.

Onyewu faces a difficult rehabilitation of a serious injury requiring reconstructive surgery and one which sideline the big defender well into the spring, calling into question his fitness for South Africa 2010.

In the last two two qualifiers, the U.S. showed a great deal of heart, in both cases coming from behind to get a result. But it also underscored a disturbing trend -- in six of the 10 qualifying matches in the final round, the Americans allowed their opponent to score first. Once it falls behind, the U.S. has demonstrated repeatedly it can play with fire and determination. Yet, if the team cannot learn to do play with more intensity from the opening whistle, it does not bode well as the level of competition increases.


U.S. Player Ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 5: A less than solid performance. He could have done better on both Costa Rican goals and was not tested at all in the second half.

Defender Steve Cherundolo - 7: Repeatedly showed the poise and calmness of a veteran. He made almost no mistakes and covered great distances, getting back to make defensive stops when the U.S. was stretched out of position. Was the best U.S. defender.

Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 6: He covered a large area in the middle and helped on the flanks, making a number of key stops. A solid performance

Defender Oguchi Onyewu - 5: He clearly showed the effects of not seeing game action for AC Milan in Italy. He looked tired and far from fully match-fit and made the kind of error on the first goal that he rarely makes. Worse, he will be out at least three-to-four months after injuring his left knee.

Defender Jonathan Bornstein - 7: Had a great match as an attacking midfielder, but as a defender, not so much. He consistently pushed forward to great effect and his crosses were right on the money. Yet, he had trouble getting back on defense, at times running around without purpose, and caused the back-line to be stretched. His last-second, tying goal made up for many of his deficiencies.

Midfielder Stuart Holden -5.5: Was not as sharp as he was in Saturday's victory in Honduras, perhaps feeling the effect of playing two matches in four days. Made some good plays and not many mistakes, but was not as good as he was on Saturday.

Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6.5: Another game in which he played with maximum effort. He put himself in position to score the first goal, but also made a number of outstanding defensive plays. For the second match in a row, he was sharp for the whole game in what was an outstanding effort.

Midfielder Landon Donovan - 5.5: He made some outstanding plays, but then often disappeared for long stretches. He was just not sharp and his free kicks were definitely lacking. After such a fine match on Saturday, he looked tired as this match proceeded.

Midfielder Benny Feilhaber - 5: He worked very hard in the middle and made some good defensive stops, but he did not link up well offensively and lost some key battles in the middle.

Forward Conor Casey - 5: The hero on Saturday, he could not match that performance tonight. He certainly could not be faulted for lack of effort, but it was to little effect. His finishing left much to be desired.

Forward Jozy Altidore - 6.5: Had an outstanding match. He showed he can play physically and despite very close marking by multiple defenders, he was a constant threat. A fine game.

Reserve:

Midfielder JosÚ Francisco Torres (63rd minute for Feilhaber) - 5: Worked hard, but did not seem to mesh well with his teammates. He has not had much playing time with this group and that showed.

Midfielder Robbie Rogers (69th minute for Holden) - 5.5: Made his share of missteps, but made up for them all with his corner kick, feeding Bornstein's tying tally.

Forward Kenny Cooper (79th minute for Casey) - 5: Worked hard, but did not show much pace. While he made some strong plays in midfield, he added little to the attack.

SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Steve Cherundolo.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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