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Saturday, January 20, 2007

USA Soccer bests Denmark 3-1 In first game since World Cup

It was a great performance for the United States soccer team, following the disaster that we know as the 2006 World Cup failure in Europe. This was also a great start for new coach Bob Bradley. The 3-1 victory over Denmark at Home Depot Center in this international friendly really has the USA team off on the right foot. The Danes fielded a young Denmark team, since most of their veterans stayed behind with their European clubs. In fact, only one of the Danish players had scored a goal in an International cap.

The match was quite a crowd pleasure for the 10,500 in attendance that came out. This is the first international match I have attended in a couple of years.

Let's talk briefly about the performance of the team and a couple of the players:
  • Defense gets a C. At times looking lost and not communicating in the back field, the defense should have given up another goal or two, but lucked out.
  • Midfield gets a B. Driven by Donovan the midfield played well, controlling possession in the 2nd half leading to the two goals, before mass substitutions came in.
  • Landon Donovan gets an A- for his performance. This is not just because he broke his 18-month international scoring drought on a penalty kick. Bradley has him playing in the right place. He is really at his best on this team as a midfielder, and was very effective on the right side, serving balls and making runs. It seems he loses a lot of effectiveness when he is moved up to striker in the international game. His size and speed are very useful tools on the outside where he can make moves and head for the center. Great game Landon, are you glad to have your #10 back?
  • Eddie Johnson gets a D- for his performance. His was both lethargic and ineffective before being pulled early in the second half. He had several opportunities to make runs or come up with the ball and choose to give up on the plays or not make the runs. We keep hearing great things about Eddie, but he showed absolutely nothing today.
  • Justin Mapp gets an A for his performance. Coming on for an useless Eddie Johnson, he replaced Landon Donovan on the right. Making some great runs, he directly produced the goal that Jonathan Bornstein drove home. Great performance from an unexpected source.
Which brings me to some of the interesting notes of the game and the current state of soccer in the United States.
  • I am very thankful that Bruce Arenas is no longer the coach. Although I cannot believe that ESPN chose to make him an commentator. At least he is in the press box.
  • For some odd reason, a large section of fans cheering for the United States broke into a rendition of "Volare!" the Italian song that the Italian was prominently featured at the 2006 World cup. Sorry guys, we're not Italy -- let's come up with something original for the United States that hopefully another country will try to copy.
  • A Jorgen Klinsmann sighting. Kind of. A banner appeared from a group of fans asking the powers at U.S. soccer why we were not able to get him. The sign's life was short lived, and I was fortunate to catch a shot of it.
  • An open note to US Soccer. How can you not fill the stadium for the game? The US players deserve better than a less than half full stadium to play this game in. Sell out the ticket. For $5, heck give them away if you cannot sell all of them. Let's not forget that David Beckham is coming to Los Angeles and the time to build the sport is now!
  • Referee inconsistency themes continued. William Kvist Jorgensen should have received a second yellow card for his thuggish play on three separate occasions. Given that this was an internationally friendly, the Canadian referees spoke with him several times, while handing out first yellow to other players for infraction far less severe.

The teams for this international friendly of Denmark vs. United States in Los Angeles, California at Home Depot Center (Carson).

USA: Joe Cannon, Jonathan Bornstein, Dan Califf, Chris Albright, Bryan Namoff, Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan, Nate Jaque, Jimmy Conrad, Ricardo Clark, Kyle Beckerman, Chris Rolfe, Heath Pearce, Kenny Cooper, Justin Mapp, Bobby Boswell, Matt Reis, Pablo Mastroeni

Denmark: Casper Ankergren, Kristian Bak Nielsen, Jesper Bech, Jonas Borring, Simon Busk Poulson, Michael Gravgaard, Lars Jacobsen, Thomas Kristnensen, William Kvist Jorgensen, Ander Moller Christensen, Morten Nordstrand Nielsen, Peter Nymann, Hjalte Bo Norregaard, Christopher Poulsen, Michael Ribers, Jesper Christiansen, Chris Sorensen, Dennis Sorensen, Christian Keller, Rasmus Wurtz, Niki Zimling.