By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
U.S. Overwhelms Barbados 8-0
It was the largest margin of victory for a U.S. side, one more than the 7-0 pasting they put on Barbados eight years ago and sets up a relatively easy return leg in Bridgetown on Sunday ( 2:55pm ET, ESPN2)
The U.S. made two major changes to its starting lineup.Eddie Johnson, who had been unable to score and trouble opposing defenses in recent weeks was replaced by Brian Ching.
EJ would probably feel a little unfairly done by having labored against top notch competition only to see someone else granted a starting spot against a vastly weaker team but few didn’t see this coming.
Tim Howard was a late scratch, having strained his back in practice and was replaced in goal by Chivas USA’s Brad Guzan.
Barbados, for their part, looked to Paul Ifill, their most experienced player to be their catalyst and hoped to remain close by half time.Unfortunately for the Caribbean side, that didn’t work out .This match kicked off at about 2:09pm local time and was effectively over by 2:25pm.
On its first possession, the U.S. saw Carlos Bocanegra launch a 40 yard diagonal pass from left to right which was chested down at the top of the box by Clint Dempsey.Dempsey sliced his finish past the onrushing Alvin Rouse in goal and after 53 seconds, the U.S. was off and running. 1-0
The U.S. should have doubled its advantage soon therafter but Ching wasted two opportunities, through a bad touch off an excellent through ball from Oguchi Onyewu and poor finish from a corner kick. This, however was quickly forgotten in the 12th minute.
Landon Donovan shook off a defender and played the ball to DaMarcus Beasley who one touched a pass to Steve Cherundolo, charging down the right side line.Cherundolo crossed into the area and the ball fell to Ching. His shot was saved by Rouse but Michael Bradley fired home the rebound. 2-0.
At this point the match was basically over. The U.S. was enjoying greater space and time on the ball than it was in its three previous exhibitions and were ripping the Rockets’ defense apart.
The U.S. tallied again when Landon Donovan worked a short give and go with Beasley off a corner kick from the left side and laid the ball off the Pablo Mastroeni.Mastroeni unleashed a shot from outside the box that hit Ching in the back and into the goal, indicating what kind of day it was going to be for the home side.
The “assist” was Mastroeni’s last meaningful contribution as he strained a gluteus muscle and was replaced by Freddy Adu in the 24th minute, marking the young Benfica player’s first appearance in a World Cup qualifier.With one more attacker on the field, the U.S. continued to dominate possession and limited Bardados’ offense to long passes to forward Mark McCammon that were comfortably dealt with by Onyewu and Bocanegra.
In fact, the first real meaningful foray by the Bajan Rockets was in the 31st minute with Ifill escaped two Beasley and Heath Pearce along the left side line and hit a low shot from outside the area that was comfortable saved by Guzan.
After more possession by the U.S. and interpassing that kept Barbados on the defensive, halftime mercifully arrived with the U.S.up 3-0.
The second half saw more of the same as the ESPN announcers started going into their garbage time material.The U.S.combinations through midfield and effective spreading of the field negated whatever speed advantage the visitors might have had and 10 minutes in, the pressure-and scoring barrage- began again.
Ching was involved in combinations that led to efforts by Adu and Bradley that were blocked.On 59 minutes, Adu deftly spun away from a defender and was fouled from behind setting up a free kick that Donovan quickly took and buried in the left upper 90 making it 4-0.
Later, Michael Bradley broke up a Barbados attack at midfield, fed Ching in the box.The Dynamo forward’s shot was saved but Dempsey coolly slotted home the rebound making it 5-0 at the 63rd minute mark.Dempsey almost played provider, picking out Donovan with 25 yard pass into the area that Donovan volleyed just over the bar.
The frustrating afternoon continued for the Bajan Rockets. Long passes were still amounting to nothing, captain Norman Forde was having very little impact on the match, McCammon was effectively marked out of the venue while Ifill basically had no one to play with.
The U.S. completed the scoring with Eddie Johnson, an 81st minute substitute for Donovan, heading home Heath Pearce cross with virtually his first touch of the match, an own goal from Barbados defender Daryl Ferguson under pressure from Ching and finally Ching by himself on 89 minutes.
While there was no one who thought the U.S. would lose this match, the margin of victory had to be pleasing to U.S. fans who want to see the U.S. not play down the level of lesser opponents as what happened in qualifying four years ago.
The midfield created quickly took advantage of open space by creating opportunities for front runners like Ching even Eddie Johnson broke his scoring slump by finishing a header in the box, similar to one he recently missed against Spain.
Taking this large lead into the second leg will allow Bob Bradley to run out some other players and increase the depth of the national team pool.
Unless the U.S. loses by nine goals on Sunday, the Stars and Stripes will move on to the semifinal round this fall.
Other winners in CONCACAF qualifying included Mexicowho labored against lightly regarded Belize winning only by two goals, Canada over St. Vincent and , Honduras who has already moved on past Puerto Rico (yes, Puerto Rico) and Jamaica who beat the Bahamas 7-0.However they did not include reigning Caribbean champion Haiti who was held to a 0-0 tie by the Netherlands Antilles at home, nor did they include Trinidad and Tobago. The 2006 World Cup participants were beaten at home by Bermuda 2-1.