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Paraguay's Santa Cruz regains form at right (wrong?) time
by Paul Kennedy, July 2nd, 2007 7AM

TAGS:  copa america, men's national team


The USA is unbeaten in four games against Paraguay -- including a 3-0 victory at the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay -- but Bob Bradley's team will be the underdog when they meet Monday in Barinas at the Copa America. Paraguay's No. 1 threat is Roque Santa Cruz, who scored its first three goals in its 5-0 demolition of Paraguay on Thursday night.

"Santa Cruz poses a big threat in every game," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said on the even of the game. "He's able to hold the ball and to bring players into the match, and he also has the ability to get behind the defense as we saw against Colombia."

Indeed, the lanky Santa Cruz tore apart a veteran backline to punish the Colombians with a display of pace he's rarely shown in recent years. His stunning performance could not have come at a better time.

Santa Cruz's three goals were one more than he scored for Bayern Munich in Germany's Bundesliga last season. Bayern signed Santa Cruz as a teenager in 1999, but the 25-year-old striker who has been bothered by injuries and only managed to score six Bundesliga goals in the last three seasons.

Bayern has spent millions of the signing of strikers Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Jan Schlaudraff, and Uli Hoeness, the Bayern general manager, said he has had numerous offers for Santa Cruz, who has been at Bayern for eight seasons.

Hoeness, who called Santa Cruz's display against Colombia "extraordinary," said Bayern could wait until the end of August before deciding what to do with Santa Cruz, who has a contract with Bayern through the 2008-09 season but would like to leave for a club where he could start.

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