As several U.S. players mobbed Michael Bradley after he flicked in Landon Donovan's free kick to provide a 1-0 lead against Trinidad & Tobago Wednesday, longtime Donovan pal DaMarcus Beasley ran over to Donovan instead. Donovan barely grinned while acknowledging his friend and colleague of nearly a decade at all age levels of competitive play. Beasley wanted to frolic, but Donovan stayed focused, as did most of the Americans for most of this match.
Despite winning its first two semifinal-round qualifiers in Guatemala City and
Havana by 1-0 scores, the USA hadn't earned little praise for the means by which
it acquired the six points. Back on home turf, backed by a noisy but small
(11,452) crowd, and facing a young, nervous team, the U.S. took command early
and seldom relinquished it.
There were wavering moments during the Americans' 3-0 victory at Toyota Park in
Bridgeview, Ill., but for the most part, goals from Bradley, Clint Dempsey and
Brian Ching fairly delineated the differences between the odds-on group favorite
and a Caribbean nation that reached its first World Cup just two years ago.
The Americans tended to their business shrewdly and spiritedly, zipping out to a
2-0 lead in the first 18 minutes, riding out a mild T&T revival at the start of
the second half, and then driving forward to snuff out the remaining vestiges of
resistance via a third goal.
By snagging wins in its first three games, the USA (3-0-0) sits atop Group 1
with nine points and has a spot in the Hexagonal all but locked up with three
more matches to play.
Ching played more more less alone up front, yet the movement and interchanging
of Dempsey, Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Sacha Kljestan seldom gave T&T a
breather in the first 45 minutes.
The U.S. 4-5-1 formation often resembled a 3-6-1 in attack, as right back Steve
Cherundolo either cruised up the sideline himself or pushed balls to Dempsey and
Donovan, whose starting points from wide positions and knifing runs stretched
the T&T midfield hopelessly out of shape.
Dempsey, who scored his fourth goal in as many games, and Ching provided plenty
of punch in the final third, Donovan buzzed both flanks effectively, Kljestan
hit several clever probing balls, and Bradley triggered attacks from a deep
holding slot while also screening for the U.S. back line.
Central defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra were nearly impenetrable in
the middle, and Onyewu contributed to the second and third goals by challenging
for balls in the air.
T&T, in effect, fell behind before the opening kickoff. Longtime veteran and
captain Dwight Yorke, supposedly summoned by his English club manager, Roy Keane
of Sunderland, had left T&T after it tied Guatemala, 1-1, on Saturday.
Dennis Lawrence, an experienced defender and spiritual leader, started the game
on the bench, and stayed there. Another important defender, former Rev Avery
John, sat out because of a suspension.
Bradley got to a beautifully bent Donovan free kick to nick the ball home from
the edge of the goal area in the ninth minute, and nine minutes later Dempsey
pounded home a low shot to finish off a one-two with Beasley that started from
an incisive Kljestan entry pass.
Trailing, 2-0, and overrun for most of the first half, T&T made some adjustments
at halftime. It pushed its back line higher and pressed harder in the middle
third, and for a brief period neutralized the USA.
Keon Daniel and Carlos Edwards won a few corners from forays up the left side
but just as T&T sensed a shift in momentum, left back Akile Edwards committed a
wild tackle in midfield that earned him a caution and provided the Americans
another set play opportunity, which they grabbed.
Ching scored after a Beasley free kick 12 minutes into the second half when T&T
goalie Marvin Phillip got his right hand to an Onyewu header just as it left the
big defender's forehead, and the carom floated perfectly for Ching to nod the
ball over the goal line from very close range.
Onyewu had started the scoring sequence on Dempsey's goal by stepping up to win
a ball, with his left forearm, in midfield. Onyewu dominated in the air, floated
a beautiful ball over the T&T back line that sent Ching clear, and snuffed out
two decent chances with strong blocks. When Cherundolo roamed upfield he slid
outside to cover.
A Bradley midfield giveway in the 60th minute provided Cornell Glen with a rare
chance to run free into the U.S. third, but Howard parried the low shot and an
offside call negated substitute Anthony Wolfe's successful follow-up of the
rebound. Aside from that gaffe, Bradley rarely erred. He used the time and space
T&T allotted him for much of the match to spray a variety of accurate passes.
Eddie Johnson came on as one of the three substitutes used by Coach Bob Bradley
and wandered sluggishly. He did launch a pair of shots in rapid succession; one
of them hit Onyewu in the ankle, Keyeno Thomas got in the way of No. 2.
Midfielders Ricardo Clark and Eddie Lewis used their minutes off the bench much
Against an opponent to which it has never lost, the USA won impressively.
Sept. 10 in Bridegview, Ill.
USA 3 Trinidad & Tobago 0. Goals: Bradley 9, Dempsey 18, Ching 57.
USA - Howard, Pearce, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo, Beasley, Bradley
(Clark, 67), Kljestan, Dempsey (Lewis, 78), Donovan, Ching (Johnson, 67).
Trinidad & Tobago - Phillip, Edwards, Thomas, Hislop, Gray, Daniel,
Telesford, Leon, Edwards, Theobald (Wolfe, 46), Glenn.
Referee: Courtney Campbell (Jamaica)
Shots: USA 11, Trinidad & Tobago 6
Shots on Goal: USA 6, Trinidad & Tobago 2
Saves: USA 1, Trinidad & Tobago 3
Corner Kicks: USA 4, Trinidad & Tobago 5
Fouls: USA 9, Trinidad & Tobago 12
Offside: USA 9, Trinidad & Tobago 1
Yellow cards: USA - Cherundolo 59; T&T - Edwards 57, Leon 59.