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U.S. dominated the flanks
by Ridge Mahoney, July 6th, 2009 7AM



[USA-GRENADA] In beating Grenada, 4-0, in its Gold Cup opener Saturday, the USA showed just how simple the game can be.

Against an overmatched opponent, huge gaps and time on the ball offer plenty of opportunities for combination play and interchanging of positions. Central midfielders Logan Pause and Kyle Beckerman held the middle secure, and played as many passes as they could to outside mids Robbie Rogers and Stuart Holden. Grenada couldn't contain either of them, and were so inept one-v-one they allowed many virtually uncontested crosses and clear paths to goal.

Freddy Adu slid into the hole behind Charlie Davies, and while sometimes those two were stretched 20 or 30 yards apart, Grenada's midfielders were often stranded in no man's-land and couldn't put pressure on the ball when it was played out wide. Adu drew out defenders as well by checking back  into midfield, and by rarely turning while in possession, kept the ball moving with first-time balls that his teammates used to string six, eight, or 10 passes together.

Given plenty of space and passes, Rogers used his dribbles and cutbacks to constantly unhinge Grenada's defense, and the timing and weight of his touches was impeccable. He stripped Ricky Charles of the ball on the left side and then evaded Marc Marshall near the corner of the penalty area to slide a square ball that Adu tucked away for the first U.S. goal, and set up a second goal by chasing down a low cross from Holden that skipped through the goalmouth, then finding space near the byline to loft a chip Holden headed into the net.

Those two goals vaporized whatever defensive shape Grenada had hoped to maintain and in the second half the USA scored twice more with direct play. In the 60th minute, Clarence Goodson won a ball in midfield and played it quickly to Logan Pause, who relayed it through the Grenadian back line for Rogers to cruise in alone and roll his shot past keeper Desmond Noel.

Eight minutes later, defender Chad Marshall - unpressured, as was the case most of the time - chipped a long diagonal ball up the left flank that dropped perfectly for  sprinting left back Heath Pearce. He met it with his left foot to hit a square pass that Davies drilled into the net.

The U.S. defense permitted Grenada just three shots, but a slip by Chad Marshall in the 15th minute permitted Khitson Bain to get a good header on a diagonal serve. Keeper Troy Perkins athletically dove right to push it away and keep the score, 1-0. For most of the game, Marshall and Clarence Goodson solidly held down the middle, which allowed outside backs Heath Pearce and Steve Cherundolo to get forward numerous times. Shortly after Perkins' good save, Cherundolo crossed from near the corner flag to the far post and Rogers headed just wide.

Coach Bob Bradley brought on Brad Evans, Davy Arnaud and Michael Parkhurst as substitutes. Evans, a midfielder, took over for Cherundolo at right back and after some initial confusion he played a great ball behind the Grenadian back line that Arnaud blasted on goal, forcing a good save. The U.S. kept up its pressure for most of the match and finished with a 25-3 edge in shots.

The Americans face a tougher test in Washington against Honduras, which scored first last month when the teams met in the Hexagonal at Soldier Field in Chicago before losing, 2-1. This U.S. team is not rated as strongly as that which played in Chicago, but after soundly beating a team it must beat, it should be confident.

Honduras is also not at full strength. It struggled to beat Haiti, 1-0, in Saturday's other game.

July 4 in Seattle
USA 4 Grenada 0. Goals: Adu 7, Holden 31, Rogers 60, Davies 68.
USA --
Perkins, Cherundolo (Evans, 63), C.Marshall, Goodson (Parkhurst, 71), Pearce, Holden, Pause, Beckerman, Rogers, Davies (Arnaud, 70), Adu.
Grenada -- Noel, Langainge, James, M.Marshall, A.Modeste, P.Modeste, Bubb, Charles, S.Rennie, Bain (Daniel, 56), Julien (J.Rennie, 56)
Yellow cards: USA -- Evans 63, Adu 80; Grenada -- James 40.
Referee: Walter Lopez (GUA)
Att.: 15,387.


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