By Ridge Mahoney in Carson, Calif.
It was polished play, not a somewhat ballyhooed midfield diamond formation, by which the USA pummeled Norway, 5-0, in its second match of 2006.
A team of mostly players on the World Cup bubble flew at the Norwegians from the first kick, scored twice through Taylor Twellman in the first 17 minutes, and eventually finished with an astonishing 24-2 advantage in shots. Twellman made it a hat trick in second half.
In the alignment deployed by Coach Bruce Arena, Clint Dempsey played a tucked-in role on the right side of midfield, which allowed him and holding midfielder Kerry Zavagnin to link smoothly with Landon Donovan and forwards Josh Wolff and Twellman.
On the left side of midfield Pat Noonan balanced out Dempsey's busyness with poise and control. Dempsey worked all over the field, sliced up the Norwegians with some acutely angled passes, and had a goal disallowed on a very tight offside call.
Dempsey and Noonan set up goals for New England teammate Twellman, who showed the predator's instincts that have brought him 64 goals in four MLS seasons but prior to this game just one goal in 14 U.S. appearances.
Twellman scored once with his left foot and twice with his head, no mean feat against players weaned from their early days on balls in the air.
Another great chance, off his right foot, floated over the crossbar from eight yards out, yet several times Twellman drew cheers for winning balls with sliding tackles in his own half of the field. He may not have clinched a World Cup spot but Twellman erased much of the doubt about his ability to score for his country, even though the Norwegians reacted feebly to going down two goals early.
Todd Dunivant earned his first cap with a strong showing at left back, assisting on a pair of goals with a driven free kick and a crisp low ball into the six-yard box after he stepped up to intercept a pass.
The width provided by him and right-sided counterpart Frankie Hejduk severely stretched the Norwegians on the wide Home Depot Center field and opened up space for much sharper passing and movement than had been displayed a week earlier in a dour 0-0 draw with Canada.
Next up for the U.S. is a Feb. 10 match with Japan in San Francisco.
SA REPORT CARD
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)
Jan. 29 in Carson, Calif.
USA 5 Norway 0
Goals: Twellman (Dempsey) 5, Twellman (Dunivant) 17, Pope (Dunivant) 67, Twellman (Noonan) 76, Klein (Donovan) 87.
USA -- Hartman, Hejduk, Conrad, Pope (Ihemelu, 83), Dunivant, Zavagnin (Olsen, 79), Noonan (Klein, 77), Dempsey (Quaranta, 70), Donovan, Wolff (Jaqua, 67), Twellman (Ching, 83)
NORWAY -- Johnsen, Pedersen, Kippe, Hangeland, Hanstveit (Bertelsen, 46), Hauger (Valencia, 46), Rudi (Hoset, 64), Ohr (Olsen, 46), Sokolowski (Kvisvik, 46), Arst, Moen.
Shots on Goal: 13/1
Corner Kicks: 6/2
Yellow cards: USA -- Donovan 70, Quaranta 82; Hanstveit 17, Hoset (caution) 70.
Red cards: none.
Referee: Oscar Ruiz Acosta (COL)