25 May 2006

USA 0 - 1 Morocco

Cisko and I made the road trip to Nashville to lend our voices to Sam's Army and catch the Nats warm-up game against the Atlas Lions (African teams have the coolest nicknames) of Morocco. While the end result was disappointing, it's always a pleasure to watch top quality soccer with a knowledgeable and passionate crowd. Look for Cisko to post some photos soon.

It would be a mistake to read too much into the below par performance of the team on this day. Clearly, they still have some work to do to gel as a unit. There were some moments in defense where players looked uncertain and markers lost their men. Going forward, the U.S. lacked imagination and vision, and there were far too many errant passes and poor touches. But this is exactly the right time to have a poor outing. Hopefully, it will help to focus the players. I'll only be concerned if they don't improve over the next two games.

Full credit to Morocco who played an intelligent, if unattractive game. They were well organized, had plenty of men behind the ball and defended well. The U.S. found it difficult to create quality scoring chances and definitely needs to show improvement in the attacking third of the field.

I was a little surprised by the inclusion of Josh Wolff in the starting eleven. And to be honest, I think he did little to bolster his case, especially in the first half. His work rate was simply unacceptable and he was consistently beaten in the air. Eddie Johnson was a much livelier and more dangerous strike partner for Brian McBride.

John O'Brien was another surprise starter and had a very inconsistent first half before being subbed. He worked hard and was very involved, but his touch was often poor. He was a tremendous player for the U.S. in Korea/Japan, but he might only get one more half to prove he can be something more than a substitute during this World Cup.

Cory Gibbs got a start also and acquitted himself quite well I thought. He showed good speed, strength in the air, and tackling ability. He even got forward on a few occasions, but wasn't very effective at crossing or attacking. For this reason, I think Eddie Lewis will be the starter at left back, even though he's not the best defender.

The hamstring injury that Claudio Reyna suffered doesn't seem serious, but don't look for him to return before the Latvia game. It should prove interesting to see what adjustments Arena makes for tomorrow's match against Venezuela. I'd expect both the team's performance and the result to improve.

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