By Noah Davis
Washington, DC. -- After falling behind visiting Costa Rica by
two in the early stages of the last qualifying match in CONCACAF World
Cup qualifying, the United States Men's National Team -- still reeling
from Charlie Davies' car crash and subsequent surgery-- needed more
than 90 minutes, but tied the Ticos 2-2 on Jonathan Bornstein's late
strike. The point gave the U.S., which had already qualified for next
summer's tournament in South Africa, first place in the group.
the U.S. focused on winning the match was hard enough without Davies'
injury. Making sure the team was ready to play just 30 hours after they
learned of the striker's plight must have been nearly impossible. Yet
Bradley and the rest of his staff gave the squad time to grieve while
keeping the final qualifier in mind. The Americans came out strong and
probably deserved a goal before the defense allowed Bryan Ruiz's brace.
The U.S. manager should also be pleased with the resolve his team
showed on a night when there were more important issues to deal with
than a soccer game.
masses packed the lower bowl and kept RFK rocking for 90 minutes. They
cheered at the right moments. They booed at appropriate times. They
held No. 9 signs aloft for Davies during the ninth minute in a truly
touching tribute (and a wonderful example of the viral power of the
Internet). They set off red, white, and blue smokebombs. The American
Outlaws and the Barra Brava bounced up and down throughout. But most
impressively, 26,243 bought tickets to watch a game that meant very
little on what promised to be a rainy, 45-degree night.
young Hull City striker quickly asserted himself as the best forward on
the pitch for the Americans. Costa Rica's defenders struggled to deal
with his combination of size and foot skills. He showed great touch to
cut between two Ticos and then wonderful vision to finish off the play
with a pass that his strike partner Conor Casey couldn't convert.
Altidore drew a number of free kicks in dangerous places after holding
the ball up and being dragged down. He even chested down a couple
balls. (Has he been taking lessons from Casey, who did this brilliantly
against Honduras?) Altidore tired at the end of the match, but it was
an excellent performance from the youngster.
Columbus Crew midfielder replaced Stuart Holden on the right in the
68th and immediately made a difference. While the man he replaced
struggled with his crossing all night, Rogers hit a couple wonderful
curling balls that failed to find anyone before latching on to Landon
Donovan whose shot was saved by Keilor Navas before Michael Bradley
drilled home the rebound. "I think Costa Rica was a little tired when I
came in and I just tried to use my pace to get behind them and get some
dangerous service in," he said after the match. The midfielder nearly
had a goal of his own in the 73rd after running on to a pass from
Donovan, but his shot went wide of the net. Just four minutes later, a
cross from Steve Cherundolo just glanced off the side of his head.
U.S.'s offensive inspiration took a shot that led to the American's
goal, but he struggled in the first half and missed a number of
opportunities during the opening 45. In the 37th minute, Donovan had a
semi-break on Navas -- and Casey alone across the goalmouth -- but
chose to shoot and missed the net. On almost any other night, the Los
Angeles Galaxy star would do better. His free kicks and corners were
lacking throughout the match as well. As in Honduras on Saturday, he
was more dangerous after the break (his fitness is clearly far superior
to anyone on either team) but lacked the necessary final touch. In
D.C., Donovan was good, but he didn't match the greatness he's
displayed in previous outings.
in place of Ricardo Clark, the central midfielder had an opportunity to
show Bradley and the U.S. coaching staff that he deserves more playing
time. Unfortunately, after Wednesday night's performance, Feilhaber
will likely be relegated back to a substitute's role. (A position, to
his credit, that he's played very well.) The American was guilty of too
much dribbling in the midfield and tried to be too fancy on the
slippery pitch. Donovan deservedly admonished him after a couple of bad
turnovers early in the match. For a player with an attacking mindset,
Feilhaber strangely seemed afraid to go forward at times, instead
resorting to knocking the ball to his backline. Additionally, he
struggled to link the right side of the field and the left. Feilhaber
appeared a tad overwhelmed.
Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu struggled on the wet pitch at RFK. Early in
the match they miscommunicated a number of times. It almost hurt the
U.S. when the pair allowed Walter Centeno to get behind them, but Tim
Howard bailed his defense out with a brilliant reaction save to kept
the match level. On the first goal, Onyewu was badly beaten by Brian
Ruiz's and Bocanegra likely could have slid over faster to cover. The
pair played better as the match progressed, but still allowed some
dicey moments. It wasn't a terrible performance by any means, but they
will need to be stronger in the World Cup.
Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.
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