Three points on the board as USA starts its 2014 qualifying. How those three points were achieved is debatable. For those who see the cup as half full, the USA created chances at a phenomenal rate. For those more pessimistic, they just could not score and the scoreline should have been doubled.
Hercules Gomez played his socks off and his header from Donovan’s corner set up Carlos Bocanegra’s strike. The USA added to that tally when Donovan was brought down in the box and Clint Dempsey executed perfectly from the spot. Antigua ranked 105th in FIFA then reminded the USA of its fragility at the back when Oguchi Onyewu was taken to the cleaners by Peter Byers whose shot was deflected into goal past Tim Howard. If looks could incinerate, Gooch would have been charred to a crisp. It’s been a rough return to the hurly burly of the sport for the one time AC Milan prospect. The USA managed to put away the game after a melee saw the ball break to Gomez in front of an empty net.
Antigua’s goalie Molvin James had a phenomenal game stopping pretty much everything. The USA really had to earn those goals. Antigua’s most famous sportsman is cricketer Vivian Richards, in his prime, the most ruthless batsman in the world. But they are earning plaudits for their football team, many of them who play for the Championship and division II in the English league.
The USA now face a much tougher test away to Guatemala on Tuesday. They have to be more clinical in their finishing, make less mistakes at the back, and figure out how to separate out Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, and Jermaine Jones to maximize their roles. There were a number of times Donovan just dallied and was closed down by the defense or came up with a weak effort that was saved easily by James.
The heart of defense poses problems as Klinsi with an injury to Fabian Johnson was forced to start Jose Francisco Torres at left back. Torres had to himself leave with an ankle injury necessitating a shift by Bocanegra to his position with Gooch coming onto partner Clarence Goodson which is when it fell apart. With Gooch proving to be a liability, Klinsi will have to give a relatively untested Geoff Cameron his chance, if Johnson is not declared fit by Tuesday.