Earthquakes

Rosano: 'Quakes improve but can't snap streak

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Rosano: 'Quakes improve but can't snap streak

Aug. 7, 2011

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Nick Rosano
CSNBayArea.com

SANTA CLARA -- Most who watched the Earthquakes draw 1-1 with the visiting Portland Timbers on Saturday evening will tell you the team looked better than in last weekend's reverse against D.C. United. Unfortunately for the Earthquakes, though, just improving might not be enough anymore, especially given the emphasis players and staff put on winning this game earlier in the week. "I thought it was a terrific performance, maybe not as goal-dangerous as I would like," head coach Frank Yallop said after the game. "I thought team-wise, it was a good solid performance." The Earthquakes did indeed look an improved side from the one that went down 2-0 last weekend to D.C. United, but the team's inability to create enough dangerous chances ultimately cost them a vital three points. Despite playing a significant amount of the game inside Portlands half, the team needed a second half goal from recent acquisition Alan Gordon to secure a point after falling behind in the first half. Despite having their first choice defenders back on the field for the first time in over a month, the Earthquakes defense was made to look foolish when the Timbers pulled ahead in the 23rd minute. Jorge Perlaza got a step on Jason Hernandez, and was being kept onside by Burling, and crossed to a wide-open Kenny Cooper, who had no trouble finishing. I think the initial ball came from the midfield, kind of a bang-bang play, Burling said. I was trailing the play, I didnt get in front of Kenny Cooper. Its a tough sequence, tough turnover and just took one play off and thats the game sometimes. Luckily for the Earthquakes, they looked motivated coming out of the break, and despite an early scare from Perlaza, the team was able to take control of the proceedings. The goal finally game in the 67th minute as Steven Beitashour, making his first start in over a month after coming back from injury, swung in a cross from the right that Alan Gordon was able to redirect into the net to tie things up. "I thought Alan took his goal well and he played well when he came on," said Frank Yallop of the play of his new acquisition. Gordon, meanwhile, spoke of the effort of the entire team, saying, I thought we played really well. We had some chances and I was just the one that got on the end of the cross. It was more a team effort tonight, and I was happy to give what I could. Unfortunately for Gordon and the Earthquakes, it might be a while until the well traveled forward sees the field again. He revealed to reporters that he has a lingering double hernia that was misdiagnosed by the medical staff at his former club Toronto FC and will likely require surgery. Despite only earning a draw, the Earthquakes were generally pleased with an improved performance after last Saturdays fairly listless outing against D.C. United. I definitely think that we took a step forward, said Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski. I think to be honest, this was one of our better games all year, especially going forward. I thought we kept some pretty good possession, and thats why its just so frustrating not to come away with three points. Particularly noticeable was the play of Bobby Convey, who was given license by Yallop to play in more of a free role and provide a creative spark to the offense. Instead of sticking to his normal left-sided position, Convey received the freedom to tuck into the middle and even venture over to the right side, resulting in a number of dangerous runs and chances. I told Bobby, just go play free. Just try and search the ball and make the difference, and I think it worked, Yallop said. I thought we were dynamic in certain spots without being really dangerous in front of goal that was a big miss. While the improved play is certainly a positive sign, the underlying issues with creating and finishing more chances still surfaced in talking to Yallop and the players following the game. Even with a scoring draw, the team has only managed five goals in its ten game winless streak. There could be help on the way though, even with the MLS transfer window closing on Aug. 15. Earthquakes general manager John Doyle has been on a scouting trip to Brazil to find a creative player or striker that Yallop has claimed the side could use. While there is no definitive sign of a new acquisition, a new signing in the attack could prove a boon in finding those sorely needed goals. With 11 games remaining, seven of which are on the road, the Earthquakes sit four points off a playoff spot, but most teams ahead of them have played fewer games, meaning the Earthquakes will need to start turning draws into wins to retain any hope of replicating their 2010 playoff run. I think weve got to look forward to next weekend and if we do get a win, then it pushes us up, Yallop said. Its not like were out of it, weve got to start picking up some wins for sure, but Id like to think we can win at least enough games to get in the playoffs. With the Earthquakes hosting the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids next weekend, it will be vital for them not just to accept their current state, but to continue building on the positive play that saw them out of the loss column.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention

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Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention

COUVA, Trinidad — Twenty-eight years after one of the United States' most important victories came in stunning fashion at Trinidad to end a four-decade World Cup absence, the Americans' chances for the 2018 tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.

The U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night, a shocking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago ending a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer's showcase.

The Soca Warriors scored a pair of first-half goals, getting one off U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez, and the United States made too many other mistakes to recover. The Americans are out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

"We let down an entire nation today," Gonzalez said.

Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and Matt Besler sat on the field after the final whistle as Panama's game ended and then Costa Rica's. At the end, dejected U.S. players filed into their locker rooms with blank looks.

"We foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal," coach Bruce Arena said. "That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. That got them motivated."

The U.S. entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico last November and Costa Rica left the Americans little margin for error.

The 28th-ranked Americans needed merely a tie against 99th-ranked Trinidad, which lost its sixth straight qualifier last week. But the defeat — coupled with Honduras' come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama's 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres' 88th-minute goal — dropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

Mexico and Costa Rica already had clinched berths, and Panama claimed the third and final automatic spot and will go the World Cup for the first time. Honduras will meet Australia in a two-game playoff next month for another spot at next year's 32-nation tournament.

Missing the World Cup is a devastating blow to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has steadily built the sport in the last quarter-century with the help of sponsors and television partners. It also is a trauma for Fox, which broadcasts the next three World Cups after taking the U.S. rights from ESPN. The USSF hopes to co-host the 2026 tournament with Mexico and Canada, and Morocco is the only other bidder.

After an 0-2 start in the hexagonal last fall under Jurgen Klinsmann, the USSF replaced him last November with Arena, the American coach from 1998-2006. The team revived with home wins over Honduras and Trinidad last spring and draws at Panama and Mexico. But the 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in New Jersey at the start of Labor Day weekend proved one hurdle too many to overcome.

The Americans fell behind in the 17th minute when Gonzalez made a casual attempt with his left foot to clear Alvin Jones' cross and sent the ball looping over the outstretched right arm of goalkeeper Tim Howard from 18 yards.

Jones doubled the lead in the 37th with a 35-yard strike, again to Howard's upper right corner, and nearly scored another in the 44th when his swerving shot bounced off Howard's chest and spilled into the penalty area.

Christian Pulisic, the Americans' 19-year-old star midfielder, scored in the 47th minute from the arc with a right-footed shot. He played a role in 12 of the 17 American goals in the hexagonal.

One minute later, Howard made a kick save on Shahdon Winchester's short-range shot, and DeAndre Yedlin blocked Levi Garcia's follow-up attempt.

The U.S. bench was tense, as Honduras scored twice early in the second half to take the lead over visiting Mexico in the 60th minute and Panama tied the score against visiting Costa Rica in the 52nd.

Clint Dempsey, who entered at the start of the second half, was denied by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette's leaping save in the 69th and hit a post from 22 yards in the 77th. Pulisic's shot in the 87th was saved by Foncette.

All American reserves were standing for much of the final minutes, and Arena had repeated exasperated looks.

"No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point," Arena said. "It's a blemish for us."

Just a few hundred fans were in the stands at 10,000-capacity Ato Boldon Stadium, located 24 miles south of the capital, Port-of-Spain. Paul Caligiuri's famous goal at the National Stadium in 1989 put the U.S. in the World Cup for the first time since 1950.

Among the spectators were a few dozen American Outlaws, the U.S. supporters group.

Water that had flooded the track surrounding the field ahead of the U.S. training session Monday was gone.

USMNT back on track with 4-0 pounding of Panama

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AP

USMNT back on track with 4-0 pounding of Panama

ORLANDO, Fla. — Teenage star Christian Pulisic scored with a brilliant touch to complete a field-length attack just eight minutes in, then split the defense with a pass that set up Jozy Altidore for the first of the forward's two goals and put the United States back on track for next year's World Cup with a 4-0 rout of Panama on Friday night.

Pulisic fed Altidore for a 2-0 lead in the 19th. Altidore converted a penalty kick with a chip in the 43rd after Bobby Wood was fouled, and Wood added a goal in the 63rd.

The U.S. ended a three-match winless streak in qualifying and with 12 points and moved two points ahead of Panama into third place — the last automatic berth — in the North and Central American and Caribbean region. Honduras has nine points going into its match Saturday at Costa Rica, which is second with 15.

Goal difference means the Americans put themselves in great shape to reach an eighth straight World Cup, almost certainly with a win Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago and likely with a draw if Honduras fails to win Saturday. The U.S. is plus-five to minus-two for Panama and minus-seven for Honduras.

The region's fourth-place team advances to a playoff next month against Australia or Syria.

"We could have finished better on the day and scored more goals," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.

Playing his first international match since he turned 19 last month, Pulisic was moved to central midfield from the flanks by coach Bruce Arena and sparked the attack from the opening whistle with pace and ball control seldom seen from Americans.

After Gabriel Gomez broke free from Omar Gonzalez and shot over the crossbar, Tim Howard's goal kick was headed forward by Bobby Wood about 10 yards past midfield.

Altidore one-timed the ball ahead to on a sprinting Pulisic, and the midfielder reached back with his left leg to flick the ball ahead. Pulisic jumped to avoid Roman Torres' challenge and used the outside of his right foot to play the ball forward. As goalkeeper Jaime Penedo came off his line, Pulisic used the outside of his right foot again to play the ball wide and jumped over Pinedo's outstretched arm. At the edge of the 6-yard box and just 2 yards from the endline, Pulisic reached with his right foot to slot the ball in, completing a 112-yard U.S. move. Pulisic tumbled over as the ball rolled in for his eighth goal in 19 international appearances, his fourth in the hex.

Pulisic created the second goal when he played the ball between his feet and faked Michael Murillo on the left flank Pulisic broke ahead and fed Altidore, who split the center backs and redirected the ball in from 5 yards for his first goal of the hexagonal. At that point, Pulisic had played a part in 11 of the Americans' 14 goals in the hex.

After Wood and Altidore failed to convert good chances, Wood drew the penalty kick when he exchanged passes with Paul Arriola along a flank, broke past Felipe Baloy, spurted diagonally into the penalty area and was pushed down by Armando Cooper. As Pinedo dived to his left, Altidore chipped the ball down the center for his 41st international game.

Hacked down several times by Panamanians, Pulisic was removed in the 57th minute and walked out to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 25,303 at Orlando City Stadium, which opened in February,

Wood added his 10th international goal off a pass from Arriola.

Panama was trying to move into position to qualify for its first World Cup. The Panamanians were 90 seconds from advancing to a playoff against New Zealand four years ago, when Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson scored late goals at Honduras, which dropped Panama behind Mexico and into fifth place.