Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Kids Are Alright! In Bob Bradley's debut as national team head coach, the USA came from behind to defeat Denmark, 3-1. The big story of the game was the play of three young Americans making their national team debut. Justin Mapp, Jonathan Bornstein and Kenny Cooper got their national team careers off to a memorable start.

After falling behind 1-0, the U.S. drew even when Landon Donovan proved it is better to be lucky than good. Looking incredibly nervous and uncertain, Donovan struck a penalty shot that the Danish keeper appeared to have blocked. Though the keeper appeared to get a solid block with his hand, Donovan's shot had enough power to get through the keeper's attempted save. The penalty came on a questionable call, as it appeared that the Danish defender might have pulled on Ricardo Clark's jersey before Clark crossed into the penalty area. Still, the U.S. survived some spotty marking early on, and went into the locker room with the score tied at halftime.

The second half was an entirely different game, as far as the young American squad was concerned. The U.S. took the lead on one of the finest runs any American soccer player has ever delivered in an international contest. Justin Mapp took the ball in the U.S. half, sprinted through three defenders, and dribbled all the way down the right side of the field. Mapp paused just outside the penalty area, then split two more defenders as he drove across the goal line, and crossed to the waiting Jonathan Bornstein, who knocked it past the Danish keeper for the game-winning goal.

The U.S. added a clincher late in the game, when Heath Pierce set Kenny Cooper off on a breakaway, with a pass over the Danish defense. [Cooper appeared offsides to me, but there was no call]. Cooper gathered the ball and drove towards the net. He coolly set up the keeper and slipped the ball past the keeper at the last possible moment, before the defense caught up to him.

The opposition may not have been the best, as the Danes seemed to tire early in the second half -- but, this raw, young and inexperienced U.S. squad should be quite pleased with the result. This was a very promising beginning to the Bradley era. There is a new generation of U.S. players, and they served notice that this generation has a lot of potential.

In fact, the major disappointment was the poor turnout at the Home Depot Center. Just over 10,000 fans made it for this friendly, and not all were rooting for the U.S. squad. It seems the Los Angeles area isn't ready to be the home field for the national team. Not that this is entirely a bad thing. The national team should strive to play all over the country. I know I'll be looking forward to seeing this bunch of players, when they finally make it to the Northeast, or D.C. area. The U.S.A. Kids ARE alright!

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