© Howard C. Smith/isiphotos.com
It took the US just over a minute to break the seal in its first World Cup qualifying match of the 2010 cycle. Captain Carlos Bocanegra played a long, diagonal ball that Clint Dempsey chested down and then drilled through the legs of the onrushing Barbados goalkeeper. From there the floodgates opened. In addition to opening the scoring Dempsey tallied the fifth US goal. Brian Ching also had a brace while Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson and an own goal accounted for the other goals. The highlights are posted here.
The early goal spoiled any hope the Barbados side had in keeping the match respectable. Compared to the recent friendlies the US players must’ve felt like their opponents were working in slow motion. Barbados allowed the US time to collect, space to turn and survey options before picking it apart. It was so lopsided that a few times center back Oguchi Onyewu seemed to get bored and made forward runs into the Barbados 18. Donovan and Bradley had particularly good matches, easily unsettling the Barbados defense by playing quickly and decisively. DaMarcus Beasley continued his resurgence with an honest day’s work. Considering he is just returning from a major knee injury that forced him to miss most of the European season, Beasley was excellent. The US backline was untested. Fullbacks Heath Pearce and Steve Cherundolo both ventured forward and contributed assists with excellently placed crosses. It is difficult to take anything from a match with such unevenly matched teams.
My wife started watching with me in the second half and she felt sorry for Barbados; she equated the play to an offense vs defense drill that starts with the offense getting the ball at midfield and taking it at the defense. What is sad is that the tally could have easily been 10. The US should have been awarded two penalties: Cherundolo was tripped after cutting sharply in the 18 and later a defender blocked a Dempsey shot with his arm. What is really sad is that the US must go through this exercise again next week on a cricket pitch in Barbados. Going to Barbados isn’t bad, but the soccer part (on a bumpy pitch) won’t be the prettiest sight. ESPN commentator John Harkes had a great idea: let the U23s go to Barbados and play the match to aid in its preparation for the Olympics this summer. With a World Cup spot on the line, Bob Bradley may be too cautious to let the younger side play but really there is no chance even the US u16 team would lose by eight goals to the amateur-laden Barbados side so he should consider it.
Any way you slice it, an 8-0 victory to start qualifying is an awesome feat. There is still a long road ahead. US/Barbados is one of 12 sets of home-and-home series, from which 12 teams will advance and be placed in three groups of four. Two teams will advance from each group of four and make up the final group of six (the hexagonal or hex) from which 3.5 teams will qualify for the World Cup (the fourth place team plays the fifth place team from Asia for a place in the 32). It starts here.