The US Men’s National Soccer team did what it was supposed to and defeated Antigua & Barbuda 3-1. The match was played on a soaked, muddy pitch in front of 22,000 fans who braved the stormy conditions at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida.
The US team played a lackluster first half, failing to score on several opportunities inside the box, the strikers seemingly attempting to walk the goal in instead of taking a shot. The Antiguan team gave the US full control of the ball, hoping to halt the American offense by placing the entire team behind the ball. Even with the entire team defending, the Antiguans were loose on the mark, letting the US players near the box without much of a struggle.
Carlos Bocanegra opened the scoring off a a corner kick in the 8th minute of the first half. For the next 35 minutes the US dominated the match, with just a couple of attempts resembling an attack from the Antigua & Barbuda squad. However, the US was imprecise in its passing at times, and was hessitant in the attack, opting to dribble or take an extra pass inside the box instead of shooting. The 2nd goal of the match came in the form of a Clint Dempsey penalty kick in the 44th minute. The penalty kick was sanctioned after a clear foul on Landon Donovan inside the box. Thus ended a terrible first half for the US, even if they did manage to take a 2-0 advantage.
The second half started again with clear and utter dominance by the US team. However, just like the first half, the US squandered several goal scoring opportunities. Landon Donovan was the catalyst for most of the offensive plays, but the ball simply wouldn’t cross the line. Suddenly, in the 65th minute on a quick counter-attack through the left side of the pitch, the lone Antiguan striker, Peter Byers, was able to slip through the American defense and score a good goal that lifted the islanders’ spirits.
Herculez Gomez answered back for the United States right away, scoring on an empty net in the 71st minute after a series of rebounds inside the Antiguan box. The rest of the match saw Antigua & Barbuda push forward, even having possession for long periods of time; however, they were not able to convert or get any clear scoring chances. The game ended 3-1, and the US gained its first three points of the CONCACAF Qualifiers.
Antigua & Barbuda can go back home with their heads held high, they came with a gameplan and kept the score closer than most peple had expected. On the other hand, the US needs to be worried, even if they did get the win, the defense gave up an easy goal, the passing was imprecise at times, and the offense missed way too many goals. If they play this way in Guatemala, they will not come back with a win, and may even lose the important match.
Notes: A special recognition to Molvin James, the Antiguan goalie who was the MVP of the game, keeping the score at a respectable level. Also, Jose Torres came out with an injured ankle in the second half, lets see if he will be ready to play against Guatemala next Tuesday.