March 23, 2012
U.S. quintet difficult to stop
By Michael Lewis
NASHVILLE — The big question at the CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying round is how will the United States’ Group A opponents will stop the Americans?
They don’t have one or two players to rely on in their vaunted attack. It’s five — that’s right five players — with intentions to make life miserable for the opposition.
The man who made the most headlines in the U.S.’s 6-0 victory over Cuba in their opening win was striker Joe Corona, who finished the match at LP Field with a hat-trick. Of course, he will be the first to tell you that he had some help, a lot of help.
Meet Freddy Adu, Brek Shea, Juan Agudelo and Mix Diskerud, part of the U.S.’s five-pronged attack.
Corona said technical ability was the strength of the team.
“We have a lot of players from all over the world, and I think that everyone gives it their own taste of soccer,” he said. “That’s very important for us, and Caleb [Porter, the coach] likes that.”
Adu, that one-time teenage phenom who was supposed to change the American game as a 14-year-old in 2004 as emerged as a leader of the Under-23 team trying to book a ticket to London as a playmaker. His free kicks and passing lethal on Thursday, setting up Corona’s first goal off a dead ball and finding the back of the net for the U.S.’s fifth score.
The scoresheet showed that finished with but an assist, but sometimes statistics can be thrown out. Whether it was on the left or right flank, the FC Dallas midfielder made life difficult for whoever was trying to mark him as he and Agudelo played as though they could read each other’s minds.
The scoresheet also showed that Agudelo had but one goal, but the New York Red Bulls striker just as easily could have had two had not Cuban defender Arturo Diz Pe redirected Shea’s feed into the back of the net in the 43rd minute.
Diskerud, who might not as familiar to U.S. fans because he plays in KAA Gent in Belgium, set up Corona’s final two goals. And before we forget, Corona plays for Tijuana in the Mexican First Division.
Not surprisingly, Porter gushed about his attack, starting with Adu.
“He’s really flourishing in the way we’re playing,” he said. “We like him on that right side, but he comes inside as a second attacking midfielder at times and finds pockets of space. It’s difficult to pick him up in that kind of position because he can sit in seams and between the layers. He’s tough to deal with. He’s very technical. He can play a final pass, and he can score
“On the other side you have Brek Shea, who is just an absolute horse. You’ve got two very different types of guys, which makes it difficult to deal with, and then you’ve got Juan Agudelo up top who is also a handful. You’ve also got guys of the bench who bring a different dimension. We’ve got some dangerous guys in the attack.”
Of course, nothing is cast in stone or pre-determined.
The U.S. must get past Canada on Saturday and El Salvador on Monday if it wants a chance at the brass rin.
Even if the U.S. runs the Group A table, the red, white and blue will have to beat either Mexico, Honduras, Panama or Trinidad & Tobago in the semifinals in Kansas City, Kansas to clinch a berth in London.
You only have to go back to last year when the U.S. U-20 team rolled through the opening round of its CONCACAF tournament before falling short in the semifinals.
That is not lost on the team.
Whether any of its CONCACAF competition can pin a loss on the U.S. is another story.