Friday, October 15, 2004

One Step Closer to Germany

Time for some long-overdue soccer blogging.

The US secured advancement to the final round of World Cup qualifying with a 6-0 thrashing of Panama Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. Landon Donovan had two goals, while FC Dallas (nee Dallas Burn) striker Eddie Johnson tallied a hat trick in only his second national team appearance.

The win extended the USA's 2004 unbeaten run to an unprecedented 12 games, with 8 wins and four ties. On the year, the USA is 8-1-5, with the only defeat away to the Netherlands. As a long suffering fan of American soccer, I never thought I would see a year where we only lost 1 game out of 14.

Ironically, the national team has often struggled for form this year. The US had to come from behind late in 4 of the 5 draws, including World Cup qualifiers at Jamaica and Panama. Yet the team has still found a way to get the result. In Cup qualifying, our record is now 3-0-2, with one match remaining, versus Jamaica in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday, November 17. With 11 points, the US has guaranteed that it will advance from the group regardless of what happens in the Jamaica match. Hopefully though, the US can win that one and continue our momentum.

A lot remains to be done. The US will be part of a six team group for next year's final qualifying round. Having to play each team home and away will make for a grueling 10 match run, including trips to Mexico and probably Costa Rica. We will need to finish at least 3rd in the group to clinch our trip to Germany for World Cup 2006. It will be difficult, and we will certainly have to deal with injuries and/or loss of form at some point. Still, in terms of both quality and quantity of players, this is the best US national team we have ever fielded. Barring some near-disastrous circumstances, we will be going to Germany.


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