Rosano: Despite unbeaten streak, Quakes can improve


Rosano: Despite unbeaten streak, Quakes can improve


Nick Rosano

SAN JOSE -- The San JoseEarthquakes might be on their best run of results since 2008, but ask them, andtheyll say they can play even better. In each of his past three postgame pressconferences after home wins, head coach Frank Yallop has expressed his desirefor even better play, especially in terms of moving the ball around the field.Weve actually done that for the past three home games thatweve won, not played particularly well in the first half, Yallop said afterlast Saturdays 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. Despite winning their last three home games and tying two onthe road, the Earthquakes have managed to score only one goal in the firsthalf, Chris Wondolowskis opener in a 1-1 draw with Vancouver on May 11. When the Earthquakestake to the field on the road at D.C. United on Saturday evening, it will havebeen exactly a month since the teams last first-half goal. However, the Earthquakes are keenly aware of this fact, andthis week they have looked to continue improving their passing game to augmentthe positive signs the team has shown in the past few weeks. We worked on it this week, Yallop said. I didnt think weplayed particularly well on Saturday. It wasnt a great performance of playingsoccer, but what we did show is fight, scrap, and good finishes. We just talked about moving it quicker and getting it offour feet, goalkeeper Jon Busch said. One and two touch, not standing on theball and not letting it die, just keep it moving, and I think weve done wellwith that. Some of the struggle to move the ball can be attributed tothe cautious nature of the teams visiting Buck Shaw, who like to keep menbehind the ball, coupled with the Earthquakes preference to play a tight,defensively sound first half. Some teams come in here, not necessarily trying to go afterus, but being satisfied with a point and getting a tie, defender JasonHernandez said after the win over Houston. Weve talked about being really tight in the first half ofevery game or the first 20 minutes, not give them a goal, Yallop added. Ithink weve really settled into that and maybe not played better from that, butits worked. While some teams struggle to create chances because they seeso little of the ball, winning possession has not necessarily been the issuefor the Earthquakes. The midfield duo of Sam Cronin and Brad Ring has done verywell at shutting down opponents offenses and winning the ball, and are nowlooking to continue improving the offensive side of their game. Were always trying to work on ball movement, Cronin said.Defensively, the pressure mentality is the basis for our game, but we thinkwere capable of being a team that moves the ball and knocks the ball aroundwell, makes the other team work. Fans caught a glimpse of this quick movement in the dyingminutes of Saturdays win, when Cronin played a good give and go with SimonDawkins, who collected Cronins pass to score on a breakaway. With many of theteams goals coming from crosses out wide, Cronins defense-splitting verticalball was a sign that the team, even though it has found a successful formula,is continuing to look for new ways to break down opponents. Im always working on all aspects of my game and the moretimes I see that final pass and slot people through thats what I need to bedoing, Cronin said. With Cronin and Ring starting to form a good understandingin the center of the park and looking to sharpen their offensive talents,better passing soccer wont be far off for the Earthquakes. Each opponent willpresent different tests, but now, the Earthquakes could start looking to forcetheir opponent to adapt to their style, a hallmark of a strong team andpossible sign of good things to come.For more Earthquakes, MLS and soccer musings, youcan follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win


Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win


SAN JOSE — Bruce Arena's return as U.S. coach reignited American confidence, and his players responded with an emphatic rebound in World Cup qualifying.

Clint Dempsey returned from an irregular heartbeat to score his second international hat trick, 18-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic had one goal and set up three others, and the U.S. routed Honduras 6-0 Friday night to get right back in contention for an eighth straight World Cup berth.

Surprise starter Sebastian Lletget got his first international goal in the fifth minute after Pulisic's shot deflected off the goalkeeper, Michael Bradley doubled the lead in the 27th and Dempsey scored off Pulisic's perfectly weighted chip in the 32nd.

Finding room to maneuver in a central midfield role, Pulisic made it 4-0 just 12 seconds into the second half with his fourth international goal, Dempsey rounded the keeper to score following a Pulisic feed in the 49th, and Dempsey got another on a 23-yard free kick in the 54th. With 55 international goals, Dempsey moved within two of Landon Donovan's American record.

In its first competitive match since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. moved from last to fourth in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, tied at three points with Honduras but ahead on goal difference, Mexico leads with seven points, followed by Costa Rica with six and Panama with four.

The top three nations qualify for next year's tournament in Russia, and the fourth-place nation advances to a playoff. With a victory at Panama on Tuesday, the Americans could move into the top three.

The U.S. had never before won a hexagonal game by more than three goals.

And oh how the American Outlaws and others among the lively home crowd loved every second of this long-awaited showing, chanting "Michael Bradley!" and "Demp-sey! Demp-sey!" through the Bay Area rain and cool March air.

Then, it was "Bruce Arena! Bruce Arena!"

Gloom descended upon the Americans in November when they opened the hexagonal with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 wipeout at Costa Rica. The defeats caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire Klinsmann, who had coached the Americans since 2011, and bring back Arena, who lead the team from 1998-2006.

Dempsey, 34 and hoping to reach a fourth World Cup, was sidelined from August until this month by an irregular heartbeat and likely was starting only because of injuries to Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Tim Howard, the Americans' 38-year-old goalkeeper, got the shutout after returning only two weeks ago from a leg injury sustained in the loss to Mexico.

Geoff Cameron, back from a knee strain that had sidelined him for fourth months, was shifted to right back from central defense because of injuries to others, and Jorge Villafana was inserted on the left.

But there were yet more injuries. Lletget hurt his left ankle on Ever Alvarado's tackle and was replaced in the 18th minute, and defender John Brooks was stretchered off the field, hand over his face, in the 69th due to dehydration.

From the opening whistle, the U.S. played more aggressively than in the latter years of Klinsmann's reign. Arena revamped the midfield, giving a prominent role to Pulisic, who last week became the youngest American to score in the Champions League. He inserted Lletget and Nagbe, who were largely overlooked by Klinsmann last year, on the flanks.

The U.S. went ahead when Jozy Altidore picked up a loose ball and on his second try poked the ball ahead to Pulisic. His left-footed shot that went off goalkeeper Donis Escobar, and Lletget tapped in the ball with his right foot from 2 yards.

Bradley, given his debut by Arena in 2006, doubled the lead when he took a pass from Alejando Bedoya, cut to his left, took four touches and cut the ball back to beat Escobar with one-hopper from about 25 yards.

Showing poise beyond his years, Pulisic created the third goal when he lofted a pass to Dempsey, who allowed the ball of bounce off his right shoulder. Dempsey held off Henry Figueroa and while falling scored with his right foot from 8 yards.

What they’re saying: Let’s go USMNT against Honduras


What they’re saying: Let’s go USMNT against Honduras

The United States Men's National Team faces a critical match against Honduras. 

With an 0-2 record, and currently in last place, the USMNT is on the brink of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Motivation across the sports world is pouring in for the Red, White and Blue.