U.S. no match for the Czech Republic
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) -- The United States looked like a bewildered World Cup newcomer again.
The Americans didn't just lose Monday, they were routed, roughed up and run over by the Czech Republic, a 3-0 crusher that put the Americans in danger of first-round elimination.
"We didn't play well. We didn't compete. We didn't make the plays," said goalkeeper Kasey Keller said, one of many U.S. players criticized by coach Bruce Arena. "It was just a shame. We definitely gave the game away, and that's what we're frustrated about."
Jan Koller, the Czech Republic's 6-foot-8 forward, scored five minutes in, and Tomas Rosicky added goals in the 36th and 76th minutes. The United States managed one shot on goal and showed little of the spark that earned it an opening 3-2 upset over Portugal four years ago, when it advanced to the quarterfinals in its best performance since 1930.
Landon Donovan and Brian McBride, the two U.S. forwards, didn't have any shots, and DaMarcus Beasley managed just one.
"Landon showed no aggressiveness tonight," said Arena, who rarely criticizes players publicly. "We got nothing out of Beasley on the night."
Eager to prove they are among soccer's elite, the Americans brought their most-talented team ever to Germany. They even got a pregame pep talk from President Bush, who called from Camp David before the game and wished them well.
But they undoubtedly disappointed millions of fans back home and certainly the 5,000 or so who made the trek overseas, falling to 0-8 in Europe in World Cup play, getting outscored 24-4.
And it could get worse. The Americans' next opponent, on Saturday, is soccer power Italy, which opened with a 2-0 win over Ghana.
"Everyone has to be brave and want the ball," U.S. captain Claudio Reyna said. "We didn't have guys aggressive enough."
In the last two World Cups, the only team to advance from the first round after losing its opener was Turkey, in 2002.
"It's not over," said Donovan, whose scoreless streak for the national team reached 16 games. "It's going to be hard, but it's not over."
Reyna came closest to scoring, hitting a post midway through the first half. But Rosicky scored on a soaring 25-yard shot in the 36th minute, and the Americans never got back into the game against the Czechs, semifinalists in the European Championship two years ago.
Rosicky hit the crossbar in the 68th and added a goal in the 76th minute, getting past the U.S. defense off a through pass from Pavel Nedved, Europe's 2003 player of the year, and chipping over Keller on a breakaway.
"The Rosicky goal was a great goal," Arena said. "To me the big play in the game was giving up the early goal."
|USA-Czech Republic re-airs Monday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN Classic.|
Eddie Johnson, who entered at halftime, provided some energy, missing just wide in the 70th minute and high in the 76th.
When the Americans returned to the World Cup in 1990 after a 40-year absence, they were embarrassed 5-1 by Czechoslovakia in their opener. Arena, who sat in the seats that day as a fan, didn't think this was as bad.
"Believe me, this wasn't 1990," Arena said. "I don't think we looked like the team in 1990."
They're ranked fifth in the world by FIFA's much-criticized computer formula -- the Czechs are second behind Brazil -- but the Americans created few dangerous scoring chances.
"With all due respect, that's probably the best team in the group," Reyna said. "Italy's another tough team and it'll be another tough game, but we have to bounce back and put this game behind us and learn from it real quick."
Four years ago, the United States broke on top in its opener in the fourth minute. This time, it was the Americans who fell behind quickly. David Rozehnal played the ball to the right flank for Zdenek Grygera, who had plenty of space and time, and crossed the ball before an onrushing Pablo Mastroeni could get there.
The imposing Koller, who returned only last month from knee surgery, already had been fouled by Oguchi Onyewu and Eddie Pope in the first two minutes. He stayed behind Onyewu, a 24-year-old who has been with the national team for less than two years, and was inside of the more experienced Pope. He easily bent his bald head to meet the cross and put the ball past Keller for his 43rd goal in 69 international appearances, a Czech record.
Reyna, who hasn't scored for the national team since 2000, nearly tied the score in the 28th, curling a 25-yard shot that got by a diving Petr Cech in goal. Reyna had a hopeful look on his face, but his expression quickly changed to disgust when the ball clanked off the far post.
Just as the United States was starting to establish some offensive rhythm, the Czechs went up 2-0. Nedved crossed and Onyewu headed the ball out. But it went to Rosicky, who settled it and sent a spectacular right-footed shot into the top corner to Keller's left, above the goalkeeper's raised right hand.
Koller injured his right leg battling Onyewu for a ball on the flank in the 43d minute, and was taken off on a stretcher, one hand behind his head, the other covering his face. He was taken to a hospital to be examined.
His coach, Karel Bruckner said the injury was "quite serious."