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Monday, January 30, 2006

USA beat Norway and show a great performance

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The United States football team prepares for the World Cup. The players took advantage of a weak opponent and overwhelmed a young Norway side 5-0 in a friendly this afternoon at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

Forward Taylor Twellman scored three times, while defender Eddie Pope and midfielder Chris Klein each added one goal as the U.S. cruised to an easy victory.

It’s good to notice that the U.S. face a Norway's with under-23 players today. The Norwegians failed to qualify for the World Cup this summer in Germany after they were dealt a pair of 1-0 defeats by the Czech Republic in a two-game playoff.

Norway is now pointing toward the 2008 European championships. Only one player in today's lineup was with Norway at the time it faced the Czechs. Earlier in the week, Mexico downed this Norway team 2-1 in San Francisco.

U.S. coach Bruce Arena thinks this was "our best week of training so far”. He said that the U.S. came out much more aggressively today than in last Sunday's 0-0 draw with Canada in San Diego. The Americans pushed the ball from the start and the intensity quickly paid dividends.

In the game, Twellman settled a nice cross from midfielder Clint Dempsey and put the ball under Norway goalkeeper Espen Johnsen for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute. In the 21st minute, Twellman got under a free kick from defender Todd Dunivant and headed it past Espen. The result was never in doubt after that.

The U.S. was helped by some very poor marking on Norway's part. Twellman was pretty much unmarked on all three of his goals. Pope was given an open point-blank shot for his goal and no defender was able to reach Chris Klein at the time midfielder Landon Donovan fed him for an open 20-yarder that became the final American tally.

The lack of defending was surprising because Norway consistently dropped six and seven players behind the ball. All this strategy accomplished was giving the U.S. all kinds of room in the midfield.

The U.S. back-line was hardly challenged. Pope and Jimmy Conrad were solid and organized in the central defense while Frankie Hejduk regularly pushed the ball up the right wing.

The U.S. dominance was demonstrated by its 24-2 shots advantage, 13-1 on goal.

It has been four grinding weeks for the U.S. players in a long training camp in Carson. A victory such as this can be enjoyed, but not for long. A more difficult challenge awaits with a game against Japan in San Francisco in two weeks as preparations for the World Cup intensify. It will be interesting to see if the Americans can put together two solid efforts in a row.

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