Rapids' Pablo Mastroeni Named Man of the Match in USA's 1-0 Loss to Morocco

NASHVILLE (From USSoccer.com) — In their first match of the three-game Send-Off Series before the 2006 FIFA World Cup the U.S. Men’s National Team fell to Morocco 1-0 on a last-minute goal in front of 26141 fans at the Coliseum in Nashville Tenn.

The U.S. now 4-2-2 in 2006 will continue the Send-Off Series this Friday May 26 at 7 p.m. ET as Sierra Mist presents U.S. vs. Venezuela at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland Ohio. The final send-off match before departing for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany on June 1 will be presented by Hyundai on May 28 at 7 p.m. ET at Rentschler Field in East Hartford Conn. vs. Latvia. Both matches will be televised live on ESPN2 and taped delay on Telemundo.

"First of all I think our opponents played a better game than us tonight. They had a definite game plan and the objective was to keep the U.S. team off the scoreboard and they certainly accomplished that said U.S. Manager Bruce Arena.

"They shortened the game with fouling delaying and both are fair and within the rules of the game. They did a very solid job. They caught us at the end of the game with a mistake and got a goal. I think they would have been very very happy with zero-zero."

"On the other end we weren't sharp. We were a little leg weary a little over-trained at this point. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change anything we've done. Our objective is still to look ahead to June 12 and not necessarily these games although we certainly would have liked to have a positive result tonight."

The U.S. had the better of play throughout the match and managed 13 shots but struggled to breakdown Morocco in the final third. On the other end the U.S. stifled Morocco’s attack for almost the entire match by only allowing four shots before a quick counter provided the African nation with the game-winner.

After subduing a U.S. free-kick opportunity in the 90th minute Morocco knocked the ball up the field. U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo was able to stay in front of Moroccan forward Bouchaib El Moubarki and reached the ball first along the right edge of the penalty area but his touch to his right was a bit too far in front and Moubarki was able to steal it away. With numbers joining in the attack Moubarki quickly dribbled toward the middle of the field before slotting the ball to a wide-open Mohamed Madihi on the left side. At the top of the box Madihi took a touch toward goal before finishing past the charging Kasey Keller into the top netting.

The U.S. has lost to Morocco all three times the two countries have met. Before tonight’s match the two previous meetings took place on Moroccan soil the U.S. falling 3-1 on March 18 1992 in Casablanca and 2-1 seven years later on Nov. 17 1999 in Marrakech.

The loss was the first for the U.S. on American soil since a 2-1 defeat on May 28 2005 at the hands of England.

During a mundane first half where the two teams combined for five total shots (none of which were on goal) the only tense moment came when Claudio Reyna pulled up with a strained right hamstring. The U.S. captain had injured the leg while stretching for a ball around the 11th minute. After trying to stretch it out the U.S. captain was replaced by Pablo Mastroeni in the 16th minute handing off the armband to Landon Donovan.

Mastroeni ended up being named Man of the Match as he controlled the midfield linking together the U.S. attack while also doing well defensively in front of the back line along with DaMarcus Beasley.

The U.S. defense held Morocco to just one shot through the first 45 minutes that coming in the 22nd minute when Hicham Mahdoufi came up from his left back position dribbled past Steve Cherundolo and drilled a low drive that went wide right.

The U.S. created two looks at net in the next five minutes the first coming in the 25th minute. Mastroeni threaded the needle between two defenders to get the ball to Beasley near the top of the penalty area. The PSV midfielder pushed the ball to his right for Brian McBride who hit a low one-timer that went wide left.

Two minutes later John O’Brien displayed the magical touch he can provide the U.S. team when he deftly dropped the ball over the Morocco backline towards a wide-open Donovan. It looked as if Donovan would get a chance to hit a shot on goal but his stretched out leg couldn’t get a touch and goalkeeper Tarek El Jarmouni was able to scoop up the loose ball.

In an effort to break down a very compact Moroccan defense the U.S. started the second half in a 3-5-2 formation putting Pope in the central defensive spot with Cory Gibbs to his left and Oguchi Onyewu right. Cherundolo pushed up to the right midfielder position while Bobby Convey replaced O’Brien and filled in the left midfielder spot pushing Beasley inside.

Convey paced the U.S. early in the second half getting two shots in the first seven minutes. On his first attempt Convey got free on the left side of the penalty area and unleashed a shot from a tight angle but Jarmouni had the near post covered. His second attempt came when Beasley dropped the ball back to him at the top of the area but once again Jarmouni was in position.

In the 53rd minute Morocco had an excellent chance to take the lead off a free kick. The ball was served into the penalty area and Talal El Karkouri got free but his header went just over the top left corner of the frame.

Four minutes later the U.S. created another opportunity only to see Jarmouni notch another save. Mastroeni stole the ball from a Moroccan player and quickly fed Donovan in the middle. Donovan slipped the ball between defenders for Wolff on the right side of the box and he unleashed a blast that Jarmouni covered.

Eddie Johnson came on in the 60th minute and came a mere foot from moving into double-digit goals for the MNT. In the 67th minute Convey whipped in a corner kick and Johnson hit a solid header toward frame but it was just high.

As the game rolled along Donovan seemed to get more dangerous around the box and in the 81st minute he almost put the U.S. ahead. Receiving the ball atop the penalty area he ripped a drive that gave Jarmouni some trouble as the ‘keeper could only parry the ball back into play. Johnson pounced on the rebound but shanked his attempt. The ball fell back to Cherundolo who curled the ball back into the area for Johnson but Jarmouni did well to punch it clear.

Before Morocco buried their game-winner in the final minute Kasey Keller had kept the game even six minutes earlier. Nabil Mesloub had space in the midfield and unleashed a long drive on frame that Keller stretched to his right to push it out for a corner kick.

After Morocco took the lead the U.S. had one final chance to pull even during injury time off a 25-yard free kick. Convey’s left-footed strike cleared the wall but was just wide right hitting the outside of the side netting.

"I've been working on that all year and it has gotten better for me said Convey. "It was a little disappointing obviously to miss by a couple of inches. Hopefully next time I will be in the same position and it will go in. It would have been a good ending but that is how it goes sometimes."

-- U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report --

Match-up: USA vs. Morocco
Date: May 23 2006
Competition: Send-Off Series
Venue: Nashville Coliseum – Nashville Tennessee
Kickoff: 6 p.m. CT
Attendance: 26141
Weather: Sunny warm 75 degrees

Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Pablo Mastroeni

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
Morocco 0 1 1

Goals:
MAR – Mohamed Madihi 90th minute

Lineups:

USA: 18-Kasey Keller; 6-Steve Cherundolo 22-Oguchi Onyewu (8-Clint Dempsey 74) 23-Eddie Pope 12-Cory Gibbs; 10-Claudio Reyna (Capt.) (4-Pablo Mastroeni 16) 5-John O’Brien (15-Bobby Convey 46); 21-Landon Donovan; 16-Josh Wolff (9-Eddie Johnson 60) 20-Brian McBride (11-Brian Ching 83) 17-DaMarcus Beasley
Subs not used: 1-Tim Howard 2- Chris Albright 3-Carlos Bocanegra 7-Eddie Lewis 11-Brian Ching 13-Jimmy Conrad 14-Ben Olsen 19-Marcus Hahnemann 24-Michael Bradley
Head Coach: Bruce Arena

MAR: 12-Tarek El Jarmouni; 3-Hicham Mahdoufi 4-Abdeslam Ouddou (7-Ahmed Ajeddou 76) 5-Talal El Karkouri (capt.) 6-Aziz Ben Askar; 2-Walid Regragui 13-Moubarek Boussoufa (9-Bouchaib El Moubarki 70) 16-Soufiane Alloudi 17-Zakaria Aboub (15-Hassan Alla 87) 18-Adil Ramzi (11-Nabil Mesloub 60); 10-Sektioui Tarik (14-Mohamed Madihi 60).
Subs not used: 1-Nadir Lamyaghri 7-Ahmed Ajeddou 8-Mounir Diane 20-Hassan Souari 21-Amine Trafah.
Head Coach: Mohamed Fakhir

Misconduct Summary:
MAR – Adil Ramzi (caution) 5th minute
USA – Steve Cherundolo (caution) 31.
MAR – Hicham Mahdoufi (caution) 37.
MAR – Abdeslam Ouddou (caution) 66.

Officials:
Referee: Mauricio Navarro (CAN)
1st Asst.: Amato DeLuca (CAN)
2nd Asst.: Jean Corrivault (CAN)
Fourth Official: Alex Prus (USA)