Not every win is going to be Scotland caliber, sadly. The United States got three points in a solid but not all that dominant fashion on Friday evening against Antigua & Barbuda in their first World Cup Qualifier, but in all honesty it was more important to see a win than a pretty win. After all, they played plenty of pretty ball against Brazil and still came away with a 4-1 loss. (Rapids fans especially should know that pretty looking soccer doesn't always mean a result!)
It wasn't the absolute, 100% superb dominance we expected against a small Caribbean nation but it was still a pretty solid performance. The US outshot the competition by 12, including seven more shots on target. They ended up with barrels of well taken corner kicks and could very easily have had more goals than the three on the scoreboard in the end.
Even had it been as awful a game as critics have been crying it to be, this is still a US team learning things about itself.
For instance, it found out last night again that the evidence against keeping Oguchi Onyewu on the national team is getting ever stronger. It was the somewhat fresh legged substitute Onyewu that single-handedly gave up the lone Antigua & Barbuda goal when Peter Bayers -- who had only come in two minutes prior as a substitute himself -- snuck past him.
Fortunately, the US had plenty of offensive mettle on the evening with Carlos Bocanegra putting in his 13th international goal only seven minutes in. Landon Donovan was tripped in the penalty area in the 43rd minute, which gave Clint Dempsey a chance to put in a well taken and powerful penalty kick. 2-0 at the end of the half wasn't a bad scoreline at all, and even when Antigua & Barbuda pulled one back in the 63rd minute, Herculez Gomez was up to the task of putting it back to a two goal lead with a tap in.
(By the way, to anyone saying 'well it was just a tap in!', the United States has been filled with strikers who couldn't finish tap-ins the past few years, especially in the World Cup. Robbie Findley, anyone?)
What's important is that the team got the three points they need, every win regardless of showing is needed in the World Cup Qualification race. We don't want to have to repeat last cycle's near miss when they needed two goals from Conor Casey of all people in the final qualifying game to sneak into the cup.