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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 21, 2006

U.S. hopes to find offense vs. Ghana

By Ronald Blum
Associated Press

U.S. defenders Gregg Berhalter, top left, and Oguchi Onyewu, top right, head balls to defender Jimmy Conrad, left, and midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, right, during training in Norderstedt, Germany.

ELISE AMENDOLA | Associated Press

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ON TV

Tomorrow: Ghana vs. United States, 3:55 a.m., ESPN

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HAMBURG, Germany U.S. shots at the World Cup have been scarcer than tickets.

The Americans have just one shot on goal in their first two games. Every other nation has at least four.

There's been only one U.S. goal scored when Italian defender Cristian Zaccardo knocked the ball into his own net.

Where's the offense?

"It takes the opportunity. It takes the right mind-set. And sometimes it takes a bit of luck," U.S. forward Brian McBride said yesterday, two days before the Americans' must-win match against Ghana.

If the Americans don't beat Ghana, they're goners, needing a victory and most likely an Italian win over the Czech Republic to advance.

McBride had a shiner under his left eye, the result of an Italian elbow in Saturday's 1-1 tie. It was a vicious game, and he aged a year since then, turning 34 on Monday.

McBride is the only American to score in multiple World Cups, getting the team's only goal in 1998, against Iran, and then connecting against Portugal and Mexico four years ago. He had a good chance against Italy, off a Landon Donovan pass, but he sent the ball wide.

America's lack of offense has been startling. According to FIFA's statistics, the United States had one shot on goal. That's by far the lowest total after two games for any of the tournament's 32 teams. Angola is next-to-last with four.

"We're getting the chances," Donovan said. "A little unlucky. A little not sharp in front of the goal. But that's the last thing I worry about."

Taking any shots at all has been an issue. The Americans had 14 in their first two games, ahead of only Trinidad and Tobago (13), Iran and Poland (12 each), and Tunisia (10).

"We were facing some pretty good goalies in the first two games in Petr Cech and (Gianluigi) Buffon," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said, "and I think when a shooter looks at the goal and he sees those goalies in there, their dimensions and their angles, you tend to be a little more precise instead of just hitting the frame."

In other words, take a crack.

"Just get some shots on goal and test the keeper," Arena said.

Donovan got goals against Poland and Mexico at the 2002 tournament, but has gone scoreless in 17 straight international games since July 9 against Canada. After disappearing for stretches in the 3-0 loss to the Czechs, he came alive against the Italians.

Arena wants to see more of that.

"I think (for) Landon, we need to get a little bit more aggressive," Arena said.

Under Arena, the United States adopted an offense far more flowing than allowed by his predecessors. He wanted to show that the Americans can play entertaining soccer, and they did in South Korea four years ago.

Victories over Portugal and Mexico, a tie with co-host South Korea and a 1-0 loss to Germany gained the United States some measure of respect in the soccer world. The way the Americans played against the Czechs was a step back, but their tie against the Italians was one of their best games ever even though they had no shots on goal.

"I don't think we have a psychological block in terms of having a look at the goal. I think we'll be fine," Arena said. "I think we need to show and create chances on Thursday."