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June 8, 2008
U.S. confident following Argentina draw

By Dylan Butler Associate Editor

East Rutherford, N.J. – The daunting friendlies are behind the U.S. national team, which now prepares to take on Barbados in World Cup qualifying next Sunday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

And the Americans are optimistic, especially coming off a scoreless draw against Argentina, the No. 1 ranked team in the world, Sunday night in front of 78,682 fans at steamy Giants Stadium.

“It’s great for team confidence, obviously,” Freddy Adu said. “We were a little bit disappointed in the last two games, but getting this tie against the No. 1 ranked team in the world is awesome. I think we really deserved a tie and in some ways we might have even deserved a win because we created some great chances at the end of the game.”

The U.S. opened this challenging trifecta with a disappointing 2-0 loss against England at Wembley Stadium May 28. A week later, the Americans played better, but still lost to Spain, 1-0, in Santander.

Facing Argentina is daunting enough. But the South American powerhouse came into Giants Stadium off a 4-1 thrashing of Mexico Wednesday in San Diego, Calif.

“We realized what a team like Argentina could do,” Pablo Mastroeni said. “More importantly we were worried about what we needed to do as a team to continue to improve.”

And the Americans did just that, taking the game to Argentina for large portions of the second half. If not for a header off the crossbar by Oguchi Onyewu early in the second half, the U.S. might have come away with a historic upset.

“The result is great,” Landon Donovan said. “The performance was kind of up and down, but the second half was fantastic. I don’t think it would have been too out of place had we won the game. We feel like maybe another day we win.”

Clint Dempsey, for one, wasn’t all that impressed with Argentina.

“It felt like Spain was a more difficult team to play against,” Dempsey said. “I know Argentina made a lot of subs, but Spain was a better passing team in the midfield and caused us more problems than Argentina did.”

Despite being held scoreless against three of the top teams in the world, the U.S. is encouraged heading into World Cup qualifying.

“I think we’re getting stronger,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “We’re understanding what it takes to play the better teams. Even though Barbados is a different kind of opponent, I think we understand how to stick together as a team.”

Added Mastroeni: “As the friendlies went, the team got better with each game. To cap it off playing against the best team in the world after what they did to Mexico, I think it’s a positive for us, both on the field and psychologically in realizing that we’re there, we just need to put the ball in the goal and get a few lucky breaks. It’s great for the preparation leading up to next week.”

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