Playing a more familiar alignment in the second half, the U.S. national team rallied Sunday for a 2-1 victory over Ireland in the U.S. Cup '96 exhibition tournament.
Claudio Reyna's goal in the 75th minute broke a 1-1 tie and the United States, coming off a 2-1 victory over Scotland on May 26, then held off Ireland's attacks over the last 10 minutes to preserve the win.U.S. coach Steve Sampson had decided to try a 3-5-2 alignment during the first half and the team had problems adjusting. In the second half, the United States reverted to its 4-4-2 alignment and everything clicked.
"You have to blame me for our first half problems," Sampson said. "I wanted to try the alignment but we haven't had a chance to have all our players together long enough to work on it."
Once the team returned to the 4-4-2, "the rhythm improved and the players had much more confidence," he said.
The Americans (5-1 this year) and the Irish are preparing for World Cup qualifying this fall. The United States is in a group with Costa Rica, Guatemala and either Trinidad and Tobago or the Dominican Republic.
Ireland, which failed to qualify for the European Championship when it lost a playoff with the Netherlands, remained winless in six games since McCarthy took over as coach from Jack Charlton.
Ireland opened the scoring in the 56th minute. A counterattack by Ireland caught the United States with several players forward and Niall Quinn found David Connolly with a through pass just inside the penalty area on the left.
Connolly's shot along the ground bounded just inside the right post to give Ireland a 1-0 lead.
The Americans tied it two minutes later. Tab Ramos picked up a loose ball about 40 yards from the goal and blasted a right-footed shot that Ireland keeper Shay Given could only tip as the ball settled into the net.
"We shouldn't have conceded the goal so quickly," said Ireland coach Mick McCarthy. "This is a young team that learned a tough lesson. The goal was a good shot but we should have done something to avoid giving up the shot."
Both teams had chances in the minutes following the goals, but neither was able to convert. Ramos just missed repeating his goal, but his shot hit the left post and bounded away.
In the 75th minute, Eric Wynalda brought the ball down the left side and spotted Reyna as he was cutting to the middle. Fighting off a defender, Reyna was able to cut in front of Given and get his foot on the ball, redirecting it into the net for the winner.