It was hard to tell what a 2-0 victory over Kuwait meant for the U.S. soccer team.
David Regis, an American for all of five days, looked like a sure World Cup starter as he made his international debut.Tab Ramos, back from his second serious knee operation, scored and continued to impress in his fight to get back in the starting lineup.
Ernie Stewart scored, too, and the Americans created plenty of chances - outshooting Kuwait 25-4. But they failed to connect on most of them.
"The U.S. thoroughly outplayed Kuwait, but we failed to capitalize on our scoring opportunities," American coach Steve Sampson said after Sunday's game. "It's nice that we converted two chances, but we had 14 in the first half alone. We need to do better in front of the goal."
With just next Saturday' game against Scotland remaining before the trip to France, the Americans (6-3-2) don't have much time left to find their rhythm.
"If we would've played on a smooth field, we would've won 5-0," said Claudio Reyna, who claimed the rain-sodden temporary field slowed U.S. midfielders. "Hopefully, next week against Scotland we'll really be able to press and run."
Some players are put off by the system of three defenders, six midfielders and one forward, which has left slow-footed Alexi Lalas and Marcelo Balboa on the bench. But Reyna is a fan of the formation, in which Brian Maisonneuve and Chad Deering play defensive midfield, allowing Stewart and Reyna to go on offense.
"The midfield guys really have now the freedom to just get forward without worrying that (opponents) are going to track back," he said. "Just having so many guys coming out of the midfield is very difficult for opponents."
Regis, who became a U.S. citizen on Wednesday, looked sharp in his international debut. The former Frenchman, who was born in Martinique, said he was misty-eyed during "The Star-Spangled Banner." He then played the full 90 minutes. just missed a goal in the 18th minute on a shot that went wide.
Stewart, who missed last week's scoreless tie against Macedonia, scored in the 37th minute when Maisonneuve found an opening in front of the penalty area and looped a pass to the right in front of him. Stewart caught up to the ball and drove it into the net, ending a 128-minute scoreless streak for the Americans.
Ramos, who played just the last 15 minutes, connected in the 82nd minute from a severe angle off a pass from Preki Radosavljevic. Ramos worked the ball in close on goalkeeper Khalid Al-Fadhi and sent the ball into the left side of the net, his seventh goal in international play.
Ramos, expected to challenge for a starting spot at the World Cup, was playing his second international game since surgery last fall to repair a torn knee ligament.
Eric Wynalda, the Americans' regular starting forward, played the second half and moved well on the slippery field in his first game since arthroscopic knee surgery on April 16. Wynalda had three shots, none of them difficult.
Kuwait was selected as an exhibition opponent because its style is similar to that of Iran, whom the Americans will play at the World Cup June 21 in Lyons, France. The U.S. team opens against Germany June 15 in Paris.
"Kuwait wasn't the best opponent, but at least they worked hard," said U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who got his third straight shutout.
The United States was missing several players expected to start in their World Cup opener against Germany on June 15 in Paris.
Cobi Jones sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during practice last week, Brian McBride is recovering from a concussion sustained last weekend against Macedonia, and Frankie Hejduk has a strained hamstring. All three are expected to be in the lineup against Scotland in Wash-ing-ton.
The Americans leave for France on June 4.
"It's been a long process that's finally coming to an end, and we're really excited about it," Keller said.
NOTES: Thomas Dooley appeared to score for the United States in the 69th minute off a corner kick by Deering, but referee Mario Ramirez of Guatemala called it off, ruling the ball swung over the endline on the corner kick. "I started to celebrate, and I saw the referee doing something with his arms," Dooley said. "No way the ball was out. . . . Stewart's goal was his fourth for the U.S. team.