The last match of 2012 for the United States Men’s National Team did not go quite as planned, but the game against Russia did end in a draw. With some young guys in the fold and some old faces back in good graces, this was an interesting match for Jurgen Klinsmann and the chemistry of his team. Russia’s Fabio Capella brought in a completely domestic team that was formidable, but perhaps not all of his top choices. Stay tuned for a post on what we learned from the match, but here is a review of game action.
The U.S. would start with Tim Howard, Timmy Chandler, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Josh Gatt, Herculez Gomez, and Jozy Altidore. Chandler and Altidore were back in the lineup. Gatt earned his first cap and would be paired with Chandler to showcase high athleticism. However, the midfield was still heavily defensive minded.
The U.S. team came out asleep. It could have been the quick turnaround from being called in to playing or lack of chemistry between the players, but Russia owned the match early. The U.S. conceded a corner in the 3rd minute as Gatt’s first international touch was a header to clear the area. The third corner into the U.S. area came just three minutes later as Russia were putting together crisp passing plays. Meanwhile, the U.S. could not put together more than two passes.
Russia capitalized on the sluggish play to take the 1-0 lead early. Altidore won a free kick and Williams gave it right away to the opposition. There was no way for the defense to recover and Howard was caught off guard. It was a horrible giveaway right to Russia. Theodore Smolov would score in the 9th minute, but he was injured on the shot.
Russia continued the pressure and the U.S. could barely get out of the midfield. The U.S. team was not winning the 50/50 balls and not sending any service to Altidore who was commanding the middle with Gomez out wide. Altidore did look to be a bit more physical and holding his ground as a target man, but the lack of possession was unable to highlight his form. The match would get even worse for the U.S. when Bocanegra would have to come out before 20 minutes had elapsed with a hamstring injury. Clarence Goodson would replace the captain.
The rest of the first half was a continued struggle. There was still no possession. Goodson would be tested often and Cameron was able to cover for his new partner. Cameron and Bradley were on their game for this match and it seemed like players from more physical leagues adapted quicker than others. Williams did not recover from his early gaff. Overall effort was lacking and mental lapses like being offside on a goal kick highlighted the play. That defensive midfield was not working well together picking up runs or stringing passes together. It was a first half to forget.
The U.S. would continue to get outplayed in the second half and made a couple more mistakes. Gatt and Bradley would become more involved. Regardless, the team is lucky to have Howard as the keeper. He would make two saves early in the second half to keep his team in it; both attempts were low swerving shots. The match opened up as the second half went on and turnovers increased on both sides. Howard did seem to get away with sweeping the leg on Aleksandr Kokorin in the box. Kokorin was cautioned for diving.
Even with the turnovers, the U.S. managed to find a bit more fluidity picking out better passes. They kept possession near the goal, but were unable to turn the possession into threatening shots. The U.S. was playing a team that had not conceded a goal in World Cup qualifying, so their defense deserved credit, but the cohesion on the offensive side was not good enough. Russia would continue to fire at Howard when they got possession.
Klinsmann would use another substitute in the 63rd minute as the youngest player in camp, Juan Agudelo, would replace Gatt. A few minutes later Sacha Kljestan would come on for his 38th cap replacing Gomez. In the 73rd minute Williams was relieved from a bad performance by Maurice Edu. There was even a nice track back moment by Altidore on defense. Amazingly the U.S. would find momentum and tie the match moments later.
Two of the substitutes would combine on a nice passing play. Edu picked out Agudelo who seemed to call for the pass in between the Russian center backs. Agudelo would go up and win a header back to Bradley with a soft service. In stride Bradley would crack the ball off the bar and in. It spoke to his ability and it was a nice moment for Agudelo, but the team was lucky to not be down at this point.
Unfortunately the tie would not last long as Goodson had a momentary lapse not getting goal side and finding himself behind Artem Dzyuba. As Dzyuba braced for a challenge, Goodson bowled him over giving the Russians a penalty kick that was converted by Roman Shirokov. There were several bad decisions made by Goodson as it seemed that Howard had the shot covered after his defense was beat. Edu kept Dzyuba onside on a quick free kick. Howard was visibly frustrated but continued to play extremely well. It was a lazy play that allowed Russia to move ahead.
The U.S. would survive with a draw as another substitute, Mix Diskerud, would equalize in the 93rd minute. Bradley would send a long ball in toward Terrence Boyd and the battle for the ball would result in a comfortable bounce for Diskerud. He would get a deflection on the shot for his first international goal. The U.S. would get the draw.
The same questions going in were the questions coming out of this match. It was good to see the young guys get some playing time while Bradley and Howard continued to show their merit. Now the team looks ahead to the hexagonal in February for World Cup qualifying.