Trio of reserves spark U.S. comeback to draw with Mexico.
By Robert Wagman
(Thursday, August 11, 2011) -- New United States men's coach Jürgen Klinsmann, using a lineup featuring a number of players either new to the national team or absent for some time, got an unexpected 1-1 draw with Mexico last night in front of 30,138 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Klinsmann had to scramble to patch together a line-up after three expected starters, defenders Timmy Chandler and Clarence Goodson, and midfielder Maurice Edu were scratched because of injuries. So he selected three young players, midfielder Jose Torres, and defenders Edgar Castillo and Michael Orozco Fiscal, all of whom ply their trade in Mexico's professional league.
Also absent for the U.S. because of club duty were regulars in midfielder Clint Dempsey and striker Jozy Altidore, as well as former defensive stalwart Oguchi Onyewu, who has struggled to regain form after injury. Midfieler Stuart Holden remains sidelined with a serious knee injury.
Klinsmann started with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Edson Buddle up top, supported by midfielders Landon Donovan and Torres on the flanks of Michael Bradley, who was asked to play a much more offensive role than by his father Bob Bradley, the recently exited head coach. Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman were the defensive midfielders.
Mexico was missing its star striker Javier (Chicharito) Hernandez and standout midfielder Giovanni Dos Santos began on the bench and did not enter until the second half.
The first half was a disaster for the U.,S. The team seemed confused with players not sure of their responsibilities. Michael Bradley, who was supposed to be playing more offensively, dropped further and further into defense, his accustomed role, while Donovan also dropped back into a wing position. This left Buddle as the lone attacker and he was totally ineffective, outnumbered by two or three Mexican defenders.
The U.S. defense, however, held together, especially in the midfield and gave up only a single goal, a spectacular effort by Gold Cup star Oribe Peralta, who twisted himself around Bradley to redirect a ball into the net for a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
The U.S. caught a break at halftime when Mexico appeared content to sit on its one-goal advantage and it all but stopped attacking. Klinsmann countered by inserting first Brek Shea at left midfield, shifting Torres into central midfield and pushing Bradley back into his more comfortable defensive center midfield role, then Juan Agudelo for Buddle, and finally midfielder Robbie Rogers in the 72nd minute, they faced a tiring opponent. The three substitutes combined for the tying goal.
With their legs seeming to leave them in the closing 20 minutes, the Mexicans allowed the U.S. considerable space in the midfield and eventually the passing lanes that led to Rogers' tying tally a minute after he entered the match. Agudelo took a throw-in deep on the left flank and quickly touched to Shea, who burst past defender Israel Castro, carried to the end-lone and rolled a perfect past to a totally unmarked Rogers at the far post who easily finished his second international goal from four yards out.
The three reserves continued to make their presence known. Shea was denied a potential game-winner five minutes later when goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made a great save to his left and in the 85th minute, Agudelo's quick pass sent Rogers for a breakaway. Mexico defender Gerardo Torrado grabbed Rogers' jersey from behind and dragged him down for what should have been a certain red card, but referee Raymond Bogle of Jamaica only issued a yellow.
The U.S. continued to press hard for the win, but had to settle for the draw.
Klinsmann, who has said he wants to expand the U.S. player pool, got a look at some players who might help him in the future, while others pretty clearly will not. If there is a new "style" coming under new management, it was not readily apparent with some confusion evident during the match. The U.S. rally to tie and nearly win was encouraging to the Americans.
It will be interesting to see what Klinsmann does with several upcoming matches, especially a road game against Belgium when he will have his best 11 available.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 6: He had one of the easiest nights an American has ever had in a match against Mexico. The goal was not his fault and he handled everything else without a problem.
Defender Edgar Castillo - 4: A not-ready-for-prime=time performance. He was anxious to move forward, which he did with energy, but in doing so left gaping holes in the back. Has pace, but not a defensive mindset.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 7: The best American player. He repeatedly covered for others caught out of position and has made himself the most irreplaceable member of the U.S. back-line.
Defender Michael Orozco Fiscal - 5.5: Maybe the big find to come out of this match. He started shakily, but solidified as the match progressed and certainly is worth looking at in the future.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 6: In his first competitive match since being injured in the Gold Cup, he was as solid and dependable as might be expected from someone with his experience. Still a defensive mainstay for the U.S.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 5: A strange, inconsistent performance. At times, he made aggressive plays to break up attacks, but then he disappeared for stretches. He seemed to tire as the match wore on and was thankfully not put under much pressure in the second half.
Midfielder Landon Donovan - 5.5: Another one of his disappearing appearances. In the first half, he was active, but in an increasing defensive role. In the second half, he moved into a more central position and was dangerous, like in the 76th minute when he should have been awarded a penalty kick when he was tripped at the end of a hard diagonal run into the box.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6.5: Probably the other find of the night. The veteran, who has not been seen in a national-team jersey for a while, was absolutely solid in the center of the defensive midfield and deserves future consideration.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 5: Looked like a fish out of water when he pushed high in the first half. Looked better dropping deeper into defense as the match continued, especially after Mexico tried to come back following the American equalizer.
Forward Jose Torres - 4: Late in the match he seemed to come to life, but in the first hour-plus he did almost nothing to put his stamp on the proceedings.
Forward Edson Buddle - 4: As a lone attacker, he was completely ineffective. As the match moved on, he seemed content to accept a diminished role.
Midfielder Breck Shea (60th minute for Jones) - 6: Added energy to the U.S. attack at the right moment. Was instrumental in the U.S. goal and almost had the winner himself, forcing Ochoa into a terrific save.
Forward Juan Agudelo (60th minute for Buddle) - 5.5: He was a handful for the tiring Mexican defense. He still holds the ball too long when he should pass or shoot, but he is young and if there is a player who will benefit greatly from Klinsmann, it likely will be Agudelo.
Midfielder Robbie Rogers (72nd minute for Bradley) - 6: His tying goal was as simple a tap-in as one could ever witness, but he had put himself into the right spot. He used his pace to his advantage over the final 20 minutes in a strong, though short appearance.
Midfielder Ricardo Clark (84th minute for Torres) - no rating: Did little to nothing in his short stint.
SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Carlos Bocanegra.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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