USMNT Report: Mixed Result in Russia

Although the USMNT tied Russia, 2-2, there’s still room for improvement
by Herb Scribner   |   Thursday, November 15, 2012

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

The United States Men’s National Team finished its 2012 campaign with a 2-2 draw against No. 9 Russia on Wednesday.

The result caps off what has been a stellar year for USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who finishes 2012 with a 9-2-3 record and a .750 win percentage – matching the previous best year of 2005.

Wednesday’s contest took place in Krasnador, Russia, where a strong 28,200 packed into Kuban Stadium to see the two sides compete.

RUSSIA HIGHLIGHTS: 

Things kicked off early for Russia, which scored in the ninth minute of play. Russian forward Alexander Kerzhakov intercepted Danny Williams’ short free kick, rushed forward and then passed the ball off to the already running Fedor Smolov. Smolov had little pressure and cleanly sunk the ball into the back of the net.

Smolov didn’t have much time to celebrate, though, as he was injured on the play and was replaced by Maxim Grigoriev.

The US was also hampered with injury as defender Carlos Bocanegra strained his left hamstring. He was replaced by Clarence Goodson, who would later make an almost fatal mistake.

The match stayed quiet until Michael Bradley equalized in the 76th minute. Maurice Edu and Juan Agudelo, who both came on in the second half, contributed on the play as the former chipped to the latter, who headed the ball to Bradley.

Bradley’s volley was a rocket that banged off the post and into the net.

All square.

Russia didn’t let the equal scoreline stay for too long, though. In the 84th minute, Russia stole the ball away and rushed up the field. Although the Russians failed at their chance at goal – mostly due to Tim Howard, who made scintillating saves throughout the game – Artem Dzyuba was fouled by Goodson in the penalty area.

Yellow card to Goodson, PK goal for Roman Shrikov.

And then the US pressed forward again. Howard, like he’s done time and time again, sent the ball and team rushing forward to get a last chance at goal. Several attempts failed, and things looked like they were headed Russia’s way.

Mix Diskerud, the 22-year-old midfielder who plays for Rosenborg in Norway, had something to say about that. Diskerud, quietly and almost out of nowhere, banged a shot that bounced right past Russian goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.

POST-GAME REACTIONS: Klinsmann was pleased with the match in its entirety.

“We saw a very entertaining game,” Klinsmann said at a press conference after the game. “Russia proved why they are one of the best teams in Europe, and we wanted to see how good we are against such a strong team. I think you saw we can compete with very good teams in the world. The way our team fought back twice after being down a goal was great. It showed a lot of personality. It showed a lot of character. This is a young team, and a team that is growing. We are pleased with the game overall, and to score in the last minute was great.”

The former Germany head coach also commented on the younger players that took the pitch on Wednesday.

“It was important for us to introduce some younger players to the senior level,” Klinsmann said. “I think they all did great. There is nothing to lose for them in a game like that. They can only win. … For us, it’s important that we have these youngsters grow step-by-step. Our team over the last 6-12 months grew a lot. We developed a lot more personality and confidence to compete with the best teams out there. We still have a long way to go, but I think we have a very good path and these younger players are a very important part of this path. Hopefully, we get more opportunities to give them playing time.”

ANALYSIS: This was a big friendly draw for the USMNT.

Russia has been playing fantastically in World Cup Qualifying. The Russians are 4-0, having defeated Portugal (1-0), Azerbaijan (1-0), Israel (4-0) and Northern Ireland (2-0). Recent FIFA rankings put the team at the ninth spot.

So the US to draw in this match – without usual starters Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Steve Cherundolo – shows that things are improving. It may have just been a friendly, but the US should still hold its head high knowing it played some of its youngest and inexperienced players.

Still, there’s a lot to mull over.

The US looked very sloppy at times. When the pressure was on for the US to get a goal back, the Americans appeared very scrappy. Both Bradley and Diskerud’s goals seemingly came out of nothing and featured very little build up beforehand.

Another huge USMNT flaw was shown when Russia retook the lead with its penalty kick. Goodson’s misjudgment and risk with the foul was near-deadly, and something the US cannot afford to do during the Hexagonal, and especially in the World Cup. Silly mistakes on gambled-challenges like that just won’t cut it on this stage.

And it’s a problem for Howard, who has had to make crazy save after crazy save. The US defense collapsed several times against Russia, and Howard was forced to make too many saves.

On the following possessions, the US looked desperate for a goal. The team tried everything, including hopeful long volleys that weren’t going to make it into the net. It appeared, at points, that the team just wanted to put pressure on Gabulov rather than make a serious attack at goal.

Diskerud’s goal was a surprise, and something that’ll help motivate the young American international.

Though he didn’t score, Jozy Altidore played decently. He seemed hungry, itching for that goal to equalize. He didn't appear as lazy as was in previous US stints, so it’ll be interesting to see if Klinsmann gives him another call-up. Altidore has been doing real well for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie, mostly due to a strong midfield. We’ll have to see if that translates to the US side or not now that he’s getting the call-ups.

This was a good draw for the US, and a great way for Klinsmann to end the year. There’s something real odd about the USMNT: It’s winning against and drawing with big opponents, despite the fact that the team is always training and is sloppy on nearly every possession. Some may say the US hasn’t been really tested as of yet, but that’ll change with the next set of matches – the Hexagonal.

UP NEXT: USMNT vs Honduras, Feb. 16, 2013. Time, location & network TBD.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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