On a cold day in Russia, the U.S. Men’s National Team battled to a draw. The Russian team was quite good, and the U.S. team was nowhere near its best, but managed to get the goals it needed. The defense continues to be very worrisome, and an off day for the U.S. midfield made the Russian team’s high-intensity pressure even more effective than it was already, but the U.S. can take some positives out of this game.
The game opened with the Russians coming out with great intensity, pressuring the U.S. midfield into making loose passes and turnovers. Danny Williams, in particular, had a quite poor game by his recent standards, and the result was too much pressure on the defense.
In the 9th minute, a U.S. free kick just outside the U.S. box was given away by Williams. The Russians bore straight in on goal, and Tim Howard, who would go on to have a peach of a game, was given little chance.
1–nil to Russia.
The Russian crowd was boisterous, and the U.S. was barely able to keep the waves of Russian attacks at bay. On 18 minutes, Carlos Bocanegra was withdrawn with a thigh injury, and Clay Goodson came on. While Goodson wouldn’t have his best game, his introduction coincided with the U.S. stemming the Russian tide somewhat.
In the second half, the U.S. managed possession better than it had in the first, and finally began creating chances. Meanwhile, Tim Howard continued his habit of being impenetrable, making a handful of expert saves, several with his feet, to keep the U.S. in the game.
In the 76th minute, following a flurry of subs from both sides, the U.S. got on the board after a long ball was headed back into Michael Bradley’s path by sub Juan Agudelo. Bradley then absolutely smashed the ball on the half volley, smacking it into the goal off the post. The goal was of stunning quality, and suddenly the U.S. had a chance to steal it. For a time, the U.S. looked the more dangerous, as Russia teetered after having dominated play for long periods.
But it was not to be when a swiftly-taken free kick split the U.S. defense and sent Artem Dzyuba in on goal. While it appeared Howard had things in hand, Goodson clumsily bundled into Dzyuba and sent him to the deck. Penalty. Scored.
With the game petering out, late sub Mix Diskerud benefited from another long-ball knockdown, this time from fellow sub Terrence Boyd. Diskerud’s shot was much more placement than Bradley’s power (and took a deflection that may or may not have helped it in), but the result was the same, and the U.S. had tied it up after Russia looked a lock to win it. This time, there wasn’t time for a Russian response and the U.S. got its draw.
Tim Howard is really good
The problems in defense need addressing, but before we talk about that, can we just take a moment and recognize the brilliance of Tim Howard? The past year has seen him be as close to perfect in a U.S. shirt as a goalkeeper can be, and Wednesday was no different. He made saves that kept the U.S. in the game again and again and again. Without him, this game isn’t even close—Russia wins going away.
What to do about the central defense?
Fabian Johnson was good, as usual, and Timmy Chandler looked fine, if not likely to displace Steve Cherundolo. But in central defense, the U.S. has problems. Geoff Cameron is an automatic choice, but who partners him? Bocanegra is slow and getting old. Goodson, though tall, and quite a good defender, did not look good versus Russia, giving away a penalty, and his slip contributed to a goal versus Antigua & Barbuda. We need to see Omar Gonzalez, and Klinsmann agrees, saying Gonzalez would have been included in this camp had the LA Galaxy not been involved in the MLS playoffs.
Young players looking good
Joshua Gatt got a surprise start on the right side of the attacking trio, and looked okay. He was swapped with Herculez Gomez on the left, and looked quite good. He’s a real winger, which is something the U.S. has too few off, especially without Landon Donovan. Gatt’s replacement, Agudelo, also looked good in his half hour, assisting the first U.S. goal. Diskerud had little time to do anything but managed to score the equalizer.
Midfield balance wrong
Michael Bradley underlined his importance by scoring the first, creating the second with a long ball into Boyd, and generally stopping the bleeding in the U.S. midfield during the second half. Unfortunately, none of the other U.S. midfielders are at his level. Jermaine Jones looked okay, but tried to do too much offensively and that led to turnovers. Williams, we must hope, had a one-off bad game, because he looked quite poor—much worse than he has of late. Sacha Kljestan came on late and did okay, but was unable to affect things. One wonders if the U.S.’s midfield balance might have been better if Kljestan had been on from the start, with Jones on the bench. With the first game of the final round of World Cup qualifiers coming up in February, the U.S. is still searching for the right creative presence in central midfield.
In the end, I have a hard time feeling too bad about tying Russia in Russia, regardless of what the score could have been on a different day. Russia are a very good team, and look much improved under Capello. A draw at their place is an accomplishment. In midfield, I think the U.S. has the right players to get it sorted out. In defense, I’m not so sure, which puts even more pressure on that midfield.
Player ratings (scores out of 10)
Tim Howard: 9. Could not have been much better.
Fabian Johnson: 7. No qualms about him, and combined well with Michael Bradley in the second half.
Carlos Bocanegra: N/A. Left before the game had hardly begun.
Geoff Cameron: 6. Did well against fierce Russian pressure.
Timothy Chandler: 5. Did little wrong, but didn’t contribute much, either. Needs to do more if he’s going to push Cherundolo (or even Michael Parkhurst) out.
Danny Williams: 3. His worst game since returning to DM for the U.S.
Michael Bradley: 8. Honestly, this wasn’t Bradley’s best game, but his goal and overall play in the second half made up for it.
Jermaine Jones: 5. Jones actually looked pretty good some of the time, but he needs to remember that he’s not an offensive player. Every time he moved forward, the result was a turnover.
Joshua Gatt: 6.5. A good debut performance. Looks promising.
Herculez Gomez: 6.5. Gomez continues to show why Klinsmann loves him, never giving up and chasing lost causes. Some nearly-chances created by smart runs behind the Russian defense.
Jozy Altidore: 6. Altidore looked improved from his most recent USMNT performances, but found it tough going against the Russians. Assuming his off-field attitude has improved, should remain in Klinsmann’s plans.
Clay Goodson (sub): 4. His overall play wasn’t terrible, but if he avoids giving away the penalty, the U.S. perhaps wins the game.
Juan Agudelo (sub): 6.5. Wasn’t terribly influential outside of his assist, but like Altidore deserves continued looks from Klinsmann.
Sacha Kljestan (sub): 6. This was not a good game to enter as a midfield sub, but he tried to make things happen. Might be worth giving him a start to better see how he and Bradley combine alongside a more defensive player like Williams.
Terrence Boyd: 6.5. Had little time to do anything, but ended up assisting the equalizing goal.
Mikkel Diskerud: 6.5. Had even less time, but scored.
— U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report —
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Russia
Date: Nov. 14, 2012
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Kuban Stadium; Krasnodar, Russia
Kickoff: 10 a.m. ET
Weather: 46 degrees, cloudy
RUS – Fedor Smolov (Alexander Kerzhakov) 9th minute
USA – Michael Bradley (Juan Agudelo) 76
RUS – Roman Shirokov (penalty kick) 84
USA – Mix Diskerud 90+3
USA : 1-Tim Howard; 2-Timmy Chandler, 20-Geoff Cameron (6-Mix Diskerud, 87), 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.) (21-Clarence Goodson, 18), 23-Fabian Johnson; 14-Danny Williams (7-Maurice Edu, 73), 13-Jermaine Jones, 4-Michael Bradley; 11-Joshua Gatt (15-Juan Agudelo, 63), 17-Jozy Altidore (18-Terrence Boyd, 87), 9-Herculez Gomez (16-Sacha Kljestan, 65)
Subs not used: 22-Nick Rimando
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
RUS : 12-Vladimir Gabulov; 2-Aleksandr Anyukov (5-Renat Yanbaev, 59), 14-Vasily Berezutskiy, 4-Sergei Ignashevich, 22-Andrey Eshechenko, 15-Roman Shirokov, 7-Igor Denisov (capt.), 23-Dmitry Kombarov (10-Alan Dzagoev, 46), 25-Fedor Smolov (24-Maxim Grigoriev, 11) (26-Denis Cheryshev, 80), 9-Alexander Kokorin (17-Artem Dzyuba, 67), 11-Alexander Kerzhakov (8-Denis Glushakov, 46)
Subs not used: 3-Vladimir Granat,18-Vladimir Bystrov, 21-Magomed Ozdoyev, 1-Igor Akinfeev, 13-Alexander Belenov
Head coach: Fabio Capello
Stats Summary: USA / RUS
Shots: 11 / 16
Shots on Goal: 4 / 8
Saves: 6 / 2
Corner Kicks: 2 / 5
Fouls: 16 / 16
Offside: 2 / 5
USA – Michael Bradley (caution) 26th minute
RUS – Denis Glushakov (caution) 51
RUS – Alexander Kokorin (caution) 52
RUS – Roman Shirokov (caution) 77
USA – Clarence Goodson (caution) 84
USA – Sacha Kljestan (caution) 90+4
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)
Assistant Referee 1: Andrea Stefani (ITA)
Assistant Referee 2: Riccardo Di Fiore (ITA)
Fourth Official: Vladimir Kazmenko (RUS)