Klinsmann’s first game yields improved result

A clever pass across the six-yard box from the left foot of Brek Shea to the right foot of Robbie Rogers in the 73rd minute was the equalizer that gave new U.S. soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann the fair result his side earned against Mexico in his first game with the team.

The nations are the same, but much was different about the teams from the last time the United States and Mexico met, in the Gold Cup final just a month and a half ago. Players from each side were missing — most noteworthy, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez from Mexico, Clint Dempsey for the States — as well as Team USA’s coach in the 4-2 defeat, Bob Bradley, who had since been fired.

Robbie Rogers taps the ball into the open net.

New coach Klinsmann introduced a few new players into the same 4-2-3-1 formation the U.S. had played in its three previous games at the Gold Cup. But trailing 1-0 at halftime without registering a shot, his second-half changes would prove to be more important.

Juan Agudelo and Brek Shea were brought on in the 60th minute and provided a spark of energy and creativity that was nowhere to be found in the first 45 minutes. Landon Donovan began to possess the ball more and push the issue on offense. Rogers, brought on in the 72nd minute, had hardly broken a sweat before one-touching Shea’s pass into the open goal frame in the 73rd.

Rogers wasn’t even supposed to play in the game. Klinsmann had only added him to the roster three days before when midfielder Maurice Edu had to decline his invitation due to a calf injury. The goal was his second with the men’s national team.

The second-half adjustments were necessary for Klinsmann’s side after Mexico dominated play in the first half. Oribe Peralta’s 17th-minute goal off a corner kick was equally as lucky as it was skilled, sticking his foot around Michael Bradley and redirecting the cross into the far corner of the net past a helpless Tim Howard. Mexico owned play in the half; the Americans hardly possessed the ball in the final third, let alone try to work a combination to set up a scoring opportunity.

The game could have very well ended differently in the late stages, when a series of calls went against the United States. Referee Raymond Bogle (Jamaica) twice opted not to award the U.S. a penalty kick despite pleas from several players. Replays showed that the first incident, before the U.S. goal, looked more like Agudelo tripped over the ball; the second, in the 80th minute, looked like Donovan was tripped by a defender.

Rogers got free again in the 87th minute from a beautiful ball played over his head. He was clear to goal after beating Mexican defender Gerardo Torrado, who grabbed his shirt and pulled him to the ground. Bogle showed yellow instead of red, much to the dismay of the six American players who got in his face to let him know Torrado should have been sent off.

The resulting free kick was blocked by the wall and the game ended without any spectacular chances through three minutes of stoppage time.

Klinsmann’s first comment after the game: it was fun.

— Notes —

  • The USA wore its red uniforms with the blue diagonal stripe, with a slight twist. There were no names on the back of the jerseys. The starting eleven wore jersey numbers 1-11 and the substitutes wore 12-18.
  • Midfielder Kyle Beckerman played fairly well. I’m more worried about what’s growing on his head. Seriously, look it up.
  • The USA had lost three straight to Mexico by a collective score of 11-3. Two losses were on U.S. soil.

USA 4-2-3-1

Buddle
Torres-Bradley-Donovan
Beckerman-Jones
Castillo-Bocanegra-Orozoco Fiscal-Cherundolo
Howard

Subs: Agudelo 60′ (Buddle), Shea 60′ (Jones), Rogers 72′ (Bradley), Clark 84′ (Torres).

Goals:
Mexico — Peralta 17′
USA — Rogers 73′

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USMNT vs. Argentina recap

Landon Donovan plays a nice ball off of a set piece, which was eventually finished by 18-year-old Juan Agudelo for his second international goal.

Argentina came into New Meadowlands Stadium last night as winners of three straight under new coach Sergio Batista, who took over as head man after former Argentinean superstar Diego Maradona’s contract was not renewed following a disappointing World Cup performance.

The Argentineans had been playing well under Batista, defeating Brazil, Spain and Portugal by a combined score of 7-2. After dominating the first half and taking a 1-0 lead into halftime, Argentina did well to hold off the U.S. late and escape with a 1-1 draw.

Even without international superstars Carlos Tevez, Gonzaolo Higuain and Diego Milito, Argentina came out and controlled play in the first half. Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, put on a clinic of close control as he expertly used teammates and shifty moves to slice and dice the USA’s 4-2-3-1 formation.

Desperation defense, most notably from Jonathan Spector, and superb play from goalkeeper Tim Howard kept Argentina off the scoreboard for most of the first half. Messi and Angel Di Maria both had good looks at goal but shot wide; however, even when they got through, Howard was equal to the task.

In the 42nd minute, the left-footed Messi worked a series a one-touch passes in the box before finding Di Maria right in front of goal. Howard sprawled to make the save, but Esteban Cambiasso came through unmarked and put the rebound into the top of the net from the 6-yard box.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley subbed out Jermaine Jones — who had a shaky first half — and Spector at halftime in favor of two up-and-coming players, 18-year-old Juan Agudelo (third international appearance) and 20-year-old Timmy Chandler (first), as the States switched to a 4-4-2 formation out of intermission.

The extra man up front seemed to disrupt to Argentina’s possession play that was so relaxed and controlling in the first half. The Americans had much more success when attacking as a unit, opposed to Jozy Altidore’s get-it-and-go style he tried as the lone striker in the first half.

A foul in the attacking third awarded the U.S. a free kick in the 59th minute. Several red jerseys moved forward as Landon Donovan lined up a set piece, which were so futile for the States in the World Cup.

Donovan lofted a nice ball over the line Argentina defenders held just inside the 18-yard box. Several players went up to win the head ball and a shot was directed on net. Mariano Andujar made the first save, but Agudelo was waiting on the doorstep and knocked the rebound into the goal to level the score at one.

Both teams went back and forth over the final 30 minutes as play really started to open up. The Americans were much more threatening in the 4-4-2, but neither side could capitalize the remainder of the night. The best chance belonged to Argentina when Di Maria got through in the 73rd minute, but Onyewu and Jay DeMerit combined to close off the attack.

Onyewu had another rough night on the back line and frequently looked flustered with the ball at his feet, but his size is almost always an advantage he has over attacking players. He got the better of Messi when the two went up for a head ball in the 24th minute, and Messi stayed on the ground after, holding his head. He went off briefly to be examined, but came back and played the rest of the game.

The next match for the USMNT is this Tuesday, March 29, when the men take on Paraguay in Nashville, Tenn. Game time is 8 p.m. EST (7 CST) and can be seen on Fox Soccer Channel and TeleFutura.

USA (4-2-3-1) — Bob Bradley, coach

Altidore
Dempsey-Edu-Donovan
Bradley-Jones
Bocanegra-Onyewu-DeMerit-Spector
Howard

Substitutions
IN: Agudelo, Chandler (halftime); OUT: Spector, Jones. USA switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half.

Argentina (4-3-3) — Sergio Batista, coach

Lavezzi-Messi-Di Maria
Mascherano-Cambiasso-Banega
Rojo-G. Milito-Burdisso-Zanetti
Andujar

Substitutions
IN: Biglia (73); OUT: Cambiasso.

Shots/on target: ARG 13/6, USA 7/4.
Corners: ARG 6, USA 2.
Fouls: ARG 9, USA 12.
Offside: ARG 1, USA 0.
Yellow cards: ARG none, USA 4 (Edu, 35; Chandler, 48; Donovan, 79; Bocanegra, 90+1).
Referee: Roberto Garcia (MEX).
Attendance: 78,936.

FIFA world rankings: ARG 4, USA 19.