CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Saturday, June 5, 2010
United States vs Australia
Friendly - Saturday June 5, 2010
The US capped off their trio of World Cup preparation matches with a decisive victory over a difficult Australia squad at Ruimsig Stadium in Roodepoort.
American coach Bradley opted to pit the MLS duo of Robbie Findley and Edson Buddle up top which worked to the US' advantage at several points in the first half in spite a few missed opportunities.
The opening minutes saw the Australians and the US exchange possession, the latter resulting in a breakaway between Donovan and Findley on the right side that faltered.
The next time down the field, team captain Carlos Bocanegra fed Clint Dempsey on the left but the pass was too strong, the first of many indications that the players were still adapting to the new FIFA ball at altitude.
Earning just his third cap for the Red, White and Blue, Buddle fired the Americans into the lead in the fourth minute after capitalizing on one of the many Australian giveaways in the midfield. The Los Angeles Galaxy forward collected the ball at the top of the box, cut right and fired past Schwazer with ease for the early one goal lead.
The Aussies tried to counter just a minute later with a ball over the backline for Josh Kennedy, but stand-in centerback Clarence Goodson was there for the deflection, which Tim Cahill fired wide left.
The Americans displayed overall good ball control in the midfield with several good connections, including one in the eighth minute between Dempsey and Buddle to Donovan for an attempted cross into the box.
Findley rued a massive chance at the quarter hour mark when Dempsey found the striker ahead of the backline. Although offside, the linesman kept his flag low as the unmarked Real Salt Lake man cut right and somehow struck just wide of the right post.
Everton's Cahill immediately tried to take advantage of the rattled nerves with a strike that curled wide left from 20 yards out.
The Australians finally connected in the 19th minute after a Jay DeMerit clearance led to an Australian corner for Luke Wilkshire. The Dynamo Moscow man swung in a corner for Cahill who was camped out at the back post and easily left-footed it in for the equalizer.
US coach Bob Bradley expressed admiration of the Everton striker after the match and that the key to defeating Australia was shutting down Cahill.
"Australia has a number of good players but we always recognize Cahill as the special one, with his ability to move around the box," Bradley said of the Socceroos' veteran.
Cahill once again proved to be a threat three minutes later, dispossessing Donovan while running through the midfield. The Galaxy attacker was deemed to have brought down Cahill although the Everton man was already on the ground. Wilkshire stepped up for a 25 yard freekick that beamed wide.
Buddle would contribute to the score line again with a go-ahead goal five minutes later. Streaking down the right side, Steve Cherundolo eluded his defender and delivered a fine cross in for Buddle who was camped out at the back post and nodded down for his second of the game and the one goal advantage.
The Aussies refused to relinquish their pressure and could have had an equalizer in the 34th minute, when Scott Chipperfield sent in a cross for Kennedy who was placed in front of the net. Unfortunately for the Nagoya Grampus man, his header beamed wide right.
Tempers flared just three minutes later after Craig Moore brought down Dempsey in the midfield, resulting in a head-to-head confrontation and yellows from referee Abdul Ebrahim for each player.
Fatigue began to show as neither team threatened in the closing five minutes of the half until the US earned a 30-yard free kick after Buddle was brought down. Donovan stepped up and lofted the ball in, taking a few touches and falling to Dempsey, who launched high for the final play of the opening half.
Australia skipper Pim Verbeek relieved Cahill at the half, bringing in Carl Valeri. His counterpart on the American side opted to give Marcus Hahnemann some time between the posts in place of Howard.
The second half featured a smaller degree of play, with Australia developing the first threat after Chipperfield outsmarted Donovan along the left side and delivered a feed into the box that went untouched through the box for Kennedy at the back post. Again the J-League striker failed to connect, chipping just wide.
US midfielder Michael Bradley got involved in the offense with a blast from 30 yards at the 50 minute mark that out sailed feet over the bar.
The Americans thought they had extended the lead when Bradley fired in after Findley hit the crossbar with a header, but the linesman had already raised his flag.
Bradley made a second substitution ten minutes into the second half bringing in Bornstein for Bocanegra at leftback and passing the captain's armband to Donovan.
The US head coach was reassuring in his words about the current state of the American captain.
"He's feeling good," Bradley said of Bocanegra. "He felt he could have gotten the full game today. He continues to make progress."
Dempsey continued the American attack with a feed up to Findley, who chipped forward along the left sideline to evade his defender and then sped forward but passed a bit too far for Buddle open on the right.
The Fulham striker had compliments to make about the first-time pairing of Buddle and Findley up top.
"I think they complement each other well up," Dempsey said of the duo. "Buddle's strong and Findley handles the ball well. I was able to get some passes up to them. I think Findley caused some trouble with his speed."
Oguchi Onyewu made his third appearance for Bob Bradley since recovering from a patella injury, relieving Clarence Goodson in the 62nd minute.
Jonathan Bornstein worked the left back position throughout the second half and foiled the Aussie offense on several occasions. Yet, Bornstein also gave away possession in the 68th minute with a cross-field pass that Mark Bresciano intercepted and then laid off to Richard Garcia at the top of the box. Fortunately, the US defense held strong and fended off the attack.
The game looked to conclude with a one-goal victory for the US until the Americans summoned a final drive in second half stoppage time.
Herculez Gomez capped off the win with his second goal with the national team when Donovan found the newly-signed Pachuca striker with a low pass to the center of the area, setting up Gomez for an easy left-footer past Schwarzer to close out the match.
With less than a week to go until his team's June 12th opener against England, Bradley expressed contentment in his players' performance this afternoon.
"It was an excellent final tune-up," said a pleased Bradley. "These matches are always tricky with a week to go. It was exactly what we needed."
The US return to training this week at Pilditch Stadium in Pretoria in preparation for the Saturday opener against England in Rustenburg.