BRIAN SCIARETTA - Sunday, March 27, 2011
The United States national team used a strong second half to rally for a draw with world power Argentina on Saturday night at the Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey.
The game opened very poorly for the Americans with only Clint Dempsey managing to look dangerous on two occasions.
In the second minute he was able to push forward on a counter down the left side and took a shot that Argentine keeper Mariano Andujar saved.
FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi lived up to stature as the best player of his generation as the US team struggled to contain him for most of the night.
Tim Howard was the best player for the US in the first half as he made several impressive saves including two on Messi in the 12th and 39th minutes.
Argentina would pull ahead in the 41st minute when Inter Milan's Esteban Cambiasso was able to hammer home a shot into the top of the net following a scramble at the mouth of the goal on a play in which Messi created.
Following a weak first half that saw the US team offer very little going forward, head coach Bob Bradley subbed in 20 year old right back Timothy Chandler and 18 year old forward Juan Agudelo.
Those two substitutions energized the American squad and the US sprung to life in the second 45 minutes.
With the game now more even, back and forth action would ensue but the Americans would equalize in the 59th minute when they were awarded a free kick 40 yards from goal that was taken by Landon Donovon.
Donovan, who has playing his first national team game since August, hit a nice driving kick into the box which found the head of captain Carlos Bocanegra.
Bocanegra's header was strong and it forced Andujar to make a quick save but he was not able to hang and Agudelo was there to slam home the rebound from three feet out.
For Agudelo it was his second goal in three caps and it marks a remarkable entrance into international soccer.
In his debut last year, he became the youngest American to ever score for the national team when he netted the game-winner in a friendly against South Africa just two weeks before his 18th birthday.
For the rest of the game, the teams would continue to press but neither were able to find the go-ahead goal.
Late in the half, Maurice Edu fired a shot just wide after he received a flick-on header from Donovan who had gathered in a terrific cross from Chandler.
For Chandler who is on the rise with FC Nurnberg in the Bundesliga, his highly anticipated debut was able meet the loft expectations.
Despite an early yellow card after coming onto the game in the second half, he was able to show well moving forward. His speed and aggressive play was a valuable weapon against Argentina.
Messi had the last true opportunity of the game in the 86th minute when his shot from close range on the right side forced Howard to make a quick save.
The Americans will now regroup and travel south to Nashville where they will take on Paraguay on Saturday night.