CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Wednesday, November 14, 2012
On an unseasonably warm November evening in Krasnodar, Russia, the United States had to battle back twice to earn a draw in the waning moments of the game.
A goal by Mikkel Diskerud on the final kick of the game gave Jurgen Klinsmann's team a 2-2 draw against Fabio Capello's World Cup hopefuls. The result was not only favorable because it means a point on European soil, but because Klinsmann elected to give several new players their first US caps, including Josh Gatt, who got the start.
Unfortunately, once again, the US was plagued by a sloppy start, which allowed the Russians to take the early lead, as the US struggled to handle Russia's speed and unrelenting attack.
In the ninth minute, after a Russian foul in the defensive third, Danny Williams stepped for the quick restart, but flubbed the pass straight to Alexander Kerzhakov, about 30 yards from goal. Kerzhakov ran straight up the center of the field and at Bocanegra, while Fedor Smolov followed alongside on the right.
Kerzhakov touched the ball into Smolov's path and celebrated as the Feyenoord striker slotted the ball past Tim Howard. After the play, Williams gestured towards Jozy Altidore as though to indicate that the ball took a deflection off of his teammate, but replays were inconclusive. Interestingly, Smolov injured himself while shooting and was replaced immediately.
Just six minutes later, Carlos Bocanegra also came up lame with a hamstring injury and was subbed out.
Although Russia controlled the pace of the game through most of the first half, the US began to battle for possession and threaten the Russian goal. Midway through the half, Gatt used his speed and some nifty moves to make his way toward the six-yard box, where he took a hard challenge by Andrey Eshchenko, but his appeal for a penalty was ignored.
Although Klinsmann sent out the same lineup to start the second half, soon the subs started to come, with Juan Agudelo coming off the bench for Gatt in the 63rd, followed by Sacha Kljestan, entering for Herculez Gomez, two minutes later.
As the second half wore on, services were attempted into the box, only to be cleared away by the Russian defense. Finally, in the 76th minute, a chip from Maurice Edu (who subbed in for Williams in the 73rd) found Agudelo at the top of the box, and he headed back to an onrushing Michael Bradley, who blasted a one-timer from 22 yards out and off the left post to bring the US even, 1-1.
However, in the 83rd minute, a poor defensive play by Clarence Goodson resulted in a penalty kick for Russia, which was converted by Roman Shirokov.
It began to look like another loss on European soil for the Americans. Nevertheless, the insertions of Terrence Boyd and Diskerud in the following minutes set up the dramatic finish in stoppage time, as Diskerud, in his first appearance for the US in two years, latched onto the end of a Boyd layoff from about 20 yards out and hammered a volley that took a deflection and bounced over 'keeper Vladimir Gabulov setting off an American celebration in Russia.