Tuesday, October 12, 2010

USA and Columbia battle to scoreless draw at PPL Park

By John McMullen

Chester, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) -  The United States National Team and Columbia battled to a scoreless draw in front of 8,823 at PPL Park Tuesday night.

The Columbians, which downed Ecuador 1-0 on Friday at Red Bull Arena, were the far more aggressive team early and a giveaway nearly gave them the advantage. Falcau Garcia charged into the area after the turnover and was free on goal but Oguchi Onyewu‘s tackle blocked the shot and Giovanni Moreno’s follow up from point blank range was weak enough for U.S. net minder Brad Guzan to gobble up.

In the 18th minute Moreno broke into space and was taken down by Jermaine Jones resulting in a free kick. Garcia blasted it into the wall and Columbia was able to redirect it on net with a header but Guzan was right there.

A Columbian foul a minute later gave the U.S. its first real chance.  Stuart Holden bended a volley into the box and Onyewu’s header went wide left.

Things stalled from there as both clubs seemed to be bogged down at midfield for the rest of the first half.  In fact,  the  U.S., which was coming off a 2-2 draw against Poland in Chicago on Saturday,  failed to record a  shot on goal in the entire first half and neither side attempted  a corner kick.

The Americans brought in four subs for the second half, including veteran forward Clint Dempsey who took the captain’s armband from Onyewu, and the action picked up a bit.

The U.S. managed its first shot on goal in the 53rd minute but a weak Holden approach was easily corralled by Columbian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon.  Meanwhile, in the 61st minute Benny Feilhaber sent the first corner of the game into Clarence Goodson, who redirected it to the back post but couldn’t keep it under the bar.

A few minutes later Columbia stormed down the left side and earned their first corner kick, a short crossing pass that Michael Bradley was able to deflect away in the 66th minute.

The U.S. ignited the crowd at The River End in the 73rd minute when Feilhaber slotted  a quick free kick pass to Jozy Altidore, who crossed it over to Bradley for an easy tap in. Altidore was ruled offside, however, and the match remained scoreless.

Feilhaber lofted another corner kick into the box in the 81st minute but Mondragon was able to pluck it out of the air.

Perhaps the Americans best chance of the night came in the 86th minute when Eric Lichaj dribbled down the right side and swung a perfect pass into the box for Altidore, who headed it downward on net. Mondragon was up to the task, however.

“It was an interesting game for us,” said U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley. “In the first half we changed our formation a little bit, and I think we didn’t in that way find a good rhythm on playing out of the back and playing forward fast enough. The second half we played more in the way that we are accustomed, and I think the movement and the flow was much better. There were some good things that took place. There is a lot to look at, and a lot to build on. These situations help move us along.” 

Guzan, the No. 2 goalkeeper for the U.S. behind Tim Howard, now recorded six shutouts in 15 appearances for the Americans and is 7-4-2 overall.

The U.S., who  plays one more game this year on Nov. 17 against South Africa in Cape Town,  is now 3-9-4 against the Columbians in international play.


*The U.S. National Team was returning to Philadelphia - one of 18 cities included in the USA's bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 or 2022 - for only the third time since 1990, and was playing its first match at PPL Park.  Most recently, the USA captured a 2-1 victory against Turkey in the final match before the team departed for South Africa and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  More than 55,000 fans at Lincoln Financial Field saw goals from Altidore and Dempsey that built the momentum heading into the tournament where the U.S. finished first in group play for the first time in 80 years.

*United States coach Bob Bradley selected a largely European-based lineup for tonight's friendly largely because Major League Soccer is in its final month of the regular season. The FC Dallas duo of Heath Pearce and Brek Shea were the only MLS players selected.

"We understand this is a critical point in the season for teams in MLS," said Bradley. "Given the circumstances, we felt it was important that the MLS players be given as much opportunity as possible to remain with their clubs and continue to make important contributions as the playoffs approach."

Here was the complete U.S. roster: *-indicates starter

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan-* (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton).

Defenders: Clarence Goodson-* (IK Start), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa), Oguchi Onyewu-* (AC Milan), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Heath Pearce-* (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United).

Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro), Michael Bradley-* (Borussia Monchengladbach), Maurice Edu-* (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden-* (Bolton Wanderers), Jermaine Jones-* (FC Schalke), Brek Shea-* (FC Dallas).

Forwards: Jozy Altidore-* (Villarreal), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Eddie Johnson (Fulham).

-MF Dempsey,  F Johnson and  defenders Parkhurst and Lichaj came on in the second half for Shea, Onyewu, Edu and Spector. In the 59th minute Feilhaber spelled Holden.

*Shea and Lichaj both made their international debuts with the U.S. tonight.

*The most famous U.S.-Columbia meeting came in group play of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, where an Earnie Stewart goal lifted the United States to a 2-1 victory that helped propel the hosts into the knockout phase.  The teams last met during the 2007 Copa America, where a young U.S. side fell 1-0 on July 5, 2007, in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

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