Diskerud, Johannsson Score In U.S. Win Over Azerbaijan
The U.S. national team started slow but finished strong against Azerbaijan, scoring two second-half goals to win the first of three Send-Off Series friendlies ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
May 28, 2014
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The United States national team’s World Cup send-off campaign started with a victory as the Red, White, and Blue beat Azerbaijan 2-0 here Tuesday night.
The decisive play came off a Brad Davis free kick in the 75th minute, which Mix Diskerud got his head on amid a cluster of players. Michael Bradley got onto the ball and rifled in an attempt that was saved off the line by Azerbaijan defender Elvin Yunuszade, but the rebound fell to Diskerud. His shot caromed off goalkeeper Kamran Aghayev and into the net for the first goal in a match that until then had produced little excitement.
Aron Johannsson made it a two-goal lead six minutes later when he was left totally alone in the very center of the box and headed in Brad Davis’ corner as though it was a training drill.
CLICK TO TELL US YOUR U.S. PLAYER RATINGSThe substitutions’ attacking contributions were welcome sights for U.S. supporters after a match in which the home side struggled to find any consistency to best a defensive-minded Azerbaijan side.
Clint Dempsey was a late scratch from the starting lineup with groin soreness, an affliction a U.S. Soccer spokesman said was simply precautionary, but his potency was missed. Luckily for the U.S., all signs from the team indicate the Seattle Sounders attacker will be back for the next match.
"No, it’s not serious at all. He had a little bit of a pain yesterday already in training, and he told me about it," Klinsmann said at his news conference after the match. The manager said he elected to rest Dempsey after being told by his staff that the knock would be fully healed after two or three days of rest.
Dempsey was replaced in the starting XI by Chris Wondolowski, who had a golden opportunity to score early when Graham Zusi’s fourth-minute free kick found the San Jose Earthquakes forward all alone, but the header was saved by goalkeeper Kamran Aghayev.
"Wondo was a bit unlucky and could’ve done that right at the beginning, but overall tricky with the conditions as you saw," Klinsmann said.
Bradley was the beneficiary of an opportunity in his advanced role in the 15th minute when Fabian Johnson could Jozy Altidore who laid the ball off for Bradley. Bradley went wide and the eventually earned a corner.
The U.S. took the resulting corner short and were able to get Wondo another free header from an Alejandro Bedoya, but his attempt was denied by a spectacular stop from Aghayev.
The rest of the first half half and much of the second played out with Berti Vogts’ side content to sit back and defend, but the Americans couldn’t break through the Milli defense for a tally. The difficulty came in the second consecutive match Klinsmann has deployed a 4-4-2 formation with Bradley playing at the top of a diamond midfield. Jermaine Jones went all 90 minutes in the holding role and was largely impressive, perhaps assuaging fears that he won’t be able to stay disciplined when he’s needed in front of the defense.
Bradley said the team isn't worried about the specific results but understands there are still questions to be answered.
"Continued fitness, continued work on the relationships and the understanding on the field," he said after the match. "Obviously, defensively how organized can we be? How difficult can we make it on the other team? And when we have the ball, how sharp can can we be and how good are we when we have chances to score goals?"
The Stars and Stripes will have an opportunity to answer those questions when they face Turkey on June 1 at Red Bull Arena before a final friendly against Nigeria in Jacksonville.
What did you think of the match? Encouraged? Discouraged? Expect to see changes against Turkey this weekend? Sound off below.