Uninspired Americans Limp To a 1-1 Draw with Kiwis
October 11, 2016
POOR FIELD CONDITIONS IN HAVANA rendered Friday's friendly against Cuba largely useless, so American soccer supporters turned to Tuesday's match against New Zealand with the hope that they could take away a few positives—or at least be entertained.
Would Jurgen Klinsmann give starts to high-ceiling players like Juan Agudelo or Lynden Gooch or Terrence Boyd? Nope, nope, and nope.
Could the Americans put on a strong display and generate some momentum before the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying gets underway in November. Not really.
With a number of fringe players called into action, would we at least see some energetic performances? No, we would not—not until the waning moments of the game.
The U.S. men's national team limped to a 1-1 draw with New Zealand, and nothing about the performance inspired confidence that these players are ready to face Mexico next month in Columbus, Ohio, followed by a brutal road match against Costa Rica four days later.
The Yanks looked absolutely awful early on at an embarrassingly empty RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
At the 25-minute mark, the hosts had barely managed to string together three meaningful passes. The three-man midfield featuring Perry Kitchen, Michael Bradley, and Sacha Kljestan couldn't create anything resembling a chance. William Yarbrough looked petrified in goal. Jozy Altidore's first touch was brutal. Julian Green was invisible.
The All Whites, who had played well in a 2-1 loss to Mexico several days prior, looked like the superior side throughout the first half of the first half.
But the game shifted abruptly in the 27th minute when Green dribbled down the left side of the field—innocuously, it seemed—and toward the New Zealand goal. With defenders backing off, the Bayern Munich reserve delivered a rather basic right-footed shot from the edge of the box. Inexplicably, Kiwi goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic stood still as the ball rolled past him at the near post and into the back of the goal, giving the Americans a 1-0 lead
Maybe Marinovic was screened, maybe he simply suffered from a brain freeze. Whatever the cause, the Yanks scored a bizarre goal against the run of play despite looking largely clueless for the first half hour of the match.
The first half ended with the Americans in the lead, but none of the 11 starters distinguished themselves. Kljestan had a few good moments. DeAndre Yedlin ran hard. Green got on the scoresheet. But everybody else made a distinctly negative impression on the coach—effectively communicating that they do not deserve consideration for the Hexagonal roster.
Lynden Gooch brought a jolt of energy to the field when he came on at the hour mark. Running hard and showing ambition and clearly looking to make an impact, the Sunderland midfielder made some good runs in his first international appearance, delivering several probing crosses that seemed to signal that the U.S. were not satisfied with how things were going.
In the 73rd minute, however, New Zealand got the goal it deserved when Monty Patterson took advantage of some indifferent defending on a corner kick. The 19-year-old outran Altidore and Matt Besler to the ball and smashed a ball past substitute U.S. keeper David Bingham.
You could see it coming. The Americans looked bored and low energy throughout the contest, so it was only fitting that the home team conceded the equalizer after a bout of laziness.
Klinsmann brought Juan Agudelo in late to try to spice things up, but to no avail.
And in the final 10 minutes of the contest, the Americans bunkered—at home, to New Zealand—putting 10 men behind the ball and trying to hold onto a tie.
Depressingly, it took a Michael Orozco clearance in the 87th minute to preserve the deadlock.
Worse, the best moment of the match came one minute later when Klinsmann sent Terrence Boyd onto the pitch for a ceremonial cameo—a great gesture in a terrible game.
Sure, Michael Bradley nearly scored with a left-footed volley shortly before the final whistle, but it was far too little far too late for a U.S. team that seemed distracted and dull.