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Match report

Well, That Was Ugly: Ukraine 2, United States 0

The Americans had a third straight poor match against European opposition, falling 2-0 to a Ukraine team that was superior throughout. American Soccer Now's Blake Thomsen has the story.
BY Blake Thomsen Posted
March 05, 2014
4:56 PM

A makeshift American defense featuring Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks looked overmatched early, and the United States struggled mightily to cope with Ukraine’s runs from midfield, conceding an easy goal in the 12th minute. The U.S. midfield also struggled, failing to gain any sort of control in the middle of the field. Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, and Sacha Kljestan were especially culpable, each guilty of several giveaways.

In truth, it was a dreadful first half showing, and it could easily have been 2-0 or even 3-0 at halftime in favor of Ukraine.

The Americans looked much better in the first 20 minutes of the second half, but Ukraine’s counterattacking second goal proved to be a decisive blow. Though Aron Johannsson provided something of a late spark, the U.S. never looked capable of getting themselves back into the game.

The match started slowly, with both teams failing to put together anything of note in the final third. That changed in the 12th minute, when Denys Garmash sprung the U.S. offside trap and found himself in almost unlimited space behind John Brooks and Oguchi Onyewu. Tim Howard saved excellently from Garmash’s initial shot, but Garmash picked up the rebound and rolled it to Andriy Yarmolenko, who coolly slotted into an empty net.

Things should have gone from bad to worse for the Americans just four minutes later. Following a set piece, Ukraine got in behind the U.S. backline again and scored another simple goal, but the assistant referee wrongly raised the offside flag.

The Ukrainians threatened twice more in the next 10 minutes, first on a lightning counter attack. Geoff Cameron’s superb defensive header denied a tap-in for Garmash. Two minutes later, Onyewu nearly turned a Yarmolenko cross into his own net, but Howard saved well.

In the 27th minute, the U.S. finally created a chance of note. The first quality passing move of the day saw Jozy Altidore play a first-time ball out to Geoff Cameron, whose whipped near-post cross was nearly reached by Sacha Kljestan.

Ukraine responded to the rare U.S. attacking foray by nearly scoring a second. Denys Garmash again got behind the U.S. backline but hesitated far too long and was eventually crowded out by John Brooks.

The rest of the first half played out at a walking pace, with neither side seriously threatening to score.

Given the very poor performance in the first half, it was a bit of a surprise that Jurgen Klinsmann made no substitutions at halftime. The American starters rewarded Klinsmann’s faith in them, though, flying out of the gates and attempting twice as many shots in the first ten minutes of the second as they had in the entire first.

Alejandro Bedoya, perhaps the Americans’ best player on a day to forget, had two decent scoring chances in a four-minute stretch. He had a sweetly struck volley blocked in the 49th minute before firing a half volley narrowly wide from 22 yards in the 53rd.

In between Bedoya’s chances, Altidore headed just over the bar from an excellent cross from Cameron near the right corner flag. Dempsey almost broke his lengthy goal drought soon after, nearly latching onto a Michael Bradley-esque through ball from Jermaine Jones.

The introduction of Brek Shea and Aron Johannsson for Edgar Castillo and Sacha Kljestan in the 62nd minute helped continue the momentum for the U.S., with the Americans shifting into a diamond midfield behind a strike partnership of Altidore and Johannsson.

The sustained spell of pressure from the U.S. continued until the 68th minute, and an equalizer looked likely. But Ukraine launched a backbreaking counterattack and took a 2-0 lead, effectively ending any hopes of an American comeback.

Brooks and Onyewu were bizarrely absent again as substitute Marko Devic raced in behind the U.S. backline. Similarly to the first goal, Howard saved well from the initial shot. This time Devic collected his own rebound and slotted into another empty net.

The Americans looked stunned and never regained the territorial dominance they had enjoyed in the first 20 minutes of the second half. The game devolved into a bit of a midfield battle until the final whistle, bar a few chances from either side.

Yarmolenko nearly scored from fifty yards after a poor giveaway from Brooks in the 78th minute, but a stumbling Howard made a solid save from the Ukrainian’s lobbed effort. On the other end, substitute Aron Johannsson produced the finest attacking moment of the day for the U.S. in the 87th minute. From a Bedoya corner, Johannsson drilled a goal-bound volley with his weaker left, only to see it cleared off the line by a Ukrainian defender.

It was a fitting end to a disappointing night for the U.S., as the Yanks really didn’t do enough to deserve even a draw against a much sharper Ukraine side.

Klinsmann will take some solace from the fact that he was missing his usual center back pairing, as well as the calming influence of Michael Bradley. But all told, it was not an encouraging showing with the World Cup less than 100 days away.

What did you think of the U.S. performance? Who were the best Americans, and who were the worst? Let us know in the comments section.

Blake Thomsen is a frequent ASN contributor. Follow him on twitter and tell him how you feel about the Brooks and Onyewu center back pairing.

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