Howard's saves, Diskerud's late goal lift U.S. to improbable 2-2 draw with Russia.
By Robert Wagman
(Wednesday, November 14, 2012) -- Despite being badly outplayed, the United States men came away with a 2-2 draw against Russian, a superior side, before a 28,200 in Kuban Stadium in Krasnodar, Russia.
Perhaps the match can best be summed up by former England manager; now Russia head coach, Fabio Capello, who simply smiled and shook his head after the goal by Mix Diskerud drew the U.S. level seconds before the end of stoppage time.
Both Russia goals were gifts, coming off glaring U.S. errors. In the eighth minute, after a Russian foul, midfielder Danny Williams took a quick restart, but none of his American teammates were ready. The ball struck the heel of U.S. striker Jozy Altidore, the intended target, bounced to Russian forward Alexander Kerzhakov, who immediately pushed toward goal. He passed to midfielder Fedor Smolov on the right side of the penalty area, where he easily beat startled goalkeeper Tim Howard.
The second Russia goal came from a penalty kick by Roman Shirokov in the 84th minute, resulting after U.S. defender Clarence Goodson was shown a yellow card for fouling Artem Dzyuba in the penalty area. Dzyuba had taken the ball into the box and it looked like Howard was readying to collect it when Goodson hit Dzyuba from behind.
Both U.S. goals were quite similar -- from the top of the box. In the 76th minute, midfielder Maurice Edu chipped the ball to midfielder Juan Agudelo, who headed the ball back to Bradley for a 20-yard volley off the lower part of the left post and in.
Diskerud's game-tying goal came after Bradley sent a long ball toward the box which Russia defender Sergei Ignashevich tried to clear, but had the ball bounce to the top of the area where Diskerud hit a first-time shot, clipping a Russian defender and looping over goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov into the net.
In between the Russia goal in the eight minute and Bradley tying the game at 1-1 in the 76th minute, Russia dominated the match completely. The U.S. had few chances and, had it not been for a half dozen saves by Howard, at least four of which neutralized dangerous attempts, the match would have been far out of reach for the Americans.
The Americans had problems all over the field. In the 10th minute, center-back Carlos Bocanegra went down with a groin pull. He was replaced by Goodson and, from that point, on the U.S. back-line was disorganized, especially without Steve Cherundolo, who did not make the trip, and his replacement, Timmy Chandler, who was making his first U.S. start since November, 2011.
Likewise, the American midfield was a mess with three essentially defensive players -- Bradley, Williams and Jermaine Jones playing with newcomer Josh Gatt, making his first U.S. start. Both Bradley and Jones tried to push forward and to link up with the two strikers, Jozy Altidore and Herculez Gomez. Little was accomplished against a strong Russia midfield, which has now been together almost a year and has dominated its first four World Cup qualifiers.
Neither attacker Landon Donovan nor Clint Dempsey, the two most effective Americans, were present. With them, the Americans would probably have been a much better attacking team than the one playing today.
"We saw a very entertaining game," U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann said. "Russia proved why they are one of the best teams in Europe and we wanted to see how good we are against such a strong team. The way our team fought back twice after being down a goal was great and it showed a lot of character. This is a young team and a team that is growing. We are pleased with the game overall and to score in the last minute was great."
Holding a better opponent by holding on for dear life, depending on the goalkeeper to be sensational in covering up mistakes and waiting for a break is reminiscent of the days when Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley led the U.S. Tonight, it worked to perfection and the Americans came away with a victory and left Capello laughing.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 8.5: Simply put, without his heroics it was three or four more goals for Russia and a forgettable result for the U.S.
Defender Fabian Johnson - 5.5: He had some very good moments, both going forward and defending, but he added to the general confusion that was all to present on the American back-line. When all is said and done, it appears he is a midfielder playing out of position and he is not a natural defender.
Defender Geoff Cameron - 4: He seemed to have an off night. Without Bocanegra providing cover, he made several bad errors and was generally shaky throughout.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - no rating: Went out early with a leg or groin injury.
Defender Timmy Chandler - 5.5: At times, he went forward well and defended well. At other times, in his first U.S. appearance in a year, he seemed a bit confused and not fitting in well with others on the back-line or with the midfield.
Midfielder Danny Williams - 3: Certainly the most forgettable outing in his U.S. career. His free-kick error gifted Russia its first goal, but more than that -- or maybe because of that -- he was error-prone all night.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6.5: A huge effort from a player who went 90 minutes in an exhausting match for his club Roma on Sunday. He started out looking like a tired player but, in the second half, he made a tremendous effort that resulted in a goal and better defending in the American end.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 5.5: As he has done on a number of occasions for the U.S., he tried to do too much. Part is a result of the Americans not having a solid offensive presence in the midfield. He's all over and, at times, it gets him in trouble.
Midfielder Joshua Gatt -- 6: A positive U.S. debut. He used his speed well and certainly did not seem out of place. He looks to have a bright future on the international level.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 5.5: A criticism has been he does not put in the required effort and glides through games. Tonight, he certainly put in the effort, what was missing was touch and finishing. He created a couple of chances but was smothered by the Russia defense. Twice he had chances that he could not finish.
Forward Herculez Gomez - 5 Received little service and did not see the ball very often. A frustrating match.
Defender Clarence Goodson (18th minute for Bocanegra) - 4.5: He had some good moments, but all but whiffed on an easy shot. His clumsy and unnecessary foul gave Russia the penalty kick that nearly sent the U.S. down to defeat.
Midfielder Juan Agudelo (63rd minute for Gatt) - 6: Back on the team after a long absence, he set up the Bradley goal with well-played header and he generally did well.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (65th minute for Gomez) - 5.5: He had some very good moments, but it didn't result in much. He provided a positive impact.
Midfielder Maurice Edu (73rd minute for Williams) - 4.5: He never really settled in and he had no impact on the match.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud (87th minute for Cameron) 6: One can't argue with the result. On the field for six minutes in total, he reacted well when the ball dropped to him and he provided the late equalizer.
Forward Terrence Boyd (87th minute for Altidore) - no rating: A brief appearance with little time to do much.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Tim Howard.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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