By Kevin Koczwara
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Juan Agudela has made a name for himself on the international stage for the U.S. Men’s National Team. Quickly. The 18-year-old striker again proved he was more than worthy of earning a spot on the team by scoring his second goal in three games with the USMNT.
Agudela’s goal sealed a 1-1 draw with Argentina, who scored in the 42nd minute when Esteban Cambiasso slammed a rebound from six yards out into the net. Anything less than a win for Argentina looked unlikely for much of the game as it controlled the tempo, almost all of the possession, and had the majority of the chances on net.
Argentina toyed with the USMNT at times in the first half, dominating the possession, forcing the U.S. deeper and deeper into it’s own end. Stretching play from one side to the other. Argentina forced Bob Bradley’s five-man midfield deep into its own end for much of the opening 45 minutes.
Angel di Maria had a great chance to open the scoring in the 34th minute when he found some space in the box after the U.S. was unable to clear the ball. Di Maria weaved around a few defenders but found himself to close to the touchline and had to shoot with no angle. Tim Howard made the easy save.
Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey were finally able to break from of their defensive duties in the 35th minute. Donovan cut inside from the left on the break and found Dempsey trailing the play with a square pass at the edge of the Argentina box. Dempsey’s first attempt on goal was blocked. He was able to gather the rebound and curl it with his left-foot around the defenders, but Argentine goalkeeper Mariano Andujar was able to make an easy save.
Argentina found the break through it was looking for in the 42nd minute when Ezequiel Lavezzi and Messi played a one-two at the edge of the 18-yard-box. Lavezzi chipped in Messi on the return and Messi found di Maria on the edge of the U.S. goalline, but the Real Madrid man couldn’t beat a sprawling Howard. Esteba Cambiasso didn’t waste this chance though. The midfielder rifled the rebound into the net from six-yards out, leaving no chance for Howard to make another save.
“We understood the first half didn’t got the way we wanted it to. And you can’t, against a very good team, come out [pressing forward] and in your attempt to leave the game wide open,” said U.S. manager Bob Bradley about the team’s first half performance.
For much of the first half, the U.S. was pinned deep and had no way to outlet and attack Argentina. For that to happen, Bradley needed to make some changes at half.
Bradley shifted his side from a 4-5-1 to a more traditional 4-4-2. He brought on New York Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo for midfielder Jermaine Jones and made a straight swap at right back gave Timmy Chandler his first ever cap for the U.S. as Jonathan Spector made way for the 21-year-old. The moves didn’t change much right away, but it was evident the U.S. wanted to get out of it’s own end from the start of the second half.
Argentina picked up where it left off in the first minute of the second half. Di Maria tried to drop a dipping shot over Howard from 18-yards out. Di Maria cut in from the right on to his favored left-foot and ripped a shot, but he could only find the top of the net.
Howard was tested a minute later in the 47th minute by a streaking Messi. Maria again linked up with the little Barcelona man, this time with a cutback pass. Messi couldn’t get around Howard, again, as the Everton goalkeeper stayed big.
Bradley’s moves at half-time gave the United States a more traditional form and it showed with the way the team responded after giving up early chances. Chandler got up the right-flank and opened space for Donovan to cut-in while Agudelo gave Jozy Altidore the partner he needed to be successful in the attack.
In the 53rd minute the U.S. got its best chance when a Chandler cross whipped into the box and found Altidore, who flicked the pass on to Maurice Edu. The big Rangers midfielder couldn’t finish the chance, but it was the first sign of life from the Yanks attack.
It took a minute for the U.S. to capitalize on a rare chance. A Landon Donovan free-kick from 30-yards out found Carlos Bocanegra’s head and the captain’s header was saved by a diving Andujar, but the goalkeeper wasn’t able to push the save away from danger and Agudelo pounced on the chance for his third goal in four games with the national team.
Argentina came right back the U.S. In the 61st minute Howard was tested again when Lavezzi found space in the box and tried to beat the American low.Howard was up to the test and made a kick save to deny the striker.
Messi got another chance to get the go ahead goal in the 63rd minute, this time from a free-kick. His shot sailed over the net, another wasted chance for the little Barcelona man.
The U.S. was able to hold on for the rest of the match and forced Argentina on the back foot with more positive play and some tough tackling through the midfield. Midfielders Landon Donovan and Maurice Edu were both cautioned in the game for tackles as were defenders Timmy Chandler and Bocanegra.
The draw with Argentina should sit well with the U.S. for a few days, but the team doesn’t have much time to reflect on the positive result because on Tuesday (March 29) the U.S. meets Paraguay in Nashville, Tenn. at 7 p.m. Bradley and the U.S. will be proud of the way they battled, but the next test awaits, and fans will really get to see the resilience of the team as it tries to recoup from a hard fought draw and fight again against another elite team.
- The attendance was a record 78,936, breaking the previous record of 72,682 fans, which was set the last time the U.S played Argentina in 2008 — that game took place at the old Giants Stadium.
- Argentina made zero substitutions in the game. The U.S. made two at half time.
- Argentina took 13 shots. The U.S. took seven.
- Maurice Edu, Timmy Chandler, Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanergra all received yellow cards for the USMNT. Argentina received zero cautions.
- The U.S. committed 12 fouls compared to Argentina’s nine.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at Kevin.Koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.