Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The United States men's national team got off to a strong start in its send-off series opener against the Czech Republic, but three second-half goals were the home team's undoing as the Czech Republic won, 4-2, at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT on Tuesday night.
Maurice Edu opened the scoring with his first international goal in the 17th minute after Stuart Holden curled in a free kick that Peter Cech failed to punch clear. Edson Buddle got a touch on the ball and Edu reacted to knock the ball in from close range.
"It was a crucial sign for us because I thought we were putting a lot of pressure on them," said Edu, who played all 90 minutes. "To get that goal kind of put us in a good position at that point in time.
Edu celebrated the finish with the stanky leg dance, a tribute to Charlie Davies, who was not called into the pre-World Cup roster.
"That's my boy, and unfortunately he's not here with us right now, but that was just a way of showing that we're all thinking of him and he's still a part of this team," said Edu.
The Czech Republic equalized just before halftime on a set piece of its own. Oguchi Onyewu, playing in his first match since Oct. 14, misjudged a cross from Jaroslav Plasil and allowed defender Tomas Sivok to jump over him and head the ball to the back post.
"The ball was played back, he got up before me and used the momentum with his forearm to push me down when I'm jumping up," said Onyewu. "Aside from that, the only thing I could think of doing differently is jumping earlier."
The visitors went on to take the lead in the second half as substitute Heath Pearce allowed midfielder Jan Polak to beat him with a well-timed run in the 58th minute. Forward David Lafata played a low cross from the left flank, and Pearce failed to react quick enough to prevent Polak from getting on the end of it.
The United States responded off another set piece when forward Herculez Gomez headed home in the 65th minute. Holden whipped in a corner that Clarence Goodson headed across the goalmouth, allowing Gomez to finish with authority from close range.
"That goal was 10 percetn me and 90 percent Clarence," said Gomez of his first international goal. "I'm definitely thankful that I was at the right place at the right time."
The Czech Republic reclaimed the lead in the 78th as Pearce was beaten down the left flank, with the ensuing cross getting blasted home off the crossbar by forward Martin Fenin.
The Czechs would add a fourth in the 92nd, as Tomas Necid got by Edu, who had dropped to centerback, before easily slotting the ball to the near post past a helpless Brad Guzan.
"At times we created some things going forward, didn't always do well enough on the final side," said head coach Bob Bradley. "Also in the process of trying to put so much into it, at times we left ourselves wide open.
Bradley will cut down his 30-man roster and select his 23 for the World Cup on Wednesday at 1pm. The United States has one more friendly to play on U.S. soil when it takes on Turkey on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
What do you think of the game? How do you feel Onyewu did? Is Gomez a lock to make the team now? What players do you think helped their causes? Who disappointed?
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