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U.S. Men's National Team

Agudelo's equalizer, Howard's saves help USA overcome rough first half in 1-1 draw

AgudeloArgentina (ISIPhotos.com)

Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIPhotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The score was different, but the final result was the same.

Nearly three years after the U.S. men's national team played to a scoreless draw with Argentina, the Americans tied the albiceleste 1-1 through an equalizer from substitute Juan Agudelo in front of a record crowd of 78,936 fans at the New Meadowlands Stadium on Saturday.

The 18-year-old's second goal in three international matches not only pulled the United States level after Esteban Cambiasso's first half goal, but also helped the team overcome a sluggish first half in which Lionel Messi and co. thoroughly dominated possession and the majorty of the goal-scoring chances.

"As the game moved along, the responses were good," said head coach Bob Bradley, who switched the team's formation at halftime from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 when he inserted Agudelo and newcomer Timmy Chandler. "I think to come away with a good result against a very good team, (there are) some things to talk about, things that need to be improved, but also some positives."

Among those positives was the performance of Agudelo, who built on his first two impressive national team caps by injecting some life into a U.S. attack that looked to be on the brink of flatlining in the opening 45 minutes. Agudelo showed a willingness to take on defenders and made dangerous runs as the U.S. team got itself back into a game that displayed Messi's magical touch throughout .

Agudelo's second-half cameo was highlighted by his goal in the 59th minute, when he knocked in a rebound after Mariano Andujar swatted away a Carlos Bocanegra header.

"For a young player, whenever you put (Agudelo) on the field, you can tell he has confidence," said Bradley. "He puts himself in good positions and when the ball comes, he's strong and he has something where he's looking to try things, things that make sense."

Chandler was another youngster who impressed. The 20-year-old right back made his U.S. national team debut by coming off the bench at halftime, and although he had some trouble containing Ezequiel Lavezzi, he demonstrated an ability to get forward well and swing in nice crosses.

"I thought he played very well," said Jay DeMerit, who played in his first U.S. game since last summer's World Cup defeat to Ghana. "He got up and down, he recovered well, played some very good balls into the box, and that's what you always ask from your right back. I thought he did all of those things very well tonight."

A veteran who shone in the match was Tim Howard, who came up with big save after big save, just as he did in the match in June 2008. Howard kept the Americans in the match by denying Messi, Lavezzi and Angel Di Maria repeatedly, and there was little he could do on the Argentines' lone goal.

After Messi played a ball into the middle of the penalty box, Howard made a kick save on Di Maria's effort from point blank range, but Cambiasso was there to rifle home the loose ball.

The U.S. team almost gave up a second before the intermission, but the defense, which included Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra, held firm.

"We understood that the first half didn't go the way we wanted, and you can't against a very good team come out and just, in your attempt to push the game, leave things wide open," said Bradley. "But we felt that there was more in us. Now we wanted to push a little bit higher, defend a little bit higher, be more confident with the ball."

In order to help accomplish that, Bradley began the second half by switching to a 4-4-2 formation and replacing Jonathan Spector and Jermaine Jones with Chandler and Agudelo. Those changes paid divends as the Americans found their rhythm, jumpstarted their attack and ultimately got the equalizing goal from Agudelo.

The United States next faces Paraguay at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday.

——

What do you think of the United States' draw against Argentina? Who was your Man of the Match? Impressed even more by Messi and Argentina after this game?

230 comments
  • Dontreadondeuce

    Sometimes talent kind of stands out. But it isn’t just his talent, its his compusure, and his confidence. Kid’s gotta swagger.

    He made our veterans look more confident even before the goal. I loved how he came out and jumped around loosening up before the start of the half. He knows he’s good enough to be on that field with anybody. El Chico Dorado.

    Like

  • bizzy

    There is a difference between Playing well, Playing, and playing bad. MB just played. He couldn’t hang with any off the Argentinian players when the going got tough in the first half. Playing the 4-5-1, with everything turning into a soup sandwich Spector was still holding his own…blocking shots….and playing. Mike was walking when that goal was scored….walking, our defensive mid!!! Edu and Donovan were so far back it made you wonder what position they were playing!!! He couldn’t keep up with anybody. Argentinian players just SIMPLY blew right by him and not only that he couldn’t mark either!!! Nobody got through jones without FEELING it, not even Messi!!!

    The two people that had a little Fight in them (especially jones) were taken off and Mike that couldn’t do anything when things were really bad stayed on. Gw if BB wasn’t coach MB comes off and thats a fact. We can make excuses for him all day long but there is a clear reason why he doesnt start for Villa.

    Like

  • Dontreadondeuce

    I kinda like that look. Already thinking of 2014 and I’d slot in Holden at your RM and drop Chandler to RB. His speed at the RB position is devastating and Dolo might be too past his prime for the next WC.

    Like

  • bizzy

    Bradley stopped Messi???? By himself??? When?? Ok what game where you watching!!! Messi BLEW by MB almost everytime in their one on one match up (98%), like he wasn’t even there (during the 4-5-1, is when the true characters of our players showed and MB’s was present. Second half the game had opened up with a better offensive keeping the Argentinians back a little. It’s ok to love the coaches son but DAMN….

    Like

  • PAKmon

    Altidore is a donkey! The faster we forget him the better off we are. His lack of 1 goal at the World Cup was the deal breaker for me.

    Like

  • Dennis

    I just watched part of the game on tape and yes M.B. took the ball off Messi more than a few times. Of course, no one will stop Messi all the time, but the US proved that Messi can be thwarted by good team defense (and Messi was a bit undone by his inability to combine as effectively with Argentina as he does with Barcelona). Bradley was very instrumental in forcing Messi into tight spaces where Onweyu and Demerit could easily make the cleanup tackle.

    So yes, Michael Bradley had a much better game than Messi.

    Like

  • Ryan

    I thought the blond dude that kept jawing and Dempsey should have seen yellow, or an elbow to the jaw…

    Like

  • Ryan

    People keep saying this as if Jermaine Jones wasn’t awful in the first half.

    I understand that Jones is some hotshot euro player or whatever, but he was complete garbage during his time on the field. Club time be damned, Jones was a hack and Mike B was solid.

    Like

  • Ryan

    Oh hey, another commenter who doesn’t understand the game at all! The internet is full of surprises.

    Like

  • JG13

    Dennis, I think we’re all going to suggest that you should watch the match a third time.

    Like

  • Tactics 201

    Tacticly when you decide to pull a CM and put another forward up top its much harder to clog the midfield (which is what they did in the first half). The strategy almost worked but Argentina did well to go around our outside and get crosses in. For the most part the central players did well to snuff out chances. However, when you’re defending like that you tend to launch the ball in a panic because A) you’re in a panic and B) you dont have a ton of outlets anyway. It also forces Landon and Dempsey to have to pinch back in to defend which is why there is no outlet and little attack by the US. When you do get the ball up top your only option is to have Jozy hold it until help arrives. He worked hard to do this (most of that effort goes unnoticed when watching at home) but it was not an easy task at all and not what he’s built for (not many strikers are).

    So why did he pull Jones? Well knowing the center part of the pitch would be more open he has to think Argentina is going to be able to break us down there at lot easier, which opens up the whole attack for Argentina. So you need a guy who can really cover ground and that is Bradley. His work rate in the 2nd half was incredible. I counted 3 or 4 times he sprinted from the middle of the park to make a tackle or provide defensive support. So essentially his work rate had to cover for a lot of the space we created when we changed formations. He is way more adept at that than Jones (not saying he’s a better player, just tactically it made more sense). Now Jones vs. Edu is simply that Edu is a much more attacking player. His runs to support the attack in the 2nd half were outstanding.

    Like

  • Tactics 201

    Tacticly when you decide to pull a CM and put another forward up top its much harder to clog the midfield (which is what they did in the first half). The strategy almost worked but Argentina did well to go around our outside and get crosses in. For the most part the central players did well to snuff out chances. However, when you’re defending like that you tend to launch the ball in a panic because A) you’re in a panic and B) you dont have a ton of outlets anyway. It also forces Landon and Dempsey to have to pinch back in to defend which is why there is no outlet and little attack by the US. When you do get the ball up top your only option is to have Jozy hold it until help arrives. He worked hard to do this (most of that effort goes unnoticed when watching at home) but it was not an easy task at all and not what he’s built for (not many strikers are).

    So why did he pull Jones? Well knowing the center part of the pitch would be more open he has to think Argentina is going to be able to break us down there at lot easier, which opens up the whole attack for Argentina. So you need a guy who can really cover ground and that is Bradley. His work rate in the 2nd half was incredible. I counted 3 or 4 times he sprinted from the middle of the park to make a tackle or provide defensive support. So essentially his work rate had to cover for a lot of the space we created when we changed formations. He is way more adept at that than Jones (not saying he’s a better player, just tactically it made more sense). Now Jones vs. Edu is simply that Edu is a much more attacking player. His runs to support the attack in the 2nd half were outstanding.

    Like

  • beachbum

    you are correct…no need to rewatch the match.

    who would have expected that? no one. certaily not the Michael Bradley haters, who choke when served their crow, unable to find the stomach to sack up and eat it

    Like

  • Goalscorer24

    So tired of Bradley’s strategy’s. Can we officially put the 4-5-1 to rest it does not work for the US. Also can we play from the beginning of the game like we are down a goal?! The stupid bunker defense is another strategy that does not work for the US. We need to be pressuring the opponents form the get go, not backing up giving them space, and time on the ball. How come all the US fans on the blogs can see this, but the coach does not? This would never be if we had Klinsmann as our coach.

    Like

  • Andreinvegas

    I completely agree. Jozy is overrated and is useless up front as lone striker. Juan A. & Teal B. play very well together. I was however confused when Mike Bradley was left in and not Jones.

    Like

  • JPGR

    Give me a break. Listen to yourself…with your rationale no yellows are given when you play offense?

    Like

  • abc

    When you nonchalantly write “Boss” like that, you’re basically admitting you have never actually seen him play.

    He’s one of the best on the U20 team but he is by no means ready to start for the national team. Maybe in a year or two at the earliest.

    Like

  • Ben

    A bit harsh don’t you think. It’s not black and white. I thought M Bradley played like crap (as did almost everyone else the first half).
    I, personally, would have rather seen what Jones could do with a little more room, but still think we needed Holden (or a Reyna-type player in the middle). As others have stated, what galvanized the offense was Chandler and Agudelo, not leaving “sonny” on the field. If you watched the play, both Edu and Bradley had to hang back to keep Messi from waltzing through.

    As for MB, this game confirmed (again in my mind) that he is just not offensive or defensive enough. Really he just works hard and, therefore, is able to make clutch saves and/or clutch goals, but lacks that extra bit of skill that would make him really good. He’s still young though, so hopefully he improves.

    Like

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