BY ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, CALIF — The U.S. men's national team's first match of the new year didn't start well, but ended with some promising signs as the young forward tandem of Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury helped the United States salvage a point on opening night.
Bunbury scored a 75th-minute penalty kick drawn by Agudelo to tie the match after Esteban Paredes opened the scoring for Chile in front of a crowd of 18,580 at the Home Depot Center.
The match was a fast paced one with each side featuring players with little or no national team experience. Seven American players earned their first cap on Saturday night and the entire roster consisted of players with no more than six appearances with the national team, which made adjusting to the speed of the international game crucial.
The Americans struggled early on against a Chilean team that utilized its speed to put the home side under pressure at the start of the match. With the Gold Cup and other international matches on the horizon, Bradley was optimistic about how his young side handled the pace of the match.
"There was certainly some moments when we lost some balls and they were dangerous, but there was a strong response when we were down, which I thought was quite good," Bradley said. "When you have a lot of young guys in the camp at an end of everything you want to put it to the test and get a good picture of where people are and from that point it was excellent."
The U.S. team struggled to get close to goal and nearly conceded a goal off a free kick in the 6th minute of play. In the early stages, the United States was unable to create chances, but came close to taking the lead in the 12th minute when Dax McCarty fired an audacious strike from 40 yards that forced a save from Chilean goalkeeper Paulo Garces. Chile opened the scoring in the 53rd minute when Felipe Seymour fired in a cross to Paredes. The World Cup veteran, left unmarked by defender Marvell Wynne, slotted home the opening goal.
The U.s. team struggled to create chances in the first half, but drew a tangible spark from the inclusion of Bunbury and Agudelo in the 60th minute. The pair worked well to create attacks and put pressure on the Chilean defense, combining well with midfield distributor Mixx Diskerud.
The United States struck pay dirt in the 75th minute when Alejandro Bedoya worked a give-and-go with Agudelo, who drew a penalty after being tripped inside the box. Bunbury immediately called Agudelo off the penalty and slotted it home for his first international goal.
"We were down and we wanted to make something happen so I worked with Alejandro and we earned the penalty," said Agudelo. "Then Teal stepped up to take it and was very sure that he was going to make it. I'm just happy that we made it and I'll run up next time to take the next [penalty]."
Similar to the United States situation, Chile is approaching a vital 2011 with the Copa America in July. Following the match, head coach Marcelo Bielsa announced that he would be making an announcement on his coaching future with La Roja next week in Santiago. Bielsa's return for the Copa America has been in some doubt after disagreements with the Federation in the past.
The United States will take on its next opponent on February 9th facing Egypt in Cairo. Due to the success of the combination of Bunbury and Agudelo, the pair may have a chance of inclusion with the full squad. Throughout the camp, the pair have continued to work well and Bunbury — who Agudelo referred to as "like a brother" after the match — hopes that the two see more opportunities to work together in the future.
"Our chemistry is really going well and I'm looking to more games with him in the future," said Bunbury. "We're always trying to work well together and push one another to make each other better it really showed for us tonight."