By FRANCO PANIZO
Just when it looked like the U.S. men's national team was destined for another scoreless game, a familiar face came up with the timeliest of goals.
Substitute Ricardo Clark powered home a header deep into stoppage time on Saturday night, giving the United States a 1-0 victory over Venezuela at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona in its opening match of 2012.
The goal, Clark's third for the U.S. team, gave the Americans the victory in a game it dominated for large stretches. The United States stymied Venezuela's attack and created a handful of good chances on offense, but it was unable to find the back of the net due to a combination of poor finishing and superb goalkeeping.
Even with it being the superior side, Jurgen Klinsmann's side seemed ready to settle for a tie against the South Americans. Minutes prior to Clark's goal, substitute Chris Wondolowski's header was denied by Venezuela goalkeeper Leonardo Morales, who was arguably his team's best player on the night.
Defensively, the Americans were stout. Bill Hamid, who earned a cleansheet in what was his first cap, went largely untested while the starting back four of A.J. DeLaGarza, Michael Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron and Heath Pearce negated Alejandro Moreno and the rest of Venezuela's offense.
It was offensively where the United States had the majority of its problems. Playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation for much of the game, the U.S. team created chances but was unable to capitalize. Teal Bunbury, captain Jermaine Jones and Brek Shea all failed to convert despite being put in good positions.
Morales also added to the United States' finishing woes, making a pair of eye-opening saves, including on a Shea header in the first half following a cross from debutant Graham Zusi.
Shea was also unable to score midway through the first half. Benny Feilhaber played Shea through on goal with a through ball, but Shea's ensuing shot rolled wide of the far post.
The misses may have aggravated the Americans, but their frustration turned into joy just before the final whistle. Jones whipped in a corner kick from the right side, and Clark got free of his mark to thunder it home and give the United States the win.
The Americans will now head to Panama City, where they will take on Panama in a friendly on Wednesday to conclude Klinsmann's first January camp.
What do you think of the United States' 1-0 win over Venezuela? Who impressed/disappointed you? Who did you think was the best American player?
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