Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By MARC SERBER
CARSON, Calif.- A Chris Wondolowski brace was enough for the United States to see off a speedy and technical South Korean side, 2-0, in front of a sold-out crowd at the StubHub Center.
“Coming out of a three and a half weeks of training camp I think the guys showed a lot of quality a lot of effort and they got rewarded with a win,” a satisfied Jurgen Klinsmann said after the game. “Obviously then you are pleased with all that work.”
Wondolowski headed home a rebounded Brad Davis shot for his first goal, then clinched the victory in the second half on a goal set up by Graham Zusi in the 60th minute.
The U.S. looked impressive working the ball through the midfield at times, but plenty of questions will be asked of the defending that was on display to start off the new year.
It was a mixed first half for the U.S. Clinical inter-passing through the middle of the field opened up space on the wings as the South Korean defense collapsed inside, but there were plenty of turnovers in the USMNT’s own half to gift chances to the visitors.
Despite the U.S. looking strong playing through the middle and opening space on the flanks, the defense looked tentative and goalkeeper Nick Rimando was called into action in the eighth minute. A South Korea corner kick was flicked on at the near post only for the veteran shot-stopper to quickly react to keep the ball from crossing the line.
In addition, during the first half, the U.S. defense was chasing shadows, especially on the right hand side. The USMNT looked especially vulnerable in the 18th minute as Keun-Ho Lee won the ball in midfield and outpaced the entire back-line before ballooning his shot over goal.
Min-Woo Kim was also causing trouble every time he looked to venture down South Korea’s left flank.
While USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann preaches a high pressure game in order to win the ball back higher up the field, the U.S. at times were waiting for the Korean’s to complete their passes before stepping to the ball.
Last ditch defending, especially on cross coming from that right hand side is what kept the USMNT in the lead going into the locker room at halftime.
Klinsmann had also preached during his pre-match press conference that Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez needed to work on playing the ball out of the back, but the center backs often looked long for their forwards, rather than try to link up with the midfield.
When the ball was played through the middle, however, the U.S. looked strong connecting short passes before deciding whether to play the ball through channels or spraying it out wide.
“We wanted to take this opportunity in a friendly to be confident and try to play,” Landon Donovan stated in the media mix zone. “We could go to Brazil and sit back for three games for 90 minute and pray that we get results but that’s not how we’re going to progress as a soccer nation so we’re going to go with the confidence to play.
Donovan and Wondolowski were particularly dangerous in tandem as their constant quick burst of movement created little angles for the U.S. team to try and exploit the South Korean back-line, but the defensive frailties outweighed the positives of the U.S. attack.
South Korea opened the second half by continuing to dominate the flanks. The visitors could have equalized in the 57th minute but a free header in the area was fired right into the arms of Rimando.
The Americans punished the Asian side for its wasted chances in front of goal in the 60th minute with Wondolowski’s second goal. A quick throw-in found Zusi just inside the penalty area. A velvet touch to settle the ball and a smart cutback found a streaking Wondolowski, who lifted the ball past South Korean goalkeeper Sung-Ryong Jung to complete his brace.
“That’s just Wondo (Wondolowski) being Wondo,” SBI USMNT Man of the Match Zusi remarked. “Just being in the right place at the right time, but you know what? You got to finish it as well and he did that. Two great finishes from him. He’s a goal scorer, what else can I say?”
As both teams slowed down and substitutions changed the complexion of the game, the Americans settled in. Goodson came in to give some experience to the back-line, while Luis Gil and DeAndre Yedlin each received their first senior cap. Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Johnson, and Eric Alexander also made appearances off the bench in the friendly match.