Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN ITEL
The U.S. Men’s National Team might have wished Wednesday’s friendly with Ukraine was canceled after all.
In a lackluster performance — highlighted by the disastrous center back pairing of Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks — Ukraine jumped all over the USMNT in a 2-0 victory at Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca, Cyprus.
For Ukraine, the highest-ranked team not to qualify for this summer’s World Cup, goals by rising star Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic on both sides of halftime gave the Eastern European country something to cheer for after being wracked by weeks of violence and political turmoil. The protest-fueled violence led to the relocation of the game from its original location of Kharkiv, leading to doubts that the game would be played at all.
The USMNT lineup of mostly European-based players was largely punchless on the evening, with their best chance at a goal perhaps coming on a beautifully struck volley by second-half substitute Aaron Johannsson off an 87th-minute corner kick.
The U.S. defense struggled mightily, with Edgar Castillo, Onyewu and Brooks all having forgettable performances.
It didn’t take long for Ukraine to exploit the gaps present all across the USMNT back line. In the 12th minute Denys Garmash made a late run out of the midfield and easily broke the USMNT’s high line, collecting a long ball before firing on goal. Howard made the initial stop but without much help from his defenders, Garmash found Yarmolenko who finished into an open net.
Yarmolenko continued to torment the U.S. defense as he zigged and zagged his way past Castillo and Brooks on the right side of the field with quick passes and intelligent runs. The Ukrainians might have been denied a fair goal in the 16th minute when Garmash was ruled back for being offside. Video replay showed him level with the last defender though as the U.S. were slow to leave the box off a corner.
The U.S. were able to break in down the left side in the 32nd minute when Fabian Johnson found Castillo in space, but the Tijuana left back couldn’t find a teammate with a cross. The U.S. had two further chances before halftime but a free kick couldn’t find an American head and a corner kick was eventually headed over the bar.
Following the halftime break, the USMNT came closest to scoring in the 55th minute when Jozy Altidore fired a header from a Geoff Cameron cross just over the bar. Though the U.S. began to improve and were showing a few more positive signs, Ukraine struck again through the middle of the field to destroy the USMNT’s hopes.
In the 68th minute, the substitute Devic ran through the heart of the field, latched on to a long ball, and similarly to the first goal, had multiple attempts to finish, doing so with hardly any USMNT defenders in the area.
From this point on, the U.S. never threatened Ukraine’s goal outside of an impressive volley attempt from Johannsson off a corner kick in the 87th minute. Ukrainian wing back Oleh Gusev was able to clear the shot off the line.
What do you think of the U.S. team’s dismal performance? Who were you most disappointed with? Who were you impressed with?
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