By FRANCO PANIZO
For the third straight game, the U.S. Men’s National Team surrendered a late goal. Only this time it ended in defeat.
The U.S. fell to a dominant Colombia in a friendly at Craven Cottage in London on Friday, with Teofilo Gutierrez providing the winner in the 87th minute to complete the Cafeteros‘ 2-1 comeback in front of a pro-Colombia crowd.
Jozy Altidore had opened the scoring for the Americans with a penalty kick in the 10th minute after Pablo Armero was whistled for a handball in the 18-yard box, but Colombia bossed possession for much of the match and eventually found the back of the net twice in the second half.
Carlos Bacca netted the equalizer at the hour-mark under controversial circumstances, as Gutierrez seemed to make a move towards a James Rodriguez pass from an offside position without touching it before Bacca raced to the ball and pushed it home.
Colombia continued to push forward, and found the ultimate reward three minutes before the final whistle. Edwin Cardona picked out Gutierrez with a cross from the right, and the Colombian forward outleapt Julian Green to head the ball home with power past Brad Guzan.
Gutierrez’s goal marked the third straight game in which the Americans have surrendered a late tally. Jurgen Klinsmann’s side did so in both of its October friendlies, settling for 1-1 draws against Ecuador and Honduras.
The Colombians were piling on the pressure seemingly from the opening whistle, but were lacking that final ounce of quality in the final third.
Rodriguez sent a buzzing free kick shot just wide of the low right corner in the 21st minute, and Bacca was frustratingly denied by the near post on a chance from the right side of the penalty area 12 minutes later.
Those chances came after Altidore had netted his 25th goal for the U.S. on a penalty kick. Armero was called for handling a ball in the area after U.S. debutant Rubio Rubin seemed to nudge him while challenging for an aerial ball in the ninth minute, and Altidore converted on the ensuing chance despite shooting the ball in the direction that Colombian goalkeeper Camilo Vargas had guessed.
Jose Pekerman’s team saw a legitimate penalty kick shout of its own go ignored late in the first half, as U.S. centerback Jermaine Jones’ outstretched arm blocked a shot.
The Colombians’ confidence remained unwavering. They came out of halftime continuing to take the game to the Americans, but almost fell behind by two goals in the 47th minute when Rubin pushed an Alejandro Bedoya cross wide with a diving header.
Colombia pulled level 13 minutes later. Rodriguez slipped in a pass behind the U.S. back line, but Gutierrez seemed to alter the way Guzan reacted to the play by making a slight move at the ball. It was Bacca, however, who ultimately pounced on the ball, sprinting by Guzan and firing it into the back of the net from close range.
American substitute Bobby Wood nearly put his side back in front after Lee Nguyen, who made his first international appearance in seven years, helped set up a golden chance in the 81st minute. Wood received the ball in the penalty area, but Vargas stoned him to keep the match at 1-1.
Colombia then did what Ecuador and Honduras did last month, as Gutierrez took advantage of some lax marking from Green and punished the Americans with a late goal that saw them lose their first match since the end of the 2014 World Cup.
The U.S. has one more match to play this year, with a friendly vs. the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on tap for Tuesday.
What do you think of the U.S.’s 2-1 loss to Colombia? Which Americans impressed/disappointed you? Concerned by the habit of conceding late, or chalk it up to several substitutions being made? Worried by the lack of possession vs. a quality side?
Share your thoughts below.