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USMNT nabs late win vs. Iceland in first game of 2016

USMNT Iceland 2

CARSON, Calif. — Despite playing catch-up for most of the match, the U.S. Mens National Team managed to squeak out a late win against Iceland in their first friendly of 2016.

The U.S. came from behind to pick up a 3-2 win over Iceland at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, on Sunday afternoon. Substitute centerback Steven Birnbaum scored the winner near the death and had the equalizing assist earlier in the second half, and captain Michael Bradley had a pair of helpers.

“Obviously it’s nice that the players got rewarded for a lot of work,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in the postgame press conference. “Three weeks into preseason, three weeks of training, and they got rewarded with that late goal through Steve Birnbaum.”

Klinsmann’s side started the game strongly, looking like the more organized team through the first 10 minutes. A commanding performance from Michael Bradley helped the Americans keep possession and attempt a few attacks.

That all unraveled in the 13th minute. During what would be the first of several defensive fumbles, Matt Besler wasn’t quick enough to clear the ball from the box. Iceland midfielder Kristinn Steindorsson capitalized on the gaffe, pouncing on the ball and taking a shot that deflected off Michael Orozco before beating wrong-footed goalkeeper Luis Robles.

“We told them, ‘Listen, you’re going to make mistakes today,’” said Klinsmann. “It’s not going to go smooth, it’s not going to be perfect. There will be mistakes that lead, unfortunately, to goals. (It’s fine) so long as you keep going, and get a rhythm, and try to score your own goals as well.”

It did not take long for that happen, as the U.S. pulled level seven minutes later when a nice passing sequence was punctuated by Jozy Altidore. Bradley threaded the final ball forward to Altidore, who lost his defender and slotted a shot home.

“You try it 10 times and it comes once, and you’re expected to score. That’s life,” said Altidore after the game. “It was a good ball from Michael. If he’d played a second later I was offside, so it was a great ball and I just tried to dink it off the keeper.”

The first half ended at 1-1, but the deadlock was broken just three minutes into the second half. Iceland took a quick free kick that caught the U.S. back line flat-footed and confused, and Aron Sigurdarson took advantage of that by scoring with an impressive shot.

“We thought it was a foul on them, and everyone stopped,” said Birnbaum. “He just made a great play and tucked it away. It was a weird play. I don’t think I’ve been a part of something like that.”

Birnbaum helped the Americans pull level once again in the 59th minute when Altidore lofted a cross to the far post. Birnbaum tracked the ball down and headed it across the goal to Orozco, who pushed the ball home with a point-blank header

“I saw Steve and a couple guys back there,” said Altidore after the game. “I figured the percentages were better for us to score if I’d cross it rather than shoot it from there.”

The final 30 minutes saw plenty of narrow escapes for the U.S., as Iceland repeatedly cut through the Americans’ defense. Robles came up with a big save in the 79th minute, setting the stage for the late winner.

In the 90th minute, Bradley lined up a free kick on the right side of Iceland’s final third and found Birnbaum, who hit a thunderous header into the back of the net.

“They were playing a zone defense, so it’s easier for attackers to run in and get a head start on the ball,” said Birnbaum. “I knew that if Michael was going to float it up there, I could win it over a guy standing still.”

The Americans will return to action on Friday, as they host northern rival Canada at the StubHub Center.


What did you think of the USMNT’s 3-2 win vs. Iceland? Who impressed/disappointed you? Where can the Americans improve before the next friendly vs. Canada?

Share your thoughts below.



  1. With the direction of the team being geared toward developing the youth, shouldn’t this be the year that we start seeing more

    green – Morris – Kieswetter front lines???

    • I think you are confused with 2019, all three are still very young and none of them are playing above the Bundesliga 3 at this point (regularly anyway). If they beat Columbia in the playoff and play well at the Olympics we can start think about them playing together for the full Nats.

  2. was disappointed in zardes’s play when up top with jozy, but more so that he was moved out wide yet again at the half. would really like to see him up top by himself more to see if that’s an option for us.

  3. Our first goal was a wonderful combination from players that most people on this board are torching. I know in my career I never played a perfect game. There were always mistakes. The bottom line was always did you win? When you did that was good enough. Today was good enough for me?

    • this may not be what you were saying, but no–the bottom line of a friendly is not “did you win?”

      that’s what leads to overreactions about losses to ireland and wins over germany.

  4. No more zardes and the crew guys were a disappointment. Acosta I thought looked pretty good except for the first goal and it shouldn’t be all his fault.

    • I thought Acosta did pretty well. I know he’s played left-back before but I’d like to see him midfield. Would have liked to see him there instead of JJ although I also though the JJ/MB combo worked better than it usually does. MB was clear man of the match.

  5. I do not recommend watching the US men team play in January with an experimental lineup a few hours after watching Bayern Munich.

    • You have to remember most of the US team had played a competitive game in two months. Bayern doesn’t look as good in late July either, of course Bayern would beat many a national team without much trouble too.

  6. Happy for the win but disappointed that after nearly 1 month of Jurgen’s camp the same back line defensive woes of last year are still showing. This is worrisome.

  7. Not a great performance. Looked good going forward at times but pretty shaky at the back, especially in the second half. We were playing a country of 330,000 people (less than any state in the US) and they were missing most of their best players. These are fringe players for Iceland who mostly play in Scandinavian leagues that use a calendar year schedule. Also, I’ve seen more than enough of Evans and JJ.

    • Pretty much sums it up. I’ll be even more critical in noting that it’s the same at home scenario against middling-to-weak international competition under Klinsmann: the US has the lion’s share of the possession, but really runs out of ideas in the final 3rd.

      Hopefully Nugyen and/or Nagbe can transform into a players who can provide that final ball, that final pass that sets up one of the forwards. It’d be great if there were 1 or 2 others that could do the same who are not named Bradley. Michael has been great–and was today as well, but that’s not his wheelhouse.

      Three goals, but 2 off of set pieces, against a C-team from Iceland is not so encouraging.

      • “Hopefully Nugyen and/or Nagbe can transform into a players who can provide that final ball, that final pass that sets up one of the forwards.”

        i was pretty impressed with how kiesewetter performed in his limited minutes. definitely tried to make things happen, either by crosses, take-ons, or drawing fouls. frankly, that’s what i was expecting from finlay, but maybe he’s not really that type of player.

      • “Three goals, but 2 off of set pieces, against a C-team from Iceland is not so encouraging.”

        100% true but we are not exactly at our strongest either
        No Dempsey, F. Johnson, Bedoya, Brooks, Gonzalez, Yedlin etc

        Good win with a lot of possession though

    • I don’t think the backline woes were too surprising when you look at having our 4 or 5th best keeper in his first cap in six years. Combine that with Miazga, who would have started leaving for London and bringing in Orozco last minute and a side with little to no outside back experience and it was destined for trouble. This was also Iceland’s third game this month so yes they were fringe players (as where probably half the US team), but they had more time together.

    • I am on board with phasing out JJ but I thought he did very well tonight in that he stayed back and kept it simple. If he stays back like he did last night I have no problem with keeping him in the lineup. I also though he found Lee with some great link up passes to get our offense going. I think JK will find a way to keep JJ in the lineup and also include Lee and Nagbe to go along with MB and this will be a good thing.

    • Jozy might have a bad first touch but zardes is completing missing his first touch altogether,but today his touch actually looked better than normal.

  8. Ok ok Altidore scored I’ve got nothing lol. We had most of the possession but still need time to work the kinks out. Hope he keeps it up

    • +1

      important to note that he was rarely called on for just holdup play, instead involved in quick passing plays and running into space. his performance is extremely dependent on the system played.

  9. Actually thought we looked alright, though for how well our midfield and attacking players played, we should have never given up two goals. Every time the got through our midfield, instantly a guilt edged chance, cant get away with that against better opponents. Also why the hell would klinsi try to put on kitchen with 10 seconds left, more embarasing for the guy to not even come in. Quick ratings:
    (+) Birnbaum, Acosta, Jones, Bradley, Finlay(actually ran at people, which is rare in a USMNT kit), Nguyen(what weve been missing for a long time in the attacking third), Altidore, Kiesewetter
    (no change) Evans, Orozco (saved himself a bit with the goal), Tchani, Morris, Nagbe (just not quite as incisive as normal)
    (-) Robles, Besler (what the heck was that? couldn’t clear the ball effectively all game, can he even put in a tackle?), Zardes

    Mr. Zardes, once again a terrible performance, really continually shows how unbelieveably raw of a player he is. Added to his two terrible misses down in trinidad, could have had three easy head ins in two games. And just doesnt read the game that well, not creative or intelligent. We should let this guy try to mature with the galaxy or abroad till he gets it right.

    Also, the referee, pretty terrible honest, three terrible calls (Finlay was clearly blocked right outside the box just before the 1st iceland goal, what was that call that led to their 2nd? If four players are looking for an explanation from your BS call, you have to at least blow it dead, really terrible, and that yank down on jozy when hes through, its a red, he was the last man, doesnt matter if its 40 yards from goal, its a red)

    • Its a friendly. Nobody wants a red card in a friendly. The purpose is development.

      The purpose f Kitchen’s sub, was to waste more time and see out the game, probably.

    • Zardes is a good player..

      Fast.. Reads the game well..opens his hips.. Attacks in the final third like no current player beside s Dempsey and maybe Morris..

      He had a tough game..

      So what

    • The reason a player would get put in with seconds remaining in a friendly is that they get paid more money for every cap. Often times they also get bonuses from their club as well. And finally, it facilitates work permits in some countries and/or it adds to a player’s resume for marketing purposes (for domestic or foreign club, promotional opportunities, commercials, etc.)

      • I disagree, i feel like at times he didn’t get service, and in the second half was almost nonexistant, due to play mostly going down the left, but he ran at people, which is rare. Was also going at their best defender in my opinion (i believe skulason). I thought he was miles better than gyasi

      • I totally agree. Seems that when the defense is as fast as him, he has nothing else. I thought he seriously hurt future chances last night.

        Zardes – we have better options no matter where you put him. That header he blew was no excuse and it’s not the first. His touch is as bad as Jozy’s.

        The real problem was once again the defense. We held them to a 1/2 field game for the most part then the defense would screw up and let them score.

        Players I liked – Bradley, Nguyen, Jones,
        Players I was middle of the road on – Nagbe (where was he playing anyway? in everybodys way.) Jozy (too many turnovers but made some good plays, Kiesewetter (better than FInlay or Zardes)
        Players I didnt like – Zardes – move on JK, Finlay – not ready for this level, Orozco (better players in MLS are available, forget him)

  10. A central set-up of Nagbe, Nguyen and Bradley could be pretty intriguing if they’re given an opportunity in the future. I’d like to see more with these three on the pitch at the same time.

    Love Jermaine Jones, but he and Bradley cancel each other out too often. Go with the younger version and see what happens.

    • Take away his WC showing, and JJ is a huge weakness on this team. His touch touch touch, touch touch bad touch 50/50 passes really slow down counters and build-ups.


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