It was good to play the game, even though the opponent was well below World Cup standards. The first half was far from the level the U.S. men played earlier this spring in taking a 2-0 lead over Mexico. The second was better than the second against Mexico when the U.S. gave up two to settle for a 2-2 draw.
This time out the U.S. scored two late second-half goals by subs Mix Diskerud and Aron Johnnson for a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif.
“Overall, we are happy with it,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “We know that there’s a lot of work still ahead of us. There’s no doubt about.”
The U.S. looked leg-weary after a physical two-week training camp. The famous Candlestick Park wind played havoc for both teams, often making it difficult to stop a ball for free kicks.
Plus, the U.S. was playing Azerbaijan, ranked #85 in the world rankings. That is 82 spots behind the U.S.’s second group game, Portugal, which is #3. Azerbaijan recently got their first win of the year, beating the Philippians, 1-0.
Chris Wondolowski started up from with Jozy Altidore because team captain Clint Dempsey sat out the game with a sore groin, an injury sustained in Monday’s practice. Dempsey warmed up, but decided best to rest the injury in hopes of playing the upcoming Sendoff Series game with Turkey.
Atidore, who has struggled with Sunderland in the English Premier League this past season, didn’t come close to scoring, but did have some encouraging moments holding the ball and laying off passes.
Klinsmann started Geoff Cameron at central defense with Fabian Johnson on the right back and DaMarcus Beasley on the left. Tim Chandler replaced Beasley in the second half and was very active coming forward. Omar Gonzalez, carrying a knee injury, came in the second half and did not have a good outing.
Then there was Diskerud. Wearing the # 10 jersey previously worn by Landon Donovan, he scored the game’s first goal while being knocked to the ground during a scramble in front of the net in the 73rd minute, two minutes after coming off the bench.
“It’s an honor. A lot of great players have been wearing that #10 for the U.S. previously,” said Diskerud, who is 54 goals short of tying Donovan’s national team record. “’ll enjoy it. I’m just borrowing the uniform right now.”
Johannsson, who also came on in the second half, made it 2-0 with a beautiful header six minutes later.
With the shutout, Tim Howard tied Kasey Keller’s record of 53 victories. He is now 53-28-15 since debuting for the U.S. MNT in 2002. He is also two appearances away from reaching the 100-cap milestone.
While Wondolowski show the type of game that earned his spot on the roster, Altidore was basically a nonfactor in the first 45.
“I’m not worried at all,” Klinsmann said of Altidore. “He will come through and he will start to score. Obviously the sooner the better.”
The U.S. continues its send-off tour against Turkey and Nigeria next week before leaving for Brazil. And for goalkeeper Tim Howard, finally getting that process started may have been the biggest positive to come out of Tuesday night.
“It’s good to get going,” he said. “Now we can play hard, recover, travel and go again. was what we probably expected.”
U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report
Date: May 27, 2014
Venue: Candlestick Park; San Francisco, Calif.
Weather: 66 degrees, partly cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
AZE 0 0 0
USA – Mix Diskerud 75th minute
USA – Aron Johannsson (Brad Davis) 81
USA: 1-Tim Howard (capt.); 23-Fabian Johnson (2-DeAndre Yedlin, 62), 20-Geoff Cameron (3-Omar Gonzalez, 46), 5-Matt Besler, 7-DaMarcus Beasley (21-Timmy Chandler, 46); 19-Graham Zusi (14-Brad Davis, 46), 13-Jermaine Jones, 4-Michael Bradley, 11-Alejandro Bedoya (10-Mix Diskerud, 71); 17-Jozy Altidore, 18-Chris Wondolowski (9-Aron Johannsson, 62)
Subs Not Used: 6-John Brooks, 8-Clint Dempsey, 12-Brad Guzan, 15-Kyle Beckerman, 16-Julian Green, 22-Nick Rimando
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
AZE: 1-Kamran Aghayev, 3-Rasim Ramaldanov, 4-Mahir Shukurov (capt.) (25-Ilkin Girtimov, 46), 7-Vagif Javadov (13-Dmitrij Nazarov, 60), 8-Gara Garayev, 10-Rufat Dadashov (28-Pardis Fardjad-Azad, 66), 11-Rauf Aliyev, 15-Ruslan Abishov (2-Badavi Guseynov, 46), 20-Ufuk Budak, 24-Abdulla Abasiyev (18-Maksim Medvedev, 71), 29-Elvin Yunuszade
Subs Not Used: 5-Shahriyar Aliyev, 9-Jihan Ozkara, 12-Emil Balayev, 14-Rashad Sadigov, 23-Salahat Aghayev
Head Coach: Berti Vogts
USA / AZE
Shots: 14 / 7
Shots on Goal: 7 / 2
Saves: 2 / 5
Corner Kicks: 11 / 6
Fouls: 9 / 16
Offside: 1 / 1