Sometimes you just have to laugh, take the tie and move on.
The United States were mostly somewhere between poor and terrible during their friendly at Russia on Wednesday. They were a disorganized mess in defense, the midfield was incapable of holding possession, and those playing up front spent most of the match simply hoping to get a touch. Players make plays, as they say, and multiple individuals stepped up when their time came and propelled the USMNT to a draw that they honestly didn't deserve. With their final match of 2012 now behind them, the United States must address several issues before World Cup qualifiers resume.
Russia 2-2 United States: The major issue
One thing stuck out throughout Wednesday's contest, and it's that head coach Jurgen Klinsmann still doesn't have a dependable back line. To be fair, Danny Williams must be blamed for Russia's first goal of the contest, a tally that came in the ninth minute. Williams attempted a quick restart on a free kick that was taken in the midfield, but he instead began a 3-on-2 counterattack when he curiously played a ball right to Alexander Kerzhakov. Fedor Smolov then slid a strike underneath the left hand of US goalkeeper Tim Howard, giving the hosts the early lead.
While you really can't blame the US back line for the match opener, that unit simply wasn't good enough against what was hardly a first-choice Russian side. This game easily could have ended 6-2 if not for four clutch stops made by the heroic Howard, who earned himself man of the match honors by keeping a lackluster US side in the game up through stoppage time. Truth be told, Geoff Cameron was the only defender who looked capable of starting at the international level. As much as I don't like saying it, Carlos Bocanegra is more a liability than anything else at this point. Clarence Goodson did himself no favors when he committed a clear foul in the penalty area seven minutes before time after he was caught out of position as Russia played a quick free kick into the box. Neither Timmy Chandler nor Fabian Johnson lit my world on fire. One could argue that this was the worst performance we've seen from the US defense since Klinsmann took over for Bob Bradley.
I agree 100 percent with fans calling for Klinsmann to select LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez this coming February. You're kidding yourself, though, if you believe the US back line is one player away from being a masterpiece. After what I saw today, I'd be fine with Klinsmann giving Tim Ream another shot.
Russia 2-2 United States: Team goal
Television sports programs featuring a highlight of this moment of the match will probably concentrate on the incredible volley struck by Michael Bradley in the 76th minute. Bradley certainly deserves credit for the hit, but this was the definition of a "team goal." Maurice Edu delivered a spot-on chip into the penalty area for Juan Agudelo, and the Chivas USA forward did well to head the ball back into the path of Bradley rather than attempt to beat three defenders all on his own. Bradley's powerful right-footed rocket was the final piece of a delicious sequence of play, one that showed that this roster has more than one play-maker.
Russia 2-2 United States: Welcome back
After what may or may not have been a public spat between player and coach, Jozy Altidore made an impressive return to the US team. He was responsible for one regrettable first touch in the penalty area, a miscue that could have haunted Altidore and Klinsmann had the US not found a stoppage time equalizer, but the AZ star had himself a solid game outside of that one moment. Altidore tracked back into the midfield in order to help gain possession several times, and he would have notched an assist had Jermaine Jones not sailed an attempt over the crossbar ten minutes from time. There are multiple players who deserve criticism following this match. Altidore isn't one of them.
Russia 2-2 United States: Overall
The United States were lucky in a lot of ways on Wednesday. They were lucky that Russia lacked quality finishing during the second half, and also lucky that the shot struck by Mix Diskerud 90 seconds before the conclusion of stoppage time took a deflection off a defender before sailing into the net. "Better lucky than good" is a fine mantra and all, but it's also one I'd like to stop using as the Klinsmann era moves into stage 2 of World Cup qualification. Yes, the US missed mainstays like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan on Wednesday. A somewhat young USMNT roster was still bossed around by Russia, and the scoreline doesn't hide that fact.
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