BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (Nov. 14, 2009) – A penalty kick on the only shot of the first half by Slovakia was the deciding factor as the U.S. lost the first ever meeting between the two 2010 FIFA World Cup finalists 1-0 at Tehelne Pole in Bratislava.
The U.S. continues preparations for next summer’s World Cup in South Africa traveling on Sunday to face another fellow 2010 qualifier, Denmark, on Wednesday, Nov. 18 in Aarhus. Prior to the Denmark game, some roster changes are expected pending the results of this weekend’s matches involving some of the team’s North America-based players.
The match against Denmark will kickoff on ESPN Classic live at 2:30 p.m. ET and then will switch over to ESPN2 immediately following the conclusion of the UEFA qualifying playoff match between Ukraine and Greece. Fans can also follow the match live via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and at www.twitter.com/ussoccer. The U.S. is just one of five teams that was able to schedule two matches on these FIFA international fixture dates against two 2010 FIFA World Cup finalists.
“I thought we had a good start in the match in the first 25 minutes,” said U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley. “The penalty and going down 1-0 changed the game. Slovakia is a very well organized team and has a lot of people behind the ball. We were not sharp enough with our ability in the attacking third to make a play and get through the defense.”
With several regulars unavailable for selection due to club commitments and injury, Bradley tested his depth without the likes of Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu and Tim Howard. Other than U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, the three central defenders with the most caps in 2009 – Onyewu (knee), Jay DeMerit (eye) and Chad Marshall (knee) – were unavailable due to injury, which meant Jonathan Spector got his first start in central defense alongside Bocanegra. With Howard staying in England to nurse a foot injury, Brad Guzan started in goal for the first time since the Egypt match at the Confederations Cup.
The U.S. started strong in the first half, getting five total shots and forcing Slovakia’s Ján Mucha to make four saves, but in the end couldn’t break through for the equalizer. In the second minute, Michael Bradley headed the ball into the net after a second-straight corner taken by Robbie Rogers, but Jozy Altidore was ruled offside during the scramble in the box before the U.S. midfieler finished past the Slovakian goalkeeper.
The U.S. continued to press in the first part of the match with Steve Cherundolo getting two crosses into the area as he overlapped from his position at right back. In the 22nd minute, Clint Dempsey had a good look on goal from the top of the area, but his left-footed strike swerved just wide left.
With the match settling down and the U.S. controlling most of the possession, Slovakia earned a penalty kick in the 25th minute. Starting off a throw-in deep in U.S. territory, Róbert Vittek played a ball into the top right corner of the penalty area for Vladimír Weiss. Jockeying for position to win the through ball, Jonathan Bornstein made contact with Weiss, who went down easily, and Austrian referee Stefan Messner immediately pointed to the spot. Marek Hamsík calmly scored the penalty shooting right as Guzan guessed the wrong way on the only shot he faced in the first 45 minutes.
As has been the case for most of 2009, the U.S. continued to battle back against the deficit. After a pair of good buildups by the U.S., Altidore’s shot from 18 yards and Benny Feilhaber’s shot from 23 yards forced Mucha to make saves.
In the 37th minute, Dempsey pushed Mucha to make his best save of the half on a free kick from long distance on the left wing. The U.S. set up a play that drew one of two players out of the Slovakia wall, opening the space for Dempsey to hit a low line-drive at the far post.
The U.S. started the second half with Eddie Johnson replacing Conor Casey. Making his first appearance since June 15, 2008, he had the first U.S. chance of the half. Dempsey dribbled up the center channel and found Johnson on the right side of the area, but the forward’s touch went a bit long and his shot hit side netting.
Slovakia found consecutive opportunities on counter attacks, forcing Guzan to save a pair of Erik Jendrisek shots. In the 52nd minute, a Feilhaber turnover allowed Slovakia to attack and a good combination eventually got the ball to Jendrisek on the left, but his shot to the far post didn’t fool Guzan. Two minutes later, Jendrisek got behind from a tough angle on the left and Guzan came off his line to cut down the angle and make a stellar save.
Dempsey’s second free kick of the game once again called on Slovakia’s defense to make a play. After Rogers was taken down 27 yards from goal, Róbert Vittek stuck out a leg on the right side of the wall to block the shot into the air before it bounced and spun just wide of the right post as Mucha struggled to slug through the muddy six-yard box to try and cover.
In the 72nd minute, Bocanegra gave way for Clarence Goodson, and right away Slovakia nearly capitalized on the new U.S. pairing in central defense. Ján Durica mishit a low shot that found the feet of striker Stanislav Sesták, who led the Slovaks in scoring in World Cup qualifying with six goals. With time to gather and shoot, Guzan did well for a third time in the match to come off his line and make a big save.
Bradley went to his bench late and Dax McCarthy and Jeff Cunningham became the 52nd and 53rd players, respectively, used by Bradley his year (Johnson was the 51st coming on at halftime). For McCarthy, it was his first cap with the full national team as he became the 15th player from the 2008 Olympic roster to make an appearance. Cunningham, the top scorer in MLS in 2009, made his first appearance since Sept. 7, 2005.
Sacha Kljestan came on in the 82nd minute to make his first appearance since the Confederations Cup and his first touch was a free kick that forced Mucha to punch out of his six-yard box.
Down the stretch, the U.S. continued to press and hold possession but could not break down Slovakia’s defense, which gave up just 10 goals in Group 3 UEFA qualifying matches.
Since taking the helm in 2007, Bradley is 6-5-0 against European opponents, and 2-4-0 on European soil. The U.S. record in 2009 record moved to 13-7-3.
In other results around the world, three more teams qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup – New Zealand, Nigeria and Cameroon.
- U.S. Men's National Team Match Report -
Match: United States vs. Slovakia
Date: November 14, 2009
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Tehelné Pole – Bratislava, Slovakia
Kickoff: 4 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET)
Weather: Overcast, 45 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
SVK 1 0 1
SVK – Marek Hamsik (penalty kick) 26th minute
USA: 18-Brad Guzan; 6-Steve Cherundolo, 2-Jonathan Spector, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.) (25-Clarence Goodson, 72), 12-Jonathan Bornstein; 19-Robbie Rogers (16-Sacha Kljestan, 82), 5-Benny Feilhaber, 4-Michael Bradley, 8-Clint Dempsey (28-Dax McCarty, 72); 17-Jozy Altidore (32-Jeff Cunningham, 82), 9-Conor Casey (36-Eddie Johnson, 46)
Subs not used:, 15-Jimmy Conrad, 35-Marcus Hahnemann
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
SVK: 1-Ján Mucha; 5-Radoslav Zabavník, 3-Martin Skrtel, 16-Ján Durica, 4-Marek Cech (2-Peter Pekarík, 90+2); 7-Vladimír Weiss (14-Juraj Kucka, 82), 6-Miroslav Karhan (8-Ján Kozák, 90+1) 17-Marek Hamsík (capt.) (15- Zdeno Strba, 90+1), 10-Miroslav Stoch (9-Stanislav Sesták, 61); 11-Róbert Vittek (13-Dusan Svento, 68); 18-Erik Jendrisek
Subs not used: 12-Lubos Kamenár
Head Coach: Vladimir Weiss
Stats Summary: USA / SVK
Shots: 8 / 5
Shots on Goal: 4 / 4
Saves: 3 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 14 / 14
Offside: 1 / 3
Referee: Stefan Messner (AUT)
Assistant Referee 1: Claus Strasser (AUT)
Assistant Referee 2: Peter Moser (AUT)
Fourth Official: Richard Trutz (SVK)
ussoccer.com Man of the Match: