The first thirty minutes were played at a furious pace, with each team taking turns attacking down the flanks. Quick ball movement and accurate passing combinations led the Russians to their first chance of the night in the fifth minute when Sergey Semak, Dmitri Alenichev and Egor Titov linked up to pressure the American goal before Robin Fraser timed a last-minute tackle to end the threat.
The USA fought back and nearly converted the first of several good scoring chances in the 23rdminute. Brian McBride spun to avoid his marker near midfield and sent a ball into the path of a streaking Claudio Reyna, but Nigmatullin was quick off his line and made the first of several acrobatic saves on the night when he raced off his line and knocked the ball out of play with a sliding effort.
Chaos in the six yard box almost resulted in the game's first goal at the 32-minute mark, but again Nigmatullin was alert and protected his net. Eddie Lewis, Tony Sanneh and Chris Armas each found the ball at their feet, but none could solve the tangle of defenders or the goalkeeper, who quickly made a succession of saves before clearing the ball and starting one of Russia's many counter-attacks of the game.
A rapid-fire sequence of shots by Brian McBride tested Nigmatullin early in the second half, but again the U.S. could not find the back of the net, and again the Russians countered quickly.
Titov finally opened the scoring in the 63rd minute after collecting a well-placed pass from Vladimir Beschastnykh. Titov slipped behind the American defense before angling left and pulling goalkeeper Kasey Keller off his line. The 23-year-old Russian escaped the diving Keller and left-footed a sharp-angled shot into the net.
Substitute Jason Kreis had a pair of late shots saved by Nigmatullin, who stopped all seven American attempts on target. The first was a scorching blast in the 75th minute that forced the goalkeeper to parry the ball around the post at a full stretch, while the second was scooped up after it skipped through the wall following a dangerous free kick.
Russia took advantage of the USA defense, which had pulled up into the midfield in search of the tying goal, and added an insurance strike in injury time. Substitute Alexander Panov worked down the left side before pushing the ball right to Valeriy Karpin, who cut inside the 18-yard box and delivered a low shot inside the right post.
"This was a difficult game for us because of the travel and some last-minute injuries, but that's not an excuse," said head coach Bruce Arena after the game. "We put ourselves in position to win this game. You have to give some credit, we have a good team, and I thought we played well."
The loss was the first suffered by the USA this year, and marked the first time since August 1, 1999 that the team has been shutout.
The United States will return to action in the opening game of the Nike U.S. Cup 2000, when they will take on South Africa at 4 p.m. ET at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
2000 U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM MATCH REPORT
|Participants:||United States Men's National Team vs. Russia|
|Venue:||Dynamo Stadium (Moscow, Russia)|
|Date:||Wednesday, April 26, 2000 * kickoff 7 p.m. (local)|
|Weather:||75 degrees - Sunny|
RUS - Egor Titov, (Andrei Tikhonov), 63,
RUS - Valeriy Karpin, (Alexandre Panov), 92+.
USA - 18-Kasey Keller, 2-Frankie Hejduk (8-Brian West, 88), 4-Robin Fraser, 3-Gregg Berhalter, 6- David Regis; 13-Cobi Jones, 10-Claudio Reyna (Capt.), 17-Tony Sanneh, 14-Chris Armas (15-Chad Deering, 46), 7-Eddie Lewis (9-Jason Kreis, 74), 20-Brian McBride.
RUS - 1-Rousian Nigmatullin; 2-Dmitri Khlestov, 5-Alexei Solomatin, 6-Maxim Demenko; 3-Dmitri Khokhlov (18-Viktor Onopko, 46), 9- Egor Titov, 8-Valeriy Karpin (Capt.), 7-Dmitri Alenichev (17- Andrei Tikhonov, 46), 4-Alexei Smertin; 10-Serguei Semak (14-Alexandre Panov, 60), 11-Vladimir Beschastnykh.