Cunningham Gets First International Goal
Castillo Earns First U.S. Men’s National Team Cap as Second-Half Substitution
U.S. Awaits 2010 FIFA World Cup Draw on Dec. 4
AARHUS, Denmark (Nov. 18, 2009) – Three quick second half goals by Denmark canceled out a first half goal by Jeff Cunningham and provided the Danes with a 3-1 victory against the U.S in their final match of 2009.
Cunningham capitalized on a Danish mistake for the match’s first goal in the 26th minute, but three substitutes made immediate impacts by scoring for Denmark in the first 10 minutes after the break.
“I thought the first half tonight was solid. We stayed organized and got an opportunistic goal," U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley said.
The match was the second in five days in Europe as the U.S. begins their preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and second straight against a fellow World Cup qualifier. The U.S. was one of only five teams to play two fellow World Cup qualified opponents on the final two international matchdays of 2009.
The United States concludes 2009 as the top team in CONCACAF World Cup qualification, besting rival Mexico by one point at the top of the standings. The U.S. also reached the final of a FIFA international tournament for the first time in their history, defeating No. 1 ranked Spain in the semifinals of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup before eventually falling 3-2 to Brazil in the championship match in South Africa. The following month, a younger and less experienced U.S. team marched through the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, reaching the final for the sixth time.
The U.S. now awaits the draw on Dec. 4 in South Africa to find out their group opponents for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which you can follow on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. ET or via Drawtracker on ussoccer.com.
“Two-thousand and nine was still an excellent year,” said Bradley. “The main job was to secure qualification for South Africa next June. Today Denmark picked up the pressure early in the second half and the six minute stretch really teaches us some lessons in terms of our reactions and our ability when a team really comes after us. That's something we can really look at closely and try to use down the road.”
Similar to the match against Slovakia, Bradley tapped into the depth of the U.S. player pool without the likes of Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu and Tim Howard. After making his first-ever appearance at center back for the U.S. on Saturday against Slovakia, Jonathan Spector again partnered with Carlos Bocanegra in the middle of defense. With Howard staying in England to nurse a foot injury, Brad Guzan again started in goal, while veteran Frankie Hejduk started at right back, and up top Cunningham earned his first start for the U.S. in four years.
A trio of players were also added to the roster since the game against Slovakia with the Houston Dynamo duo of Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden getting the starting nod, while Tigres defender Edgar Castillo, who earned his first call-up to national team camp, came on as a substitution in the 61st minute.
Despite playing Denmark five previous times, this was the team’s first game in the Scandinavian nation and Denmark capitalized on an energized crowd to get the first good chance of the match. After a foul by Benny Feilhaber on the right side of the pitch, Jakob Poulsen quickly took the free kick and dropped it in behind the U.S. defense for an onrushing Jesper Grønkjær. The forward was in a full sprint with Hejduk on his back and could not put his shot on frame, firing the volley over the crossbar from eight yards out.
The U.S. responded with their own attack, earning a free kick in the sixth minute. Holden’s cross didn’t find a teammate and the clearance was passed out to Daniel Jensen, but Feilhaber stepped in to strip the ball away. Taking one touch towards the box, the midfielder shot hard towards the near post, but Danish goalkeeper Thomas Sørensen dived to his left and pushed the shot aside.
The next 20 minutes saw probing attacks up and down the field by both teams, but the slick pitch made final shots hard to come by.
The U.S. struck first in the 26th minute from the foot of Cunningham, punishing the Danish defense for a mistake in their end. Sørensen had possession and looked to pass it out to his left back, but neglected to see the MLS Golden Boot winner lurking nearby. Pouncing on the casual pass with his first touch, Cunningham took one more towards the top of the box before letting fly with a left-footed shot that beat the goalkeeper to the near post.
Cunningham’s goal was his first international strike, making him the ninth player this year to get his first goal with the national team and equaling a team record set in 1993. He’s also the 21st different player to score in 2009, setting a new record for the Men’s National Team.
Denmark head coach Morten Olsen made three substitutions to start the second half, bringing on Johan Absalonsen, William Kvist Jørgensen and Søren Rieks. The change paid dividends immediately, as Absalonsen pulled Denmark even in the 47th minute. Receiving a high cross into the top of the box behind the U.S. defense, the forward collected and turned towards the endline on the right side. Holding off Spector, the Dane got a clean shot past Guzan and inside the near post.
Five minutes later the home side took the lead, this time through Rieks. Denmark’s attack down the left side found Absalonsen with space. Turning towards goal and entering the box, the striker drew the defenders towards him—leaving Rieks open on the back post. With Absalonsen sliding the pass across the six yard box, Rieks calmly shot past Guzan to take the lead.
Three minutes later the final damage was done, this time on a strike from Bernburg. A pass into the arc at the top of the box was aiming for Lars Jacobsen, but the defender dove after light contact. With Bocanegra and Spector trying to close down Rieks, the striker slipped a pass between them to Bernburg, who had space to turn and fire past Guzan for a third goal in nine minutes.
Bradley responded with three substitutions of his own in the 61st minute, calling on Eddie Johnson, Robbie Rogers and newcomer Castillo to replace Cunningham, Holden and Michael Bradley, respectively.
Castillo and Rogers did well to combine with Jozy Altidore eight minutes later. Castillo’s pass up towards Altidore was touched back to Rogers 22 yards from goal. Firing a hard shot towards the right, Sørensen dove for the save and held onto the ball.
Content with a two goal lead, Denmark played for possession for the remainder of the game, passing around the pitch in a bid to kill off the clock. Two late free kicks and a Rogers corner caused some trouble for Denmark, but a tight backline ushered the game to a victorious end.
Since taking the helm in 2007, Bradley is 6-6-0 against European opponents, and 2-5-0 on European soil. The U.S. record in 2009 record moved to 13-8-3. The teams had split their previous games with identical 1-1-3 records before today’s match.
In other matches, five teams earned final spots in South Africa next summer. Algeria defeated Egypt in a one-game playoff in Sudan 1-0 to book a spot, while Portugal, Slovenia, Greece and France all won their European playoffs. The final spot is up for grabs between Costa Rica and Uruguay as the South Americans will host tonight’s second leg and hold a 1-0 aggregate lead.
- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report -
Match: United States vs. Denmark
Date: Nov. 18, 2009
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: NRGi Park – Aarhus, Denmark
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. ET)
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 46 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
DEN 0 3 3
USA – Jeff Cunningham 26th minute
DEN – Johan Absalonsen (Simon Kjær) 47
DEN – Søren Rieks (Johan Absalonsen) 52
DEN – Martin Bernburg (Søren Rieks) 55
USA: 18-Brad Guzan; 22-Frankie Hejduk, 2-Jonathan Spector (15-Jimmy Conrad, 70), 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.) (25-Clarence Goodson, 70), 12-Jonathan Bornstein; 7-Stuart Holden (19-Robbie Rogers, 61), 13-Ricardo Clark, 4-Michael Bradley (33-Edgar Castillo, 61), 5-Benny Feilhaber; 17-Jozy Altidore (28-Dax McCarty, 80), 32-Jeff Cunningham (36-Eddie Johnson, 61)
Subs not used: 35-Marcus Hahnemann
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
DEN: 1-Thomas Sørensen; 6-Lars Jacobsen, 3-Simon Kjær, 4-Per Krøldrup, 5-Michael Lumb; 7-Daniel Jensen (18-Johan Absalonsen, 46), 2-Christian Poulsen (13-William Kvist Jørgensen, 46), 8-Jacob Poulsen; 10- Martin Jørgensen (capt.) (19-Jesper Bech, 80), 9-Morten Rasmussen (17-Martin Bernburg, 35, 20-Thomas Enevoldsen, 90), 11- Jesper Grønkjær (15-Søren Rieks, 46)
Subs not used: 12-Anders Møller Christensen, 14- Leon Jessen,16-Kim Christensen
Head Coach: Morten Olsen
Stats Summary: USA / DEN
Shots: 7 / 8
Shots on Goal: 3 / 5
Saves: 2 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 4
Fouls: 9 / 14
Offside: 3 / 1
Referee: Craig Thomson (SCO)
Assistant Referee 1: Alan Cunningham (SCO)
Assistant Referee 2: Gordon Middleton (SCO)
Fourth Official: Michael Svendsen (DEN)
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