EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (June 8, 2008) – With the beginning of 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying just one week away, the U.S. Men’s National Team showed its mettle with a impressive 0-0 draw with No. 1-ranked Argentina this evening in front of a record sell-out crowd of 78,682 fans at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The crowd was the largest for a U.S. Men’s National Team match at Giants Stadium and the fourth largest ever held at the stadium.
During a night when Kasey Keller, one of the best goalkeepers in the history of U.S. Soccer, was honored before the game for earning his 100th cap last year, Tim Howard displayed the skills that have made him the heir apparent to Keller as the USA’s number-one ‘keeper with Sierra Mist Man of the Match honors. Howard made a total of seven saves on the night – all in the first half – to earn a shutout in one of his most imposing performances in net for the United States. In the second half, Argentina was held to zero shots on goal – and just one total – as the U.S. backline closed down the lanes that allowed the South American’s dangerous playmakers to sneak behind for dangerous chances on goal.
Landon Donovan also shined during a special occasion that saw him become the 11th player to earn 100 caps for the U.S. Men’s National Team, the youngest ever for the U.S. and fourth youngest in the world to join the century club. Up top with Eddie Johnson, Donovan led helped the U.S. attack was able to find ways through and over the Argentina backline to whip in dangerous crosses and pepper shots on Roberto Abbondanzieri’s goal.
Overall, the U.S. produced nine shots, just one less than their opponents, and also dealt with playing a man down, a promising sign as they now begin their final preparations for their opening match of FIFA World Cup qualifying.
The U.S. opens qualifying in a Second Round series with Barbados that begins Sunday, June 15 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. (tickets). Kickoff for the first leg series is set for 2 p.m. PT, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Galavision. The second leg will be played on June 22 in Barbados, with details still to be finalized.
"I think we're getting stronger,” said U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley. “We are understanding what it takes to play in the better games. The first half we had to deal with a lot tactically, and Tim Howard of course made some very big saves. The second half we showed some real resolve, both handling the red card and adjusting to different things tactically at different times. It means that at the end we feel very good about getting a result tonight. We feel good about the depth that we have and these are things that we are building to put is in the right direction."
Led by forwards Julio Cruz and Sergio Aguero, Argentina went right after the U.S., creating one of the best opportunities of the entire game in the fifth minute. Cruz was slipped through on the left side of the penalty area and ripped a shot that was blocked by a well-placed Howard, but the ball deflected back to Cruz providing him with a second chance. This time the Argentinean tried to deftly chip it to the far post, but Howard rose and emphatically swatted the ball out for a corner. The sequence was telling as it foreshadowed the USA’s determination that was on display the rest of the match.
Ten minutes later, Cruz found Aguero with a pass that split Steve Cherundolo and Oguchi Onyewu, but Howard dashed off his line to smother the through ball. After Gabriel Heinze hit a 24-yard free kick that skimmed off the top of the crossbar in the 17th minute, Howard was called upon again for heroics against Cruz in the 28th minute. Messi slipped in a ball for the wide-open Cruz inside the penalty area, but Howard made the point-blank save at the penalty spot to deter the forward once again.
With Howard commanding the U.S. goal, the U.S. pushed up the intensity in the attack and in the 33rd minute came just inches from taking the lead. With the ball near the top of the penalty area, Clint Dempsey unleashed a shot that took a deflection off defender Heinze and bounced just wide of the left post.
Two minutes later, defender Heath Pearce pushed up into the attack and jumped on a loose ball near the left corner of the penalty area to hit a surprising strike that nearly snuck past Abbondanzieri at the near post, but he was able to react in time.
In the final minutes of the half, the U.S. created one of their best build-ups of the night before Dempsey curled in a cross from the right flank towards Johnson, but the striker’s header went right to the ‘keeper.
The final moment of the half not surprisingly came from the duo of Cruz and Howard, with the U.S. ‘keeper coming out on top once again. Just outside the center circle, Messi lofted a ball over the U.S. defense and a lucky bounce allowed Cruz to trap the ball on the run, touch it inside the penalty area and hit a low drive that Howard got low to block for what would be his seventh, and eventually last, save of the night.
The U.S. got their best chance of the night off a corner kick from Donovan early in the second half. He curled an in-swinger from the left corner to the stop of the six yard box, where Onyewu rose above his mark and the goalkeeper to power a header that clanged off the crossbar.
In the 52nd minute, Cruz moved the ball to the edge of the penalty area and tapped a pass forward to Aguero as he raced toward the goal. Howard ran out to defend the play as Aguero launched himself up and over the U.S. keeper. No foul was called and the United States was able to clear the ball away and avert the damage.
Eddie Johnson broke free in the 67th minute on a long ball streaking down the field. The forward gathered the ball and charged towards the net, but Abbondanzieri closed the gap quickly and forced a pass into traffic. Johnson crashed into Argentinean keeper and remained down on the field as the defenders cleared the ball.
Two players - one from each squad – were sent off the field for earning two yellow cards. After receiving his first caution in the 60th minute, Pablo Mastroeni was booked again in the 70th minute for unsporting behavior when his teammate Maurice Edu was also given a yellow for an aggressive takedown.
After almost a full game of clear weather, the skies opened up over the field in the 84th minute but could not cool down the action on the field. Argentina’s captain, Javier Mascherano became the second player to be ejected when he tackled Landon Donovan with his spikes up in the 86th minute, earning him his second caution.
The U.S. had one last chance to pull out a victory when Donovan led a three-on-two charge up the field in stoppage time. Donovan flipped a pass to his right to Sacha Kljestan with a lane to the goal. Kljestan cut inside and unleashed a shot bound for goal, but the midfielder’s shot was deflected wide, preserving the tie.
-- U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report --
Match-up: USA vs. Argentina
Date: June 8, 2008
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Giants Stadium – East Rutherford, New Jersey
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Weather: Warm, 85 degrees
1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
ARG 0 0 0
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 6-Steve Cherundolo, 22-Oguchi Onyewu (23-Jay DeMerit, 61), 5-Danny Califf, 15-Heath Pearce (7-Eddie Lewis, 78); 4-Michael Bradley (26-Maurice Edu, 46), 25-Pablo Mastroeni; 8-Clint Dempsey (19-Freddy Adu, 61), 10-Landon Donovan (capt.), 17-DaMarcus Beasley (2-Frankie Hejduk, 91+); 9-Eddie Johnson (12-Sacha Kljestan, 74)
Subs not used: 18-Brad Guzan
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
ARG: 1-Roberto Abbondanzieri; 3-Gonzalo Rodriguez, 4-Nicolas Burdisso (2-Martin Demichelis, 46), 6-Gabriel Heinze, 13-Pablo Zabaleta (8-Javier Zanetti, 77); 5-Fernando Gago, 7-Maximiliano Rodriguez (20-Fernando Cavenaghi, 74), 14-Javier Mascherano (capt.); 9-Julio Cruz (19-Lisandro Lopez, 64), 11-Sergio Aguero (15-Ever Banega, 88), 18-Lionel Messi (17-Jose Sosa, 46)
Subs not used: 12-Sergio Romero, 16-Jonas Gutierrez
Head Coach: Alfio Basile
Stats Summary: USA / ARG
Shots: 9 / 10
Shots on goal: 4 / 7
Saves: 7 / 5
Corner Kicks: 7 / 6
Fouls: 19 / 18
Offside: 3 / 2
ARG – Nicolas Burdisso (caution) 18th minute.
USA – Pablo Maestroeni (caution) 60.
USA – Maurice Edu (caution) 70.
USA – Pablo Maestroeni (caution) 71.
USA – Pablo Maestroeni (sent off) 71.
ARG – Gabriel Heinze (caution) 84.
ARG – Lisandro Lopez (caution) 84.
ARG – Javier Mascherano (caution) 86.
ARG – Javier Mascherano (caution) 86.
ARG – Javier Mascherano (sent off) 86.
Referee: Joel Aguilar Chicas (SLV)
1st Asst.: William Torres Mejia (SLV)
2nd Asst: Juan Zumba Galan (SLV)
Fourth Official: Arkadiusz Prus (USA)
Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Tim Howard