Almost a year to the date of his first and only appearance with the MNT, defender Steve Birnbaum made the most of his second cap on Sunday in front of family and friends.
Oddly enough, he almost never got the chance in the first place.
Birnbaum was not named to the original roster, but was called in after injuries prevented a couple players from reporting to camp. Clearly he was determined to make the opportunity count.
Entering the match against Iceland to start the second half, the Irvine, Calif. native assisted on the tying goal and then scored the game-winner in the 90th minute to give the USA the 3-2 victory a StubHub Center in Carson.
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“They said, ‘do what you’ve been doing in training,’ and on set pieces to get after it an attack the ball, and that’s what I did,” Birnbaum said of the instructions he received from the coaching staff at halftime.
Down 2-1 in the 59th minute, a USA corner kick bounced out to Jozy Altidore at the top of the penalty area. Altidore sent the ball back in over the defense to the right side where Birnbaum was able to head it back across the goal for an un-marked Michael Orozco to head in the tying goal.
With the clock ticking down and the USA pushing for the winner, Jerome Kiesewetter drew a foul just to the right of the penalty area. Bradley chipped the free kick to the top of the six-yard box, where Birnbaum rose to head the ball past Iceland Ogmundur Kristinsson.
“I kind of noticed they were zoning, and we’d been going over it in training,” Birnbaum explained of his first international goal. “I just put my hand up to Michael and he put a great ball in and luckily I got my head to it. It felt good.”
Birnbaum’s previous cap was on January 28, 2015, when he went the full 90 minutes in a match against Chile at Estadio El Teniente in Rancagua, Chile.