Steve Cherundolo’s 27th minute goal was all the US needed to claim its first ever victory on African soil and its second consecutive 1-0 victory on a foreign continent. It wasn’t the prettiest of games; the altitude and heat seemed to take a toll on a US roster that was comprised mostly of players acclimatized to the cool, gray weather of England. That said, the team played cohesively, defended well and created two other clear goal scoring opportunities. DaMarcus Beasley and Freddy Adu, in his first start for the full side, both got behind the South African defense; Beasley’s blast was saved and Adu’s badly mis-hit shot trickled wide.
Three of the four spots on the backline seem to be locked down with Cherundolo, Onyewu and Bocanegra. The consistency and familiarity will be important when World Cup qualifying begins next year. The only question mark is at left back. Heath Pearce is staking a claim to the position. He played well against Brasil and showed well again in this match. Fox Soccer Channel analyst Christopher Sullivan highlighted a few occasions that required more composure than Pearce displayed, but that should improve with experience.
There wasn’t a lot of room in midfield but I was again impressed with the sophisticated work of Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley. They connected well without neglecting their defensive duties. Benny Feilhaber has not been playing for Derby and was understandably rusty. Beasley was not as influential as he has been in past games, but was still solid.
Up top, Freddy Adu partnered Clint Dempsey. Adu brings a different edge to the team. Not only his willingness to try the outrageous, but his ability to beat defenders in tight spaces by dribbling or passing cleverly, his excellent services on dead balls, and his ability to draw fouls in and around the box will quickly make him a key figure on the US squad. For all of Max Bretos’s talk of Dempsey being out of position, Dempsey considers himself a forward and plays well there. His nose for goal requires him to be close to the goal for as much of the game as possible. Dempsey’s willingness to do the unglamorous is what makes him so valuable to the team and why he has endeared himself to the Fulham folks. The creativity that so many US fans have pined for is definitely not lacking when Dempsey and Adu are on the field together.
The win was the last match in 2007 for the US. It was a great way to end an up and down year. Next up is Sweden on Jan 19 and then Mexico on Feb 6.
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