A new Euro-centric U.S. men’s national team brought many promising moments to the field against Poland on Saturday night. Yet some defensive lapses cost the Yanks a possible victory, as the visiting Poles managed a 2-2 draw at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu each gave the U.S. the lead during the match, but a pair of well-placed strikes from Adam Matuszczyk and Jakub Baszczykowski kept Poland in the match.
The Yanks looked strong early, especially with the debut match of Jermaine Jones. The former German international took on central midfield duties with steady composure, feeding Altidore for an early score. Near the midfield line, Jones picked out Altidore, with a step on his defender, and the 20-year-old striker slotted a shot past Artur Boruc.
Occupying the right wing, Stuart Holden was a sight to see for the U.S. supporters. But the former Dynamo player struggled with a clearance that led to a 30th-minute Polish equalizer. After Holden’s clearance popped straight up, Onyewu failed to clear with his head. The Poles settled and Matuszczyk buried his shot to the low far corner.
Offensively, Poland had been rather quiet to that point in the match. Level again, the Poles appeared to have new life.
The U.S. regrouped just before the half. Some good one-two play between Holden and Michael Bradley eventually freed Altidore with a look at goal. His shot beat Boruc, but couldn’t elude the crossbar, as the two sides went to the half 1-1.
Wondering what kind of U.S. team would come out for the second half, Bob Bradley decided against any changes. His choice was rewarded seven minutes into the half.
In the 52nd minute, Yanks won a corner. Holden sent an out-swinger into the box where Onyewu was able to raise above a crowd of three defenders and place a header to the empty back post. It was a promising sign for the big centerback, who seriously injured his knee around this time one year ago.
After 63 minutes of ineffective play, Benny Feilhaber was removed for Alejandro Bedoya.
Much like the cause of the first Polish goal, the U.S. defense faltered again late in the game. Jones’ pass was deflected and slipped back into Baszczykowski, extended to the right of the goal. He struck a wonderfully placed ball to the far corner of the goal, leaving goalkeeper Tim Howard with little chance of a save.
The end-of-match play was quite entertaining as the U.S. scrambled to pull out a late-game winner. Again, Holden sent a corner into a crowd of players, where the ball was met by the head of Onyewu. This time the ball was saved off the line goal line. While some players argued the call, a wild scuffle ensued in front of the goal. Several headers and an Altidore bicycle attempt later the Yanks were denied their goal.
Stoppage time ended and the referee whistled the match complete. It was a bag of mixed emotions for Bradley, in his first match since retaining his head coaching position, and the U.S. squad.
The Yanks will now travel to Philadelphia and the new PPL Park, where they will face Columbia on Tuesday. That match will air at 8 p.m., on ESPN 2.