Ricardo Clark turned a rather uneventful night for a group of second rate US players into an exciting, positive performance with a stoppage time game-wining header. Clark's 97th minute finish right before the final whistle was the difference in the match as the Yanks emerged victorious, defeating Venezuela 1-0.
Here is a quick post-match analysis, which includes player observations and video of Clark's game-winner...
1st Half Notes:
The US came out of the gates playing well and exhibited a lot of energy out on the pitch.
The Yanks were extremely organized on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field with Micahel Parkhurst looking very composed in the center of the defense. Meanwhile on the offensive end, Benny Feilhaber was playing the role of facilitator making numerous sublime passes to Brek Shea and Teal Bunbury.
Shea had the best two chances of the half for the US. The first came in the 20th minute as Benny Feilhaber played a teasing ball with the outside of his foot to spring Shea in on goal. Shea did well to control the ball, making a great run toward goal but his shot from the left side of the net went wide. Then three minutes later Graham Zusi played in a perfect curling free kick, which Brek Shea headed as he made a darting run into the box. Shea’s low header was brilliantly saved by the Venezuela keeper though.
Towards the end of the half, the US lost some steam as Venezuela started to gain more of the possession. Despite the improved play Venezuela did not test the US backline or keeper Bill Hamid too often and when they did, their efforts lacked any real bite.
2nd Half Notes:
The Yanks looked a little gassed for the majority of the 2nd half, but down the stretch they kicked it into an extra gear as Klinsmann's substitutes paid off. With the additions of Chris Wondolowski and CJ Sapong, the US had 3 forwards on the pitch for the last 15 plus minutes of the match and as a result created chance after chance.
Jermaine Jones was the clear man of the match as he continually proved to everyone watching that he was the best player on the pitch. The combination of his mid-season form, his hulking runs up field and long-range passes made Jones the most dynamic player for the Yanks tonight.
After a late chance from Sapong, a free kick miss from Jones, and a couple of Wondolowski near-goal headers, Ricardo Clark assumed the role of hero. Right before the final whistle in the 97th minute, Clark was left completely open right in the center of the goal from about eight yards out. Clark made Venezuela pay for their defensive blunder as he expertly headed the ball into the lower left corner of the goal.
Bunbury- strong as the target man, holding the ball well but resembled Jozy Altidore at times with his inability to get in real dangerous positions and lack of scoring touch
Feilhaber- provided that creative spark in the middle of the pitch which is missing from the US far too often and as a result helped to create the majority of the US’ chances
Zusi- looked very impressive, reads the game well and has a Beckham quality to his passing
Shea- sporadic performance, impressed at times with his crossing ability and diagonal runs but left you wanting more for a player sought after by top Euro clubs
Jones- showed off his mid-season form, playing with an attitude as he streaked up the field with power- definitely the best player on the field and the man of the match for the US
Larentowciz- moved the ball well in that holding midfield role, but it’s tough too judge him because Venezuela did not put him under any real pressure
DeLaGarza- seemed to be uncomfortable on the pitch, took too many negative touches and made some poor passes but did get more comfortable as the game progressed
Pearce- surprisingly played well taking the space on the outside when Shea made those diagonal runs inside
Cameron/Parkhurst- both were real solid in the back, kept the defense organized and made no real blunders- both deserve another chance to get into the first team
Wondolowski- showed the best qualities of the 3 forwards, made decisive runs, intricate passes, and in the end was unlucky not to score
Sapong- had an extremely positive performance, showing great energy off the bench but could have taken his chances better
Clark- scored the game-winner in the 97th minute, enough said
Loyd- was lively in his limited time on the pitch, sending in some nice balls and should be considered as a wing back option for Klinsmann going forward
Hamid- did not have much to do, but looked big in goal and could very well be Tim Howard's successor
Get more great analysis over at US Futblog.