Jozy Altidore had the chance to prove his worth for the U.S. men’s team, sans Landon Donovan, in an international friendly match against Azerbaijan. This was especially true in light of Clint Dempsey’s last minute absence—due to injury—from the starting lineup. Altidore, who played the entire 90 minutes, was outshone by Mix Diskerud and Aaron Johannsson. Diskerud and Johannsson both snagged a goal in the second half off of set pieces. There was a collective sigh of relief after the first goal was scored, seeing that the U.S., ranked 14th, was having trouble sealing the deal against the 84th ranked Azerbaijan squad.
The game got off to a strong start despite the heavy winds at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. The U.S. managed to get off a few shots on goal within the first 15 minutes of play. However, much to everyone’s fears, the game was scoreless for three-quarters of the game. According to Alexi Lalas, this is something to be weary of, especially against an inferior team like Azerbaijan. The fact that the only two goals were off of set pieces is also cause for concern, Lalas added. It will be difficult to rely on set pieces against the likes of the “death” group that U.S. is in for Brazil.
Regardless of the implications of what kinds of goals were scored, it remains an exciting time for the two scorers. Diskerud came in off the bench in the second half, replacing Alejandro Bedoya, and Johannsson replaced Chris Wondolowski. Wondolowski had an uneventful first half, getting off just three shots on goal as Clint Dempsey’s stand-in. Dempsey was removed from the starting line up last minute as a result of a sore left groin. His absence is believed to be preemptive.
Diskerud, the new No. 10 jersey wearer on the squad, wasted no time after coming in off the bench in the 71st minute. Altidore sustained a blatant jersey pull effectively securing a free kick in the 75th minute. Diskerud was in the right place at the right time to pick up the deflection off a great shot by Michael Bradley.
Johannsson’s goal in the 81st minute came by way of a solid header off a corner kick. Wondolowski was unable to finish his two headers in the first half, making the Icelandic-American’s goal all the more welcome. Altidore seemed to show up more in the second half, using his size and composure with his back to the net to get a couple of great counter attacks in order, however his overall performance left viewers wanting at the end of the match.
In response to a post-game question about how he felt wearing Landon Donovan’s number, Diskerud played off the implications by saying, “To me it’s just a number.” The American Outlaws could be seen throughout the game in the stands wearing Landon Donovan jerseys.
Overall, the U.S. will take the win, but not without a little bit of unease as to how this lineup is going to handle teams much superior than Azerbaijan. Without Dempsey, they were not playing their 4-3-2-1 formation, but it was a great chance to see some new pairings up top. Altidore seemed to be playing a bit on the back burner, but was still behind a lot of the U.S. team’s counter attacks. He was in the mix, but it was Diskerud and Johannsson who finally secured the win for the U.S.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson
Observation by Courtney Anderson