Paraguay beats United States 1-0 in exhibition

The Americans remain winless this year in three games. Still,

coach Bob Bradley sees playing two games within four days as good

preparation for the CONCACAF Gold Cup this June.

”We really hadn’t had a good chance to be together with most of

our core guys since the World Cup,” Bradley said Tuesday night

after Oscar Cardozo’s 18th-minute goal gave Paraguay a 1-0

exhibition win.

”So this is important as far as refocusing ourselves, building

on the things that we’ve done but having an understanding now of

what things need to be a little different … what’s going to stay

the same, what’s going to be different. When you get together after

a lot of months just seeing form wise where everybody is.”

Michael Bradley nearly tied it late in the match, shooting for

the top left corner from outside the penalty area. But goalkeeper

Justo Villar just deflected the ball with the fingertips of his

right hand. Villar made another save on the final play in

second-half injury time.

”Of course, I would have been happy about getting the equalizer

in the last chance of the game,” Jermaine Jones said of his last

shot.

The coach gave Juan Agudelo his first start with the national

team after the 18-year-old from the New York Red Bulls scored in

two of his first three international appearances, including

Saturday night’s 1-1 draw with Argentina in New Jersey. Right back

Timmy Chandler started, and goalkeeper Tim Howard and defender

Oguchi Onyewu didn’t dress. Goalkeeper David Yelldell made his

national team debut, replacing Marcus Hahnemann to start the second

half.

”Now this is a hard game for a forward,” Bob Bradley said of

Agudelo’s start. ”This is where experience counts, and this is

where you show what you’re all about and so we’ll talk to him

because this is where good forwards earn their money.”

It doesn’t get easier for the Americans, who play world champion

Spain in their next match on June 4, their final prep for the

CONCACAF Gold Cup. Paraguay is getting ready for the Copa America

in July.

Bradley called these two games important preparation.

”Everything has been to make sure that we’ve got a good sense

of what it’s going to be like in May OK with these guys coming out

of club seasons coming into a camp and knowing that we have Spain,

which is a big deal. But then three days later, we start the Gold

Cup and understand the challenge,” Bradley said.

Clint Dempsey agreed that the Americans played well at times

despite failing to score.

”The main objective is for the manager to see what his best

lineup is going to be and what kind of squad he’s going to bring in

for the Gold Cup, because that’s the most important thing to make

sure we do well in that competition,” Dempsey said.

The Americans had a definite home-crowd advantage with repeated

chants of ”U-S-A! U-S-A!” at LP Field, home of the NFL’s

Tennessee Titans. The crowd of 29,059 set a record for a soccer

game in the state of Tennessee.

The U.S. entered 2-1-2 against Paraguay, including three

shutouts. But Paraguay reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup

last year, and now the Paraguayans have won two straight against

the United States after also taking a 3-1 win at the 2007 Copa

America in Venezuela.

The Americans had plenty of chances as they outshot Paraguay

13-5 but couldn’t find the net. Landon Donovan’s kick hit the

outside of the left net in the 75th minute. Bradley liked that they

moved the ball around better than they did against Argentina, and

Donovan said they had a few chances that might go in on another

day.

”To be honest, I’m not disappointed with the effort, the

willingness to pass and try to go forward and create thing,”

Donovan said. ”All that was good. … Our final pass wasn’t good,

and give their goalie credit, he made a couple really good

saves.”

Eric Lichaj entered in the 61st minute for Jozy Altidore, who

scored three goals in his last game on this field, against Trinidad

and Tobago in a World Cup qualifier two years ago this week. Lichaj

passed the ball to Dempsey in the 67th minute, but Dempsey shot

high from about 9 yards.

”On the one that Lichaj put through, there was a slight

deflection and I couldn’t get over it,” Dempsey said. ”So I’d

like to have that one back.”

Then Paraguay nearly came back down the other end and made it

2-0, but Marcelo Estigarribia’s shot bounced off the right

post.

Paraguay led 1-0 at halftime when the Americans failed to clear

Hernan Perez’s corner kick. Cardozo, who plays for Benfica in

Portugal, scored his fourth international goal, beating Hahnemann

off a deflection by Victor Hugo Mareco.

After that, most of the play was on Paraguay’s side of the

field, including two successive fouls on Dempsey outside the box

that led to a yellow card for Enrique Vera. Jay DeMerit had a

chance off a third free kick by Donovan late in the half only to

head the ball over the net on his final play before being replaced

by captain Carlos Bocanegra.

Hahnemann, making his first start since Oct. 17, 2007, against

Switzerland, had saves on two long shots late in the first half.

The first deflected off his head, and he fielded the second by

Enrique Vera cleanly.

NOTES: Chandler, who made his debut Saturday, made his first

start on his 21st birthday. Fans serenaded him with a chorus of

”Happy Birthday” when he came out in the 80th minute, replaced by

Jonathan Spector. … Bradley used all six subs, with only Mixx

Diskerud not getting in.