United States begin 2015 campaign with lesson-filled loss to Chile
Brek Shea handed the Americans the perfect response by thrashing Matt Besler’s throughball into the net after six minutes. Roberto Gutierrez drifted behind the three-man defense to respond shortly thereafter, but Jozy Altidore rounded off a fine move on the half-hour to restore the advantage.
Gonzalez interjected himself into the proceedings after the break and tilted the match in favor of the home side. He curled his run around the defense to snatch the equalizer after 66 minutes and then turned home the winner nine minutes later to send the capacity crowd at Estadio El Teniente home happy.
USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his players will leave with plenty of information to process ahead of the friendly against Panama in Carson, Calif. on Feb. 8. The bright start and the inventive attacking play offer plenty of room for encouragement, but the lack of energy as the match progressed reflected the harsh realities of playing this match so early in preseason.
Klinsmann opted for a 3-5-2 setup to make the best use of the personnel available and spur his side to use the width of the field. There were inevitable kinks in the first half as the Americans sifted through the unfamiliar particulars of playing in a revised formation, but the benefits manifested in the opening goal inside six minutes.
Michael Bradley played a quick free kick at midfield to Matt Besler. Besler stepped into space and spotted the run of Shea around the left side of the three-man Chilean defense. He played a perfectly weighted ball behind the line to allow Shea to elude the defense, glide toward the ball and smash it home on the first attempt.
The lead stood for just three minutes as the Americans failed to cope with a cross from the recalled Gonzalez on the left. Gonzalez managed to carve out a little bit of space on the left and swing an inviting ball behind the line. Gutierrez floated past the flat line and nodded comfortably inside the far post to restore parity.
Gutierrez’s response captured the energetic tempo in the opening period. Both teams aimed to push forward whenever possible and permitted the game to get more stretched than either coach probably would have preferred.
DeAndre Yedlin made good use of his perch as the wingback on the right to torment his marker. He sought to exploit the natural weakness in Chile’s three-man defense and use the openings afforded to him. His enterprising run nearly produced a second after 15 minutes, but he pulled his finish just wide of the far post.
It marked just the first in a series of salvos as both teams located the space they sought. Gutierrez smashed over from 10 yards shortly thereafter as the Chileans attempted to issue their response. Altidore and Clint Dempsey nearly combined on the edge of the penalty area, but Altidore’s final pass strayed just a bit too far for Dempsey to collect.
There were no such issues as the Americans reclaimed the lead on the half-hour with incisive work in the buildup. Yedlin and Diskerud combined on the right to crack open the Chilean defense and slot Diskerud along the end line. Diskerud lifted his head and picked out Altidore’s clever run toward the near post. Altidore retained his composure and tucked his fifth goal in his past 11 international appearances.
Gutierrez nearly grabbed his second on the stroke of halftime, but he saw his header ruled out for offside instead. The reprieve allowed the Americans to enter the interval with a lead and tinker with their setup ahead of the second half. Lee Nguyen replaced Bobby Wood at the break as Klinsmann shifted back to a 4-4-2 defense for the second half.
The switch added more solidity to the midfield, but it did little to thwart the energetic Chilean search for a response. The pressure built and built as the home side pressed forward earnestly and tried to carve out the required opening. It finally arrived just after the hour to restore parity.
The former Liverpool winger continued to make his case for another look with the first side by finally working his way behind the American line. Gonzalez collected in a good area on the left side of the penalty area and then fired inside the far post to draw the Chileans level.
By this point, the difference in fitness started to take its toll. Klinsmann turned to his bench liberally to perk up his side — Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes both entered for their debuts as part of the alterations — and strengthen the efforts. Those changes injected some fresh legs, but they did not prevent Gonzalez from finally turning the match in the home side’s favor.
The entire sequence started with a stinging Marco Medel drive from distance. Nick Rimando responded brilliantly to punch away with a dive to his right, but his stop fell kindly to the unmarked Gonzalez at the back post. Gonzalez made no mistake from close range to send Chile in front.
Gonzalez’s goal inspired increased urgency in the Americans as they attempted to rescue a result. Nguyen nearly benefited from a tidy move down the right, but he curled his effort just wide of the near post. Chris Wondolowski subsequently tested Johnny Herrera with a header only to see the Chilean keeper thwart his effort.
The huffing and puffing continued until the end despite the lack of match fitness, but the Americans could not find a way to pull level once again. The final whistle ended those efforts and left them to lament how their positive start eventually concluded in defeat.