United States vs. Russia: Score, Analysis and Grades
Russia got goals from Fedor Smolov and Roman Shirokov to take the lead twice, but the United States was able to answer both times thanks to Michael Bradley and Mikkel Diskerud to earn a 2-2 draw in a hotly contested friendly.
Smolov, who was making his first appearance for the Russian national team, got the scoring started less than 10 minutes into the match. Danny Williams made a mistake on a free kick in the defensive third, and Russia took advantage.
The young Anzhi Makhachkala player was forced to leave the match right after scoring, however, as he suffered an injury as he was slipping the shot by Tim Howard. Smolov can rest assured knowing he made an impact in his first cap.
American captain Carlos Bocanegra was also forced to leave early due to injury. The stalwart member of the United States back line was replaced by Clarence Goodson after 20 minutes due to a hamstring issue, according to the team's Twitter feed.
Bradley leveled the match in the 76th minute with a tremendous strike, and the United States had a couple chances to grab the lead. They weren't able to capitalize, though.
Then Russia regained control and got back in front after a Goodson foul in the box—on an unnecessary play—gave Shirokov a chance from the penalty spot. He made it count to give Russia the lead again.
However, Diskerud struck back in stoppage time to bring the United States even. It was enough to earn the U.S. a draw to end the year on a positive note. Howard was on top of his game, giving Diskerud a chance to play hero.
Jozy Altidore (USA): C
Altidore has been a goal-scoring force for his club, AZ Alkmaar, but hasn't been able to carry that form over to his appearances with the national team. He's struggled to make his presence felt atop the formation recently, and that continued on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old striker just doesn't seem comfortable, partly because he's pressing so hard every time he touches the ball. He created a good chance in the first half but shot wide, and a poor first touch cost him a golden opportunity in the second.
Timmy Chandler (USA): B+
There was plenty of attention on Chandler, who still isn't cap-tied to the United States and is also eligible to join Germany, and he was able to hold his own at the back. He'll be a nice piece for the American squad if Jurgen Klinsmann can lock him in.
While he could have done better with his distribution from the back, most of his struggles in that area were due to Russia's suffocating defensive style. Chandler didn't make any glaring mistakes, and that's the main thing for a young defender.
Alan Dzagoev (RUS): B+
Dzagoev came in after halftime for Dmitri Kombarov and was a threat the entire half. He created several nice chances and was unlucky that none of them turned into a 2-0 for his side. Howard was in top form to deny him.
It's young players like Dzagoev, who plays for CSKA Moscow, that give Russia a lot of potential moving forward. Even though he only played 45 minutes, it was easy to see how much upside he possesses once he gains more international experience.
Sergei Ignashevich (RUS): B
Russia is built on its strong defense, which is led by Ignashevich. The veteran center-back was able to keep the American attack under wraps for a vast majority of the match and the goals Team USA did score weren't his fault.
Ignashevich continues to play at a very high level at age 33, and he figures to play a key role in Russia's journey to the World Cup. As long as he is able to keep the back line playing at an elite level, they should advance with ease.
The United States has finished international play for 2012. The Americans are next scheduled to take the pitch in early February against Honduras to begin the final round of qualifying for the World Cup, which will span most of 2013.
It was an up-and-down year for Team USA. There were some memorable moments, including a victory over Italy and a strong finish in the penultimate qualifying group, but fans will surely be seeking more consistency during hexagonal play.
The story is similar for Russia. Today's match finished the team's 2012 slate, and the Russians will turn their attention back to UEFA qualifying in March as they look to maintain their lead in Group 6. They have not allowed a goal in four group matches.
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