The US Men’s National Team (USMNT) escaped Russia with a tie in an international friendly on Wednesday after falling to two consecutive deficits. Standout midfielder Michael Bradley tied the match with a thrilling volley score off of a header in the 76th minute.
Bradley’s setup for the game-tying score was just as dramatic. Reserve midfielder Mikkel Diskerud connected on a stoppage-time goal to even things up and secure the draw.
USA finished 2012 with a 9-2-3 record after Wednesday’s tie in Krasnodar, Russia. That’s the national team’s best single-year mark in the modern era.
No, it wasn’t a meaningful victory like the one the U.S. team hoped for when it took on the Soviets before the fall of the Berlin Wall. No political ideologies were defeated or championships won. But, it was an emotional effort that is sure to resonate with the team throughout the World Cup qualifying process.
Despite being down and seemingly out, the Americans came back twice and showed great resolve with two stunning goals against a Russian team that had only allowed four goals in their 12 previous international contests. They also shut out their previous four opponents in World Cup qualifying play.
The Americans were short-handed as well. They did it without team stars Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey who missed the Wednesday friendly match in Russia.
With the emergence of Bradley and the return of Dempsey and Donovan for the qualifier against Honduras on February 6, the Americans are in good position to make a run at qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. If they qualify, and they should, it will mark the seventh time that the USMNT has qualified for the tournament dating back to 1990.
Qualifying hasn’t always been a guarantee for the Americans. People forget the dark times of American soccer that took place between 1950 and 1990. The U.S. failed to qualify or even look competitive throughout that entire span. That’s 10 tries and 10 failures to qualify for a nation that prides itself on its athletics.