USA vs. Iceland: Winners and Losers from International Friendly
The U.S. men's national soccer team squeezed out a 3-2 victory over Iceland on Sunday at the StubHub Center thanks to a pair of second-half goals.
The Yanks fell behind in the 13th minute on a deflected strike from Kristinn Steindorsson, but they responded through Jozy Altidore seven minutes later.
Iceland went ahead once again in the 49th minute by way of a stunning strike from Aron Sigurdarson, but they failed to pack a consistent punch in attack for the rest of the contest.
Michael Orozco and Steve Birnbaum each netted a goal in the final 31 minutes to propel the Yanks to their first victory of a busy 2016.
Here's a look at our winners and losers from the USMNT's win over Iceland.
Winner: Jozy Altidore
A lighter and healthier Jozy Altidore impressed, playing over 74 minutes up top for the USMNT on Sunday. The Toronto FC forward scored a goal and started the buildup to the second strike in his first start of 2016.
Altidore leveled the contest at one goal apiece in the 20th minute as he slotted home an assist from club teammate Michael Bradley from the middle of the box.
The 26-year-old forward continued to press and impose his will in the final third with his physicality throughout the first half, but that did not lead to a second goal.
In the 59th minute, Altidore chased down the ball off a corner and chipped a wonderful cross onto the head of Steve Birnbaum, who found an open Michael Orozco in front of the net.
The strong performance from Altidore was a positive sign for the Yanks, who need their top scorer to produce during an important 2016 that features Copa America Centenario and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Loser: Matt Besler
Many expected Matt Besler to be the most reliable center-back on the pitch for the Yanks on Sunday, given his experience, but that was not the case as the Sporting Kansas City defender failed to make a positive impact on the contest.
While many will blame Kellyn Acosta and Lee Nguyen for failing to pick up Kristinn Steindorsson on the first Iceland goal, it was Besler who caused the trouble in the box with his bad clearances.
In addition to his mistake in the 13th minute, Besler let Steve Birnbaum and Michael Orozco outshine him on set pieces as well.
With the competition for the starting spots on the first team expected to be fierce, Besler now has another hurdle to jump over due to his poor outing against Iceland.
Winner: Steve Birnbaum
Steve Birnbaum played the role of impact substitute to perfection on Sunday as he contributed a goal and an assist in the come-from-behind victory.
In the 59th minute, Birnbaum headed Altidore's cross over to Orozco in front of the net for the second USMNT tally. With time winding down in the second half, Birnbaum headed home Michael Bradley's free-kick from the right wing to put the Yanks ahead for the first time.
The D.C. United center-back was one of a few players who made an immediate impact off the bench and improved their stock for the Yanks on Sunday.
With confidence flowing through his veins, expect Birnbaum to earn significant playing time against Canada on Friday.
Loser: Ethan Finlay
Ethan Finlay entered the January camp as one of the players to watch after shining in MLS over the last two seasons with the Columbus Crew.
The dynamic wing player impressed head coach Jurgen Klinsmann enough to earn a start on Sunday, but he failed to finish off chances in the final third due to a poor first touch.
Finlay was active on the right wing for most of the first half, but he was unable to combine well with his teammates and consistently separate himself from defenders.
If the Columbus Crew man finds a way to channel his energy into quality crosses and shots on target, he could be a vital weapon on the wing for the Yanks in 2016.
Winner: Aron Sigurdarson
Some of the young players on the Iceland squad used Sunday's match as an opportunity to play their way onto the Euro 2016 roster.
Right-winger Aron Sigurdarson was the most dynamic player in a white shirt at the StubHub Center as he provided a constant threat for an Iceland team that rarely tested the USMNT defense.
Sigurdarson was rewarded for his play in the 49th minute as he caught the USMNT back line off guard on a quick free-kick and fired a shot into the bottom-right part of the net.
If the Fjolnir player plays like he did on Sunday during the first half of 2016, he could snatch one of the 23 roster spots available for the competition in France in June.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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