Before a sold-out crowd of 78,936 soccer fans at the New Meadowlands Stadium, the United States and Argentina played to an exciting 1-1 draw. While Argentina dominated the first 45 minutes, the game was really a tale of two halves.
Argentina came out firing with their 4-3-3 formation, led by arguably the best player in the world, Lionel Messi. Coach Bob Bradley tried to contain Messi by putting out a defensive-minded 4-5-1 formation, with the lone striker being Jozy Altidore.
The formation hurt the United States in the first half, as Argentina saw almost all of the possession. Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi seemed to be the most dangerous attackers for the Albiceleste, but it was defensive midfielder Esteban Cambiasso who scored their only goal.
Much of the early play was on the American side of the field, and if it wasn’t for outstanding work by goalkeeper Tim Howard the United States could have lost the game by a couple of goals.
Howard saved at least three scores, coming up big time after time from point-blank range. It was just a matter of time before Argentina would find the back of the net, and Cambiasso’s goal in the 40th minute broke the deadlock.
The Americans were fortunate to go into the half only down by one, considering how many chances Argentina had.
At halftime, Bob Bradley made two very interesting substitutions that changed the game. He showed a lot of confidence inserting 18-year old Juan Agudelo into just his third game for the United States.
Bradley also showed faith in the 20-year-old German-born right back Timothy Chandler, who made his first appearance for the Stars and Stripes. He was thrown into the fire with his first task for the national team to defend Messi and company.
Agudelo came in for midfielder Jermaine Jones and joined fellow New Jersey native Jozy Altidore up front.
The change to a 4-4-2 formation altered the entire game, as the United States no longer sat back against the Argentine onslaught. The USA enjoyed more possession in the second half and threatened their opponents on several occasions.
The Americans were livelier, and had numerous counter-attacking opportunities.
The time finally came when Juan Agudelo put the ball in the back of the net after a rebound on a set piece went right to him. In his home state, Agudelo made a name for himself and oozed so much confidence you would never know he's only eighteen.
More importantly, he brought out the best in Altidore, who stepped up his game in the second half. Chandler also contributed to the attack by running down the right side and putting in some dangerous crosses.
In addition, Dempsey, Bradley, Bocanegra and Donovan all contributed and fought hard for every ball in the midfield.
Every time Messi touched the ball, two or three Americans surrounded him and applied pressure. Messi did have success taking on defenders, but the physicality of the Americans was evident. 6'4" Oguchi Onyewu and 6'1" Jay DeMerit used their strength to fight off the 5'7" Messi.
They and the rest of the team bumped Argentine players off the ball and made it difficult for them to roam around the field.
Overall, the friendly was a great result. The sellout crowd enjoyed an end-to-end game with a lot of action, young Americans gained valuable experience against great competition and the United States came away with a very respectable draw against the fourth-ranked team in the world.
It was a total team effort that American fans will be extremely happy with.