Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Sweden vs United States
Friendly - Wednesday August 22, 2007
A solitary strike by Kim Kallstrom gave Sweden the win, as the United States' woeful record in Europe continued.
The score marked the end of what had been a first-half power struggle on a clear Scandinavian night.
In the first half, things got off to a shaky start for the predominantly Europe-based squad when a Michael Bradley mishap gave Sweden's Kennedy Bakircioglu space and options in the second minute. Bakircioglu found Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a centering ball but the Inter Milan striker went wide with it.
The Americans quickly returned the favor on a great chance for DaMarcus Beasley in the third minute. Landon Donovan took a creative pass from Clint Dempsey and played it flat to Beasley who, alone, went wide left.
"The contact was there but it was just the wrong side of the post," Beasley told reporters after the match. "I should have scored. I thought it was going in."
Beasley's miss seemed to leave him a bit shell-shocked in the following moments. Attempting to send Donovan on a run, the winger misled his man on a promising opportunity on the left flank in the 10th minute.
In the 15th minute, Ibrahimovic had another chance on a run derived by teammate Bakircioglu.
Tim Howard came off his line hard to challenge but couldn't steal away from Ibrahimovic, but the Everton keeper hassled Ibrahimovic enough to allow three American defenders to collapse in goal. When Ibrahimovic took his shot, Oguchi Onyewu was there for the clear.
Sweden applied the lion's share of the pressure early on, getting to the corner flag on five occasions in the first half, but the Americans did well to keep organized in the back on the set pieces.
The next American chance came in the 29th minute. Beasley and Dempsey combined deep in the Swedish box and the Rangers winger found Bradley to his rear, but Bradley shot far right of goal.
In the 31st minute, Howard made his first big save of the night but needed a bit of luck to keep the Swedes out of the goal.
Swedish defender Erik Edman sent Ibrahimovic on a long run from the back and Howard was again forced to come off his line. The New Jersey native was able to clear from danger momentarily, but Bakircioglu retrieved the clear and sent in a cross back to Ibrahimovic, who hit the crossbar on a header.
In the 32nd minute, Steve Cherundolo made the 20,648 on hand hold its breath. The right-back arced an ambitious shot from considerable distance that forced Shaaban to backpedal towards his goal. The high-arching shot refused to eclipse the crossbar and fell just underneath it, but into the sure hands of Shabaan.
Just before the midway mark, referee Kevin Blom took exception to a Carlos Bocanegra hand ball and cautioned the USMNT captain in a precarious spot. On the fringe of the box, Kallstrom sent the set piece right into the American wall, leaving things scoreless headed into halftime.
USMNT coach Bob Bradley inserted Bobby Convey at the outset of the second half to put a spark into his 4-4-2 setup, but the Swedes didn't seem to notice as they came out the more aggressive team.
In the 50th minute, Swede captain Daniel Andersson put a blistering shot on frame but Howard managed the low shot well.
A minute later, Donovan led a US counter, finding Beasley on a centering pass near the box. Beasley one-timed to Dempsey who was caught off-balance and couldn't get behind his shot and Shaaban was able to jump on it without much concern.
Just as soon as the Americans had countered on the Swedes, the Nordic powers came back to produce another opportunity. Ibrahimovic led the counter down the right wing and found Bakircioglu, who played in a cross to Johan Elmander. Elmander settled and reversed back to Bakircioglu, whose attempt went just wide right.
In the 56th minute, the Swedes finally found their window. Bakircioglu received a pass out wide and fended off pressure long enough to find an open teammate. He found Kallstrom nearby with Bocanegra and Bradley in pursuit, but the Lyon midfielder was able to peak his head around the defense and catch Howard out of position.
"The guy got through and he had quick feet," Onyewu told YA. "To find space like that and to strike it as well has he did is tough. You give a guy an inch at this level and he's going to make you pay."
Howard admitted he was out of position after the match but didn't take anything away from Kallstrom.
"The guy hit it well. I tried to get a piece but I think you have to give credit to him. At a certain point all you can do is tip your cap," Howard said.
Whatever momentum the Americans had amassed was quickly washed away. The Swedes immediately stole the US kickoff and Bakircioglu raced ahead to fire a shot from distance, stirring the emotions of Howard, who appeared to get vocal with his teammates.
In the 64th minute, Bradley brought in Jonathon Spector and Kamani Hill to jolt the Americans back to life, but the move accomplished little. It took 35 minutes after the score for the US to produce an equalizing opportunity, but Michael Bradley's header in the closing minutes was wrapped up by Rami Shaaban to seal the victory for the Swedes.
Bradley made use of all six of his allotted substitutions, inserting Jay DeMerit and Sal Zizzo, who earned his first senior MNT cap. After the match, he recognized his team was a young one but didn't leave that as an excuse.
"There were periods where we played well but the question is can we sustain that level for 90 minutes," Bradley told reporters after the match. "Throughout the match, Sweden was able to pressure on us at the right moments.
"Ultimately you ask was it a fair result, and I think the answer tonight was yes."
After the game, US players expressed similar attitudes toward their friendly foes.
"They scored a nice goal," Onyewu conceded. "Early in the first half I thought we were a bit disorganized but later we figured it out. We didn't keep possession as well as we should have but we created a lot of chances."
Howard was mostly attentive to the opportunities that never came in the second half.
"We had plenty of time for an equalizer but we didn't do it," Howard said.
Beasley, who was named the US man of the match, wasn't letting himself or his teammates off the hook.
"Sweden did a great job defensively but we lost a lot of possessions that led to counters," Beasley said. "We had a very mediocre performance tonight."
Beasley and the USMNT will face an even bigger test Saturday, September 9 when they play host to Brazil in Chicago at Solider Field.