BRIAN SCIARETTA - Sunday, January 22, 2012
For over 95 minutes, the United States looked headed for another game without a goal under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann but Ricardo Clark emerged as an unlikely hero and delivered the winner.
Jurgen Klinsmann started the game with a relatively inexperienced squad that consisted of three players in Bill Hamid, Graham Zusi, and AJ DeLaGarza who were earning their first caps.
The only players in the starting lineup who represented the United States in a major tournament were Gold Cup veterans Jermaine Jones, Heath Pearce, and Michael Parkhurst. Benny Feilhaber was the only player in the starting lineup who has played in a World Cup.
Jones was given the captains armband by Klinsmann and the Schalke-based midfielder was in action for the US team because he is serving an eight week suspension issued by the German Federation.
The United States opened the game with most of the possession but there was nothing to show from it.
In the 20th minute Teal Bunubury launched a left footed over the bar from just outside the box.
Just a minute later Benny Feilhaber sent terrific low pass through the Venezuelan defense and hit a streaking Brek Shea who moved into the box. The FC Dallas winger cut in and hit a powerful shot but it skipped across the front of the goal and missed wide right.
In the 23rd minute Graham Zusi hit a nice free kick into the box that found an open Shea in the box. Shea hit a powerful header but Venezuelan keeper Jose Morales came up with the good save.
In the second half, the US continued in the similar manner.
In the 48th minute Jones took a pass from Feilhaber but sent a shot that just missed the frame.
In the 63rd minute the US had a fast counter attack that was lead by Jones. Jones fed a streaking Bunbury who was right of the goal. Instead of passing to open players, the Sporting Kansas City forward took the shot but missed wide.
In the 83rd minute, Teal Bunbury should have put the Americans ahead when he took a pass from substitute Chris Wondolowski and had a clean shot from 18 yards but he hit a shot that missed wide left.
In the 85th minute, Morales again denied the United States the lead when Wondolowski was open for a header from just a few yards out but Morales made the diving save.
Initially the fourth official raised the sign that there would be four minutes of injury time but the Venezuelan players went on with time wasting maneuvers that backfired and only lead to additional time.
In the eighth minute of injury time, Jones took a corner kick that found an open Ricardo Clark who headed it into the lower left corner of the goal.
For Clark, it was a far cry from two years ago at the 2010 World Cup in the round of 16. In the game against Ghana, Clark struggled and his turnover early in the game lead to Ghana's first goal. He was subbed out in the first half and left the field nearly in tears.
While the stakes were much lower in this friendly played between two teams missing most top players, Clark's celebration was indicative of a player who has struggled for both club and country the past two years.
Next up for the United States is another friendly on Wednesday against Panama in Panama City.