The United States squeaked out a 1-0 win over Venezuela on Saturday night, thanks to Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Ricardo Clark’s 97th-minute header off a Jermaine Jones corner kick.
The two midfielders involved in the goal were the only non-MLS players in the U.S. lineup, which featured four players making their international debuts, and eight guys with fewer than 10 caps.
Venezuela, which is currently tied for first in COMNEBOL World Cup qualifying, also sent a second-choice squad, and the U.S. B team clearly dominated the game, creating multiple chances while giving up very few. The Americans’ 21-year-old keeper, Bill Hamid, was hardly tested in his international debut, while his counterpart, Jose Morales, was arguably the man of the match.
Four quick hits:
• As Bob Bradley noted late in his term as U.S. coach, Chris Wondolowski always gets in good spots. He hasn’t finished one yet, but he’s had several golden opportunities in his U.S. appearances, most of them due to his own wiles in the box. Against Venezuela he flashed a header just wide, had one brilliantly saved off the line by Morales, and did well to create a volley for himself, which Morales also stopped. Look for him to break his duck on Wednesday night against Panama, and redeem his missed sitter against Los Canaleros in last summer’s Gold Cup.
• Geoff Cameron could stick at centerback. As many observers pointed out before the game, Cameron’s combination of athleticism, size and skill on the ball seemed a good fit for Jurgen Klinsmann’s system, which calls for a central defender who can pass out of the back with skill and confidence. All of the Houston Dynamo man’s qualities were on display against Venezuela, and he looked like an experienced international, not a man picking up his first U.S. start and second cap.
• Jermaine Jones is not all he was cracked up to be. In the long wait for German-American Jones to complete both his U.S.-eligibility paperwork and his recovery from a long-term leg injury, American fanatics were already penciling him into the starting XI, essentially sight unseen. Now that he’s made 15 appearances for the U.S., our reaction is … eh. Against Venezuela, he actually had one of his better games, yet to us, he’s full of energy but light on purpose and skill. He’s also a hothead, as his current eight-game suspension from the Bundesliga attests. He stomped on an opponent’s leg in Germany, and Saturday night, after getting the captain’s armband from Klinsmann (odd decision, that), he looked determined to hurt someone out there.
• Brek Shea needs to translate his flashes into flourishes. The rangy 21-year-old winger had a breakout season in 2011, contending for the MLS MVP award and establishing himself on the national team. On Saturday, he squandered a great chance after being sent in beautifully by Benny Feilhaber, and had a header well saved by Morales. We’ll know he’s at the next level when those chances start going in.