Three thoughts on the U.S.’s 1-0 victory over South Africa on Wednesday in Cape Town:
• Juan Agudelo’s world is changing fast. The 17-year-old New York Red Bulls forward scored on his debut in the 85th minute to lift a young U.S. team to a surprising victory over a nearly full-strength South Africa in sold-out Cape Town Stadium. Considering Agudelo had an impressive performance in New York’s final playoff game (also on national TV), the hype machine may go into overload for the young striker leading into 2011. (Within 15 minutes of the game, “Agudelo” was trending on Twitter in the U.S. and New York City.) Let’s try and dial it down a bit, though. Agudelo is a very promising young player with good physical tools who will need to keep his head straight if he wants to achieve that potential. That said, it was a well-taken goal by the U.S., not least because fellow debutante Mix Diskerud did a lot of good work on the ball before passing to Agudelo for his poised finish.
• The new guys fared well. Agudelo and Diskerud weren’t the only young Americans who had solid debuts for the national team. New York’s Tim Ream won his first start in the central defense (ahead of West Ham’s Jonathan Spector and MLS Defender of the Year finalist Nat Borchers) and justified coach Bob Bradley’s confidence by positioning himself well and looking composed on the ball. Likewise, Teal Bunbury came on up top in the second half and had some nice moments, showing good speed of thought on the ball. Eric Lichaj had a solid performance at right back, defending well against Siphiwe Tshabalala while making his way upfield on occasion in the attack. It’s only one game, though, so let’s put everything in perspective. You can be sure that Bob Bradley will.
• Some familiar faces struggled. Two U.S. players from the World Cup team had nights to forget. Robbie Findley got the start up top but had trouble completing passes and was outplayed by both Agudelo and Bunbury. On the back line, Spector came in at halftime and lost several balls, some of them in dangerous positions on the field. Neither player has been starting for his club team, either, which means they’ll be in danger of missing out on future call-ups if the New Kids keep showing promise. Some other familiar faces looked good, though, including goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender Clarence Goodson.
What were your thoughts on the game?