Photo by Jeff Zelevansky from GettyImages
I think Ian Darke said it best in the second half of last night’s match when he remarked that this friendly between the United States and Argentina “had the intensity of a World Cup match.” Argentina dominated exquisitely in the first half and were it not for some incredible saves by Tim Howard they mave have been able to put a 7 on the board ala the New Meadowland Stadium’s usual tenants the Jets and Giants. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi were all nothing short of phenomenal. Lavezzi was particularly dominant in the first half. Di Maria turned in one of his typical whirlwind, everywhere-at -once style performances. And then there was Messi’s otherwordly speed, strength, control, passing, instincts, conditioning…I mean, you almost take his greatness for granted when you are lucky enough to watch Barca on regular basis. He was incredible to watch last night. What amazes me is that Messi is never subbed, yet he never, ever looks tired. They ran a stat that said Messi finished something like 53 of his last 66 matches. Amazing. Argentina definitely played to win and approached this match in a deadly serious manner. They cannot (and I don’t think would) say that they didn’t field an extremely strong side and play their hardest…
…Which is why the U.S. team deserves so much credit for battling back in the second half. The tenacity and conditioning of the midfield and defense deserve immense praise. It seemed like the pace and ferocity of Argentina’s attack would slowly weaken and overwhelm them, but they actually got stronger and more stable as the match progressed. Michael Bradley and Jay DeMerit deserve specific mention here for tireless, persistent work. Tim Howard is definitely the emotional leader of this team and a big-time big-match player. He made some excellent saves and definitely kept the match close enough for the side to have any sort of chance in the 2nd half. I thought Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were far more noticeable and involved in creating chances in the 2nd half. Jozy Altidore remains an enigma to me. You can see that there is talent there, but he looked extremely sluggish and sketchy in the 1st half. Bob Bradley deserves a lot of credit for switching to a 4-4-2 alignment after subbing in Juan Agudelo and Timothy Chandler, as Agudelo immediately made things happen. Agudelo’s presence instantly made Altidor more of a factor. Agudelo’s finish on the equalizing goal, set-up by Donovan’s excellently placed free-kick, was deceptively sweet. What an amazing moment and a huge, huge goal for the 18 year old New York Redbulls striker!
I’m sure some will say that Ian Darke was exaggering when he compared the intensity of this match to a World Cup match, but it was an excellent, hard-fought match filled with incredible displays of skill, willpower and spirit. The atmosphere in the New Meadowlands was brilliant, as a sold-out crowd of 78, 936 gave voice to the match, putting it on another level. It was so great to see!
Links and commentary:
Sports Illustrated’s U.S. Team player ratings
USA Today’s match analysis
Goal.com’s analysis of the U.S. defenders
ESPN’s Friendly Round-up
Washington Post coverage of the match