Feb. 6, 2016
By Scott French
ANOTHER PERFECT FINISH
Altidore rewarded at the finish as U.S. dominates Canada
LA Soccer News Contributing Editor
CARSON, Calif. -- Jozy Altidore hit the post twice -- with the same shot -- and came close another half-dozen times, but nothing was falling for the U.S. national team in a dominant display against Canada in Friday night's friendly at StubHub Center.
Until the end.
Altidore rose between two defenders to powerfully head home an Ethan Finlay cross in the 89th minute as the Yanks wrapped up their annual “January” camp with a 1-0 triumph, their second last-minute victory in six days.
Altidore found space at the right post between Adam Straith and Samuel Adekugbe, and Finlay, the Columbus Crew winger who had come in off the bench just a minute earlier, delivered a terrific ball after beating Doneil Henry on the dribble.
Altidore had “just a feeling” that it was all going to work out.
“Playing with him throughout camp, he's done that a few times, where he'll wrong-foot the guy, cut inside, and then put it back post,” Altidore said. “And I've seen him. I've watched him in MLS a couple times, and he's done the same play with Kei Kamara a bunch of times.
“I just felt the ball was going to come there, and it was a great ball. All I had to do was be there, and I'm happy I got to finish it.”
It capped a one-sided clash that frustratingly appeared headed for a draw, the result of superb Canadian organization at the back and a tremendous international debut by Montreal Impact backup goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who a few mighty saves among his seven stops to keep the U.S. scoreless until the close.
“I think [we] got rewarded tonight with that late goal,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We told them, 'You've got to be patient, it is what it is, the more the game goes on, [Canada is] going to get more and more defensive and make it very, very difficult.' That's what we tried to find solutions over the wings.
“Eventually, the goal came there from Ethan kind of breaking through on the left side. [We] more than deserved that result, that win. The second half, there was only one team playing: It was us. Canada the first 20-25 minutes was all right, trying to open up the game, but then it was just us doing all the work. It was nice to get that result. We had plenty of chances to score ahead of that goal.”
The two best opportunities before the goal were Altidore's.
He hit the right post in the 17th minute, taking a feed from Gyasi Zardes and blasting it past Crepeau and off the right post. The ball then caromed off a fallen Crepeau's back and again his the post before the goalkeeper gained control.
And in the 83rd, he caught Crepeau off his line and arced a shot from just above the Canada box toward the goal. The arc was a bit high, and Crepeau raced back to knock it away.
“There were a few chances where I just made the wrong decision,” Altidore said, “and I was just mad at myself and should have been better.”
San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham claimed a clean sheet in his international debut without having to make a save -- he was solid on crosses into his box -- as Canada produced nearly nothing in the offensive third. The U.S. built a 17-4 edge in shots.
Local boy Brandon Vincent joined Bingham in making his international debut for the U.S. Steven Vitoria saw his first action for Canada, starting in central defense, and Jamar Dixon made his debut for the visitors in the closing minutes.
Klinsmann kept five starters from Sunday's 3-2 win over Iceland in the same spot, giving Kellyn Acosta another run at left back, with Matt Besler in central defense, Michael Bradley in central midfield, and Altidore up top.
Bingham was in the nets, Mix Diskerud teamed with Bradley in the middle, Jordan Morris was up front, and Steve Birnbaum, who came off the bench to play at center back (and scored the 90th-minute winner) Sunday, was at right back.
Jermaine Jones teamed with Besler in central defense, his first backline start since last year's “January camp,” and Zardes was on the right flank, where he played in the second half against Iceland after starting at forward.
Vincent, a Stanford All-American taken by Chicago in last month's MLS SuperDraft, came on for Acosta at halftime. Jerome Kiesewetter, who debuted against Iceland, Darlington Nagbe, Wil Trapp and Ethan Finlay also came on during the second half.
The U.S. dictated terms nearly the entire way
Zardes' touch wasn't as pure as he'd like, but his energy was good, and it was his deft ball to set up Altidore for the shot off the post early in the game.
The U.S. had more chances before the break, but Crepeau parried a Zardes blast in the 21st minute and went to the ground for a goal-line save a Birnbaum header from Bradley's corner kick in the 26th, Morris' chip toward the right post just missed the net and Zardes in the 38th, Bradley fired sharply at Crepeau in the 39th, and Morris' touch failed him at the top of the box from a Diskerud through ball in the 40th.
Canada's only legitimate chance arrived in the 30th minute, when Birnbaum blocked Cyle Larin at the top of the box, and Tesho Akindele then sent a ball through the goalmouth, out of Larin's reach.
The U.S. came close again in the 53rd minute. Nguyen sent a wonderfully angled chip to the goalmouth from the right edge of Canada's box, but Crepeau just beat Morris to it. The ball came out, Diskerud chipped it toward the left post, and Altidore nodded it through the goalmouth and just past the left post, just out of Morris' reach.
Moments later, Altidore sent a bullet straight at Crepeau.
Altidore was again denied in the 66th, putting an open header wide left from Kiesewetter's cross, Vincent was thwarted by a Crepeau leg save in the 71st, and Altidore fired wide on a 25-yard free kick in the 80th.
“It was one of those games where we felt we were always there, on the doorstep,” Altidore said. “That bit of sharpness wasn't there -- the last pass, the last cross -- but to win the game the manner we did was kind of fitting, to end the camp on kind of a real positive high.”