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November 18, 2009
Makeshift U.S. lineup loses 3-1 to Denmark

Other than goalscorer Jeff Cunningham, Wednesday’s roster of World Cup wannabes did little to impress U.S. coach Bob Bradley.
Other than goalscorer Jeff Cunningham, Wednesday’s roster of World Cup wannabes did little to impress U.S. coach Bob Bradley.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
AAURHUS, Denmark—If Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Denmark is any indication, U.S.A. coach Bob Bradley’s search for a central defender to replace the injured Oguchi Onyewu has a long way to go. Jonathan Spector stepped into the role on Wednesday, and was victimized for two goals within the first six minutes of the second half, including Soren Reiks’ game-winner in the 52nd minute.

Denmark’s game-changing barrage, which also included strikes from Johan Absalonsen in the 47th minute and Martin Bernburg in the 55th, spoiled a feel-good first half for the U.S. men, who took a 1-0 lead on a 26th-minute goal by MLS Golden Boot winner Jeff Cunningham. It was the FC Dallas striker’s first international goal, and came after a four-year absence from the National Team pool.

Cunningham was the lone bright spot in a lackluster U.S. attack that was obviously feeling the absence of regulars Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. While his teammates struggled to string together passes and work their way into the Denmark penalty area, Cunningham chased balls into the box, pressured goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen and ultimately picked off a clearing pass from the Denmark ‘keeper and buried a left-footed shot from the top of the arc.

Cunningham continued to be a sparkplug through the remainder of the half, getting free in front of goal for a short header from Benny Feilhaber before being whistled offside, and finding Michael Bradley at the top of the box in the closing seconds, although Bradley could not get off a shot.

Feilhaber also was effective before the intermission, both at helping the U.S. hold possession at midfield and creating offensive opportunities, including a dangerous ball into the box for Jozy Altidore, who failed to capitalize, and an early shot that Sorensen blocked wide for a corner kick.

Denmark controlled the ball for much of the first half, but were not very dangerous in front of the goal. That changed quickly, however, after Absalonsen and Rieks were subbed in after halftime. Absalonsen made his presence known early, cutting between Spector and Jonathan Bornstein for a leading ball into the box, and beating netminder Brad Guzan with a sharply-angled nine-yard shot barely a minute into the half.

Minutes later, another Denmark service sailed across the box, and Denmark’s third halftime sub, William Kvist Jorgensen, deposited a ball on top of the net.

Absalonsen was at the center of Denmark’s second scoring play, as well, beating Spector down the left wing before sliding a cross through the goalmouth. The ball was dummied through to Reiks, who finished from off the far post. Three minutes later, Reiks used the outside of his foot to tap a short pass through three U.S. defenders to Martin Bernburg, whose 18-yard shot put Denmark up 3-1.

The USA’s best chances of the half came early, starting with Cunningham’s searching ball for Altidore off the far post. A defender picked off that ball, but gave Sorensen an anxious moment with a sharp header from close range that could easily have been an own goal. At the one-hour mark, Bradley got a pass from Stuart Holden and launched a 20-yard shot that sailed over the bar.

For the most part, however, Denmark continued to call the tune through the final whistle. Sixty-first-minute substitutes Robbie Rogers and Eddie Johnson did little to energize the U.S. attack. Johnson was particularly unambitious, and reluctant to take on Denmark’s defenders for the few promising passes that found their way into his vicinity. The Americans had little midfield presence as the game wound down, and when they did manage to string together a few passes in the 79th minute, the play was short-circuited by Frankie Hejduk’s aimless pass down the empty right wing.

The U.S. had one final chance to take a goal back in stoppage time, when Ricardo Clark took the ball deep into the Denmark penalty area and earned a corner kick. Rogers’ service was headed down into the goalmouth, then cleared to Feilhaber near the top of the box. Feilhaber shanked his shot to Rogers, but he was offside.

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