Final, 2-0 United States: Game over. The U.S. wins the first game of its World Cup “Send-Off Series.”
Team USA will be happy with the result and performance against Azerbaijan since both went according to plan. It was the first, and least challenging, of three World Cup tune-up games for the Americans, and they were looking to build their sharpness and confidence, experiment with a range of personnel combinations and win the game. Check, check and check.
Azerbaijan offered enough resistance for a while but its concentration and determination gave way toward the end of the game.
The U.S. dominated play against the 85th-ranked team in the world (according to the latest FIFA rankings). The goals came later than Klinsmann and U.S. fans would have wanted, but the strikes show that Team USA has some potency coming off the bench.
Johannsonn and Diskerud made an impact, and Davis demonstrated his ability to accurately service forwards from set pieces as well as open play.
The U.S. World Cup team will rest before travelling east for its second World Cup tune-up game — against Turkey on Sunday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
That’s all for now and thanks for joining us. Let’s discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion that is on the way on NESN.com.
88th minute, 2-0 United States: The U.S. continues to push forward in search of goals, and it looks like Team USA might find a third or fourth.
The Americans are stretching Azerbaijan’s defense and finding space in areas of the field that were closed off for most of the first 75 minutes.
81st minute, 2-0 United States: Johannsson doubles the Americans’ pleasure.
U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) May 28, 2014
Davis sent a corner kick into the box, and Johannsson smashed home a header from a standing position five yards away from the Azerbaijan goal.
75th minute, 1-0 United States: Diskerud puts the U.S. on the board with 15 minutes left to play.
U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) May 28, 2014
The sequence started when Davis sent a free kick into the area. An Azeri defender’s clearance fell to Bradley, who shot first-time from 10 yards out. A defender cleared Bradley’s shot off the line, but Diskerud knocked it home.
73rd minute, 0-0: Budak goes down in a heap after colliding with Yedlin.
Yedlin looked like a ball of strength and energy as he barreled over the Azeri defender.
71st minute, 0-0: Diskerud replaces Bedoya in the United States’ sixth and final substitution.
69th minute, 0-0: The U.S. has lost its rhythm in the second half. It’s probably down a combination of the five substitutions and the heavy legs we referred to a few minutes ago.
62nd minute, 0-0: Yedlin and Johannsson are coming on for the United States in place of Johnson and Wondolowski, respectively.
58th minute, 0-0: The U.S. remains in control of the game, but recent misplaced passes and wayward shots suggest that the Americans are losing steam in the second half.
This is expected around the hour mark, as 12-days of triple sessions (during training camp) have worn down many American players.
48th minute, 0-0: The U.S. has another penalty appeal, and the referee makes another questionable call.
Davis was brought down just inside of the penalty area, but the referee awarded the free kick one yard outside of the Azerbaijan box.
46th minute, 0-0: The teams are allowed to make six substitutions in this exhibition. Klinsmann made half of them during the break.
Gonzalez replaces Cameron, Chandler is in Beasley’s place and Davis is subbed on for Zusi.
Halftime, 0-0: The first half is over, and the game is still goalless.
As expected, the United States seized control early on and dominated possession and territory for the first 45 minutes. Azerbaijan seems content to sit deep and defend in numbers and counter-attack — perhaps by Vogts’ and Klinsmann’s intelligent design — while the Americans prod and press with the ball. The U.S. is using its width well, as Johnson, Beasley, Zusi and Bedoya roam those areas, stretch the defense and delivery plenty of service into the Azerbaijan area.
Dempsey’s groin strain gives Wondolowski a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with the other starters from the opening whistle. The San Jose Earthquakes forward proved to be a lively goal threat and worthy partner with Altidore up front.
The U.S. looks sharp and confident, but Klinsmann likely will make a host of substitutions either at halftime or in the second half, as he gives other players a chance to impress.
37th minute, 0-0: The U.S. passing game is in full flow, and it nearly reaps the reward of a goal.
After a quick exchange of passes in the midfield, Bedoya shoots from distance, but Aghayev does well to make a low save.
30th minute, 0-0: Ramaldanov levels Bedoya, sending the U.S. midfielder to the turf.
Bedoya was down on the field for a few seconds but is now up and running again.
28th minute, 0-0: The U.S. has a penalty appeal after the ball appeared to hit an Azeri defender’s hand inside of the area. The referee allows play to continue.
20th minute, 0-0: The United States has settled into a nice rhythm and is putting Azerbaijan under pressure.
Bedoya, Zusi and Bradley are combining well with Altidore and Wondolowski, while fullbacks Beasley and Johnson push forward and give the U.S. numerical advantages in the wide areas.
15th minute, 0-0: Aghayev denies Wondolowski once again.
Bedoya played a cross into the Azerbaijan area. Wondolowski rose and delivered a powerful header from 10 yards out, but the Azeri goalkeeper parried his effort over the crossbar. It was the second great reflex save Aghayev has made on Wondolowski so far.
12th minute, 0-0: Shukurov hits a free kick (despite the fact that the wind blew the ball into motion) which sails a few inches wide of the top corner.
Seventh minute, 0-0: Javadov intercepts a poor pass in the midfield and fires from distance, forcing Howard to make a save.
Fourth minute, 0-0: Wondolowski nearly makes it a dream start for the U.S.
The chance came from a set piece. Zusi delivered a perfect ball into the Azerbaijan box and found an unmarked Wondolowski, whose diving header was turned away by goalkeeper Aghayev.
First minute, 0-0: The game is underway at Candlestick Park.
Kickoff: Dempsey has been pulled from the starting lineup.
Dempsey reportedly strained his groin, possibly during pregame warm-ups. Wondolowski will take his place in the first 11.
U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) May 28, 2014
Wondolowski played his way onto the U.S. World Cup team with strong showings — in the January training camp, the 2-0 victory over South Korea in early February and the May pre-World Cup training camp.
Tim Howard captains the United States in Dempsey’s absence.
Pregame: Let’s take a look at how the U.S. will set up against Azerbaijan.
There are two surprises on the back line: Johnson starts at right fullback, and Cameron is in the center. Johnson played left back (and some left midfield) throughout World Cup qualifying but played right back for his club, Hoffenheim, in the last 14 games of the 2013-14 German Bundesliga (first division) season. Klinsmann has been using Johsnon on the right during training camp. The head coach must like what he sees from the fleet-footed Johnson because he gets the nod over Chandler, Yedlin and even Cameron.
Cameron partners Besler in the middle. It could be that Cameron beat out Gonzalez (who started throughout the final round of CONCACAF qualifying) or the L.A. Galaxy defender isn’t 100 percent physically.
Bedoya lines up on the left side of the midfield diamond. If Klinsmann intends to use this formation at the World Cup, Bedoya might prove to be a better fit in this position than Diskerud, Davis or even Donovan.
We don’t know much about Azerbaijan’s lineup. Vogts’ team finished fourth in its 2014 World Cup qualifying group, behind Russia, Portugal and Israel. The Azeris have a sturdy defense, as they only conceded 11 goals in 10 World Cup qualifiers.
9 p.m.: Here are the lineups:
Tim Howard (1), goalkeeper
DaMarcus Beasley (7), left back
Matt Besler (5), center back
Geoff Cameron (20), center back
Fabian Johnson (23), right back
Jermaine Jones (13), midfielder
Michael Bradley (4), midfielder
Alejandro Bedoya (11), midfielder
Graham Zusi (19), midfielder
Clint Dempsey (8), forward
Jozy Altidore (9), striker
Brad Guzan (12), goalkeeeper
Nick Rimando (22), goalkeeper
Omar Gonzalez (3), defender
JOhn Anthony Brooks (6), defender
Tim Chandler (21), defender
DeAndre Yedlin (2), defender
Kyle Beckerman (15), midfielder
Brad Davis (14), midfielder
Mikkel Diskerud (10), midfielder
Julian Green (16), forward
Aaron Johannsson (9), striker
Chris Wondolowski (18), striker
Here’s how the U.S. is expected to line up against Azerbaijan.
U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) May 28, 2014
Kamran Aghayev (1), goalkeeper
Rasim Ramaldanov (3), defender
Mahir Shukurov (4), defender
Ufuk Budak (20), defender
Elvin Yunuszada (29), defender
Gara Garayev (8), midfielder
Ruslan Abishov (15), midfielder
Abdulla Abasiyev (24), midfielder
Vagif Javadov (7), forward
Rufat Dadashov (10), forward
Rauf Aliyev (11), forward
Salahat Aghayev (23), goalkeeper
Emil Balayev (12), goalkeeper
Badavi Guseynov (2), defender
Rashad Sadygov (14), defender
Badavi Huseynov (2), defender
Shahriyar Aliyev (5), defender
Maksim Medvedev (18), defender
Ilkin Girtimov (25), defender
Jihan Ozkara (9), forward
Dmitri Nazarov (13), forward
Pardis Fardjad-Azad (28), forward
6 p.m. ET: “Now the fun begins.”
That’s what U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper Tim Howard said on Monday, as he looked forward to his team’s first 2014 FIFA World Cup tune-up game.
The United States faces Azerbaijan on Tuesday night at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif. The exhibition game marks the end of the tryouts and the beginning of earnest preparations for the World Cup, which starts next month in Brazil.
The U.S. Soccer Federation chose Azerbaijan as its first opponent in its “Send-Off Series” for a reason. The 85th-ranked Azeris aren’t expected to beat or demoralize Team USA, which is coming off of an intenste, 12-day training camp, but they still must test the Americans. Azerbaijan is lead by head coach Berti Vogts, who also will serve as a special adviser to U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann through the World Cup. Vogts’ knowledge of both sides could ensure USA-Azerbaijan strikes that delicate balance.
While Klinsmann settled on the spine of his team a long time ago, plenty of lineup questions remain. It’s still unknown who will start in defense at the World Cup. USA-Azerbaijan could provide some clues. The game will also show how much Klinsmann’s team has moved on from the controversy surrounding Landon Donovan’s exclusion from the final 23-man roster.
The game kicks off at 10 p.m. ET. Join us right here for all the action from Candlestick Park.
Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 28, 2014