A friendly match in Cape Town brought together the recent hosts of the FIFA World Cup, South Africa, and the United States, a team still looking to take the next step in international competition. On this day, the Americans brought a team filled with youth and inexperience, and in the end, it was that youth which provided the desired outcome.
South Africa started in the 4-4-2 formation, with Davide Somma and Bernard Parker starting up front. Siphiwe Tshabalala provided much of the impetus as a wide midfielder, with Tsepo Masilela and Anele Ngcongca providing deep supporting movement.
The United States came out with only one striker, Robbie Findley, in a 4-4-1-1 style. Eddie Gaven played in the hole behind Findley, and the lineup contained a number of fresh faces. Tim Ream made his debut in a central defense role, while Eric Lichaj made only his second start for the American side. The team relied heavily on the experience of captain goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defenders Jonathan Bornstein and Clarence Goodson.
The first 20 minutes of the match were controlled primarily by the South Africans. At the 13th minute, Ngcongca was sprung free on a ball from Somma to the right, but Guzan directed the close-in shot wide. At the 20th minute, Tshabalala fed Parker entering the box, and again Guzan handled the shot well.
After that chance, the young United States squad began to gain confidence under control. Their best opportunity of the half came at the 22nd minute mark. Gaven fed Robbie Rogers at the top of the penalty area, and he issued a well-struck shot that goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune secured. Rogers was also central to another opportunity. At the 44th minute, he fought along the goal line, and moved the ball into the area. His aerial feed across the box found Bedoya’s head, but he redirected it high and wide.
The half drew to an end, and both clubs remained scoreless. South Africa had the better chances, but the United States was gaining momentum.
Coach Bob Bradley subbed out Findley to start the second half, bringing on newcomer Teal Bunbury. Bunbury’s insertion provided some zest. At the 55th minute, Bunbury received a pass from Eric Lichaj, and his low shot was solid but covered by Khune.
As the half wore on, the US had moved into the ascendency. Bradley made two key substitutions. 17 year old first-timer Juan Agudelo replaced Rogers in the 60th minute and moved upfront to pair with Bunbury. Gaven moved back into the position left by Rogers’ departure. Another newly-capped squad member, Mikkel Diskerud, relieved Bedoya at the 78th minute.
In the 85th minute, Bradley’s adjustments paid off. Agudelo received the ball 35 yds out, and found a breaking Diskerud onside entering the area. Diskerud brought the ball into the left side of the area, and returned a pass to Agudelo who had broken towards net. Agudelo controlled and thumped the ball just under the crossbar, which gave the United States the lead. Agudelo became the youngest player to have scored in an international match for the United States, and did so in his first match for the team.
South Africa made a desperate effort to equalize with the remaining time, but the United States defense held strong. The Americans came out the winners in this friendly match 1-0. The outcome was a vindication for Coach Bradley, who had picked a less experienced squad to face South Africa. In the end, it was a match decided by the youngsters.