U.S.-Australia: a Buddle double more than enough
Just a week remains before the U.S. opens World Cup play against highly touted England. But judging from their final tune-up match Saturday, the Americans might not be ready for the challenge.
With Edson Buddle scoring a pair of first-half goals and Herculez Gomez adding another in stoppage time, the U.S. beat Australia, 3-1, in a friendly that nonetheless got a bit chippy at times.
But it was the goals the U.S. should have scored and didn’t that must be of most concern to Coach Bob Bradley as he prepares for a foe as strong as England.
"Now that we have a regular week leading into a game, the concentration is [our] next opponent," U.S. Coach Bob Bradley said. "It will be a good week."
However, Bradley admitted his charges failed to finish off many of its best scoring chances against Australia.
After making the 45-minute drive from their high-altitude training base in Irene to the tiny Roodepoort Athletics Stadium near Johannesburg, the U.S. wasted little time getting on the scoreboard with Buddle blasting a right-footed rocket past keeper Mark Schwarzer less than five minutes into the game.
That score came after the Aussies gave the ball up deep in their own end and a dozen minutes later Robbie Findley had a chance to double the advantage, wiggling his way around Schwarzer only to push his shot just wide of the net.
That mistake allowed Australia to tie the score in the 19th minute when Tim Cahill beat U.S. keeper Tim Howard with a volley off a corner kick – a tie Schwarzer preserved, for a short time at least, with a diving fingertip save of Clint Dempsey following a long rush up the left side.
But that didn’t deter the Americans, it only delayed them with a beautiful Steve Cherundolo cross finally setting up L.A. Galaxy striker Buddle for another score, this one on a header, at 31 minutes.
The U.S. had a chance to extend the lead in first-half stoppage time when Landon Donovan sent a free kick curving into a scrum at the edge of the six-yard box. Dempsey eventually got a boot on the ball but his kick sailed high and wide. Then early in the second half, a diving header by Dempsey was waved off because of an offsides call at the end of a wild sequence in which one shot appeared to hit the crossbar and another was deflected wide by Schwarzer.
And later still, after Buddle had gotten behind the Australian defense and had only the goalie to beat, Donovan pushed a pass a little too far ahead and it rolled past the end line before Buddle could get to it.
Donovan made up for that in extra time, however, laying a pretty pass right on Gomez's foot for the final score.
Backup goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who came on following the intermission, was called on to save the lead no fewer than three times, the most spectacular coming with a splendid stop on Australia’s Mark Bresciano, whose strong shot from well inside the penalty area ricocheted off Hahnemann’s forearms early in the second half.
"All in all it was an excellent final preparation," Bradley said. "These things are always tricky with a week to go. For Australia and ourselves, this is exactly what we needed."
The U.S. played without Jozy Altidore, who is still nursing a mild sprain in his right ankle. And it started the game without Oguchi Onyewu. But he, as well as Jonathan Bornstein, DaMarcus Beasley, Hanhemann and Gomez came off the bench in the second half.
-- Kevin Baxter, reporting from Roodepoort, South Africa
Photo: America's Edson Buddle celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game against Australia on Saturday. Credit: Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images