On Friday night, the United States national team took the field for the first time since their disappointing fourth place finish during last summer’s Gold Cup. Lining up against the Stars and Stripes was Peru, who were coming off of a fantastic third place run in CONMEBOL’s Copa América but were missing key players in attack. For the U.S., the match against their South American opponents provided fringe players on the roster with a chance to impress Jurgen Klinsmann enough to earn a spot for October’s CONCACAF Cup match against Mexico.
After a cagey start to the match, where both clubs were just trying to settle into a rhythm, Peru began to assert their dominance on the match. Ricardo Gareca’s men seemed to have a pace and desire that the Americans couldn’t match, and it seemed an opening goal wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Peru’s opener came in the 20th minute and one of the U.S. players fighting for their spot looked to be at blame. Daniel Chavez received the ball at the top of the box, and Omar Gonzalez hesitated in his tackle allowing the Peruvian forward to rip a shot. The Galaxy defender inadvertently deflected the shot, and the resulting looped effort dropped just beyond Brad Guzan’s reach and into the back of the net.
The Peru goal seemed to spark Klinsmann’s men and the remaining 20 minutes saw the Americans press up the field and show some of their offensive prowess. The U.S.’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes came courtesy of Jermaine Jones in the 39th minute. The New England Revolution midfielder, who hadn’t played for the national team since February, gathered the ball nearly 30 yards away from net and took an ambitious effort that nearly found its way into the net, but an acrobatic save from Pedro Gallese kept the visitors ahead going into the break.
After their disappointing first half, the Americans came out fighting in the second 45 minutes. Jozy Altidore, who had been held relatively quiet earlier in the match, flashed a little bit of magic in the 58th minute as he flicked the ball over his defender, Carlos Zambrano, in the penalty area and the Peruvian defender was forced to drag down Altidore giving the Americans a golden chance to equalize. Altidore claimed the spot kick and after his initial effort was saved, he showed great composure in following in the rebound and putting the ball in the net. The gritty goal was the 25-year-old’s 29th for the U.S..
The most dramatic exchange of the match came less than ten minutes after Altidore’s equalizer as a Peruvian setpiece forced Brad Guzan to make two saves on the goal line. The resulting American possession showcased the speed they possess on the wings as DeAndre Yedlin, who just joined Sunderland on a season-long loan, raced to the ball on the edge of the area, and expertly cut past his defender. Yedlin’s attempted pass to a wide-open Altidore took just a second too long, but Gyasi Zardes managed to pick the ball up and swing in a shot/cross that eventually found Altidore just yards away from the net and the Toronto FC striker promptly put in his second of the night and gave the U.S. a much needed 2-1 victory.
This hard-fought victory can serve as a big confidence boost for some of the American players, particularly defender Tim Ream. The Fulham defender has found chances in Klinsmann’s side hard to come by as of late, and his brilliant performance against the pacey strikers of Peru will make it a lot more difficult to exclude him from any upcoming squads. Other than the slow start to the match, the Americans looked confident in attack and if Jozy Altidore can carry this two-goal performance into the next couple friendlies, he can be a real attacking threat against a tough Mexican team come October.