The USMNT traveled to Aarhus, Denmark Wednesday night to take on a tough Danish side. With players like Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, and Clint Dempsey (injury) not on the roster for Jürgen Klinsmann’s side, many fans were curious to see how the Yanks would stand up against their European competition. Klinsmann lined his men up in a 4-4-2 to start with Fabian Johnson switching from right back to the left side of the midfield. The forward partnership of former teammates Aron Johannsson and Jozy Altidore was the main point of focus for fans as they look for a possible Dempsey replacement.
For the majority of the first half, Denmark dominated the chances and possession. Christian Eriksen and company were unlucky not to grab the lead within the first 20 minutes of the match as crosses from Michael Krohn Dehli and poor defensive turnovers from Timothy Chandler and Greg Garza lead to golden opportunities. Completely against the run of play, a Chandler long ball allowed Altidore to muscle past a shaky Danish defense and power a volley past Stephan Andersen to put the Yanks ahead in the 19th minute.
The goal seemed to energize an otherwise hapless performance from the Americans but Denmark still looked the superior side. Johannsson couldn’t buy a touch on the ball and Michael Bradley looked overwhelmed in the midfield. The defensive lapses finally caught up to the visitors as some well worked build-up play on the right wing found a completely unguarded Nicklas Bendtner in the six-yard-box to level the score in the 33rd minute and finish the scoring for the first half.
It was almost a disastrous start to the last 45 minutes of the match for the US as miscommunication and poor clearances from the back line gifted two chances to the hosts right off the bat. The American side did look better in the second half, however, with the midfield finally maintaining periods of possession and feeding Altidore and Johannsson in attack. Bradley, who captained the side for the first time in his career, proved the catalyst for his side when his pinpointed through ball found Altidore who gave the final pass for Johannsson to put the Red, White and Blue ahead in the 66th minute.
Wind speed increased and the pitch continued to get soaked from the rainfall as the match dragged on. No clear-cut chances fell to any side for the majority of the second half, and both teams looked unable to establish a rhythm as countless substitutions changed the playing field. It looked like the Americans were going to escape Aarhus with an undeserved but hard-earned victory until Bendtner once again found himself in the goal after a scramble inside the 18-yard-box from a set piece in 83rd minute to equalize for a second time.
The remaining ten minutes of the match saw the Danes dominate in attack. In the first minute of injury time, the pressure finally paid off as Bendtner completed his hat trick, courtesy of an amazing ball from Eriksen, and put in the final strike of the night to give Denmark a 3-2 victory. John Brooks almost recreated his World Cup moment of magic when he found himself on the end of a Michael Bradley free kick in the last minute of play, but his header flew just wide of Andersen’s goal.
Anxiety about the US back line will only grow after this result. Other than the clean sheet against Panama, the Americans have given up at least three goals in three of their last four matches. A lot of these goals have come due to the US continually giving the ball away in dangerous areas on defense, as well as failures to communicate between the back line. If Klinsmann wants to win the Gold Cup this summer, he will need to find a reliable center back pairing to go in front of Brad Guzan and also drill into the players’ heads the need to not give the opponent easy chances off of giveaways.