Photo by Thomas Eisenhuth/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
A memorable year ended with a more than forgettable result.
The U.S. Men’s National Team closed out their successful 2013 with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Austria in a friendly at Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna on Tuesday. Marc Janko scored the game’s lone goal shortly after the half-hour mark, and the Americans failed to come up with a response despite having some decent looks on goal in the second half.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side initially looked to have taken the lead in the 17th minute, but a ball that was handled by Austria forward Marko Arnautovic towards his own goal was controversially deemed to not have completely crossed the goal line despite pleas to the contrary from U.S. players.
Those same U.S. players, deployed once again a 4-2-3-1 formation, found it difficult to break down Austria from the run of play and had to rely on set pieces for two of their more threatening goal-scoring opportunities. In addition to the Michael Bradley corner kick that led to Arnautovic’s mis-hit, Jozy Altidore fired a shot inches wide late in the first half following a dead-ball delivery from Bradley.
Chances were also had from the run of play in the second half, but the U.S. was not sharp enough in front of goal to make them count. Altidore hit a harmless 74th-minute shot at Austria goalkeeper Robert Almer, who also did well to deny right back Geoff Cameron’s close-range effort six minutes earlier and an Aron Johannsson blast from distance in the first half.
U.S. goalkeeper and captain Tim Howard and his defenders were tested more often throughout the 90 minutest than their Austrian counterparts. Howard made a number of routine saves against an Austria team, and added an incredible stop on the game’s final kick to prevent the U.S. from losing by a larger margin, but he could do little about Janko’s winner.
Austria found the back of the net on a well-worked sequence that exploited some subpar defending from Brek Shea, John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez. The ball was worked from midfield out to the right flank, where Gyorgy Garics took advantage of free space to hit a low cross that Janko thundered home after Brooks failed to clear the ball.
The Americans may have finished 2013 with two goal-less performances in Europe after settling for a scoreless draw in Scotland on Friday, but they still ended the calendar year having secured a 2014 World Cup berth and with a 16-4-3 record that marks one of the most successful years in U.S. Soccer history.
All American eyes will now turn towards the World Cup draw on Dec. 6 in Bahia, Brazil, as that is when the U.S. will find out which three nations it will be grouped with next summer.
What do you think of the U.S.’s 1-0 loss to Austria? Who impressed/disappointed you? Are you worried or confident heading into the World Cup year that is 2014?
Share your thoughts below.