GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 21: Not exactly one for the ages. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Again, it must be emphasized that the match was very much a B international, but the United States Men's National Team defeated Venezuela yesterday 1-0. The winner came on a very late corner kick, when Jermaine Jones' set piece reached Ricardo Clark, who headed the ball in the net in a very crowded box. The goal came very late in injury time, the 98th minute, and you may wonder why there was so much injury time. Venezuela's players certainly felt that way, as there was an announced four minutes of extra time, but it was clear that there needed to be additional time after the Venezuelans wasted time in order to force a draw. When it didn't work, they complained to the referee, to no avail.
To be fair, the game was frequently very ugly, and neither team looked like it would really take charge, although the USMNT really attacked and Venezuela was content to sit back and defend. The problem for the U.S. was that their chances were awkward, rusty, and too often inaccurate. A win is a win, as they say, but this was about as ugly as it gets. It was interesting to see the shades of different styles among the countries. I am averse to stereotypes based on national origin, but in addition to the time-wasting throughout the second half and especially in injury time, they kept the Americans waiting at the restart. The USMNT was ready to go, and the television cameras showed them staring nervously around, wondering when their opponents would be coming out. Then la vinotinto made their dramatic entrance. For many American fans, it was strange and disrespectful. For the Venezuelans, it was simply how it's done in South America.
Meanwhile, Alejandro Moreno captained Venezuela on the night, and put in 86 minutes. He really didn't see the ball very much, as the U.S. had the majority of the possession, and he was sort of marooned up top. Towards the end of the match, he had a patented stretch where he tried to draw a foul, and kept battling to draw a foul before the ball ended up out of bounds for a goal kick. The other main event for Moreno on the night was jawing with San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski in the second half during a stoppage in play for an injury to a Venezuelan player. I like to think of it as a flare-up of the NorCal-SoCal rivalry.
Next for Venezuela is another friendly against Mexico, in Houston, while the USMNT travels to Panama to take on, you guessed it, Panama. Both games are on Wednesday. We'll see how much time our Goats get in those respective games and if the performances will be a bit sharper the second time around.
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