USA Succumbs to Inspired Ukraine

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Before a sparse crowd, 18th ranked Ukraine played an inspired brand of football to stake a 2-0 victory over a lackluster United States side at Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca, Cyprus.

Andriy Yarmalenko opened the scoring in the 12th minute, while Marko Devic collected an insurance tally in the 68th minute.

Ukraine, who were originally set to host the match before civil unrest forced the match to be played in Cyprus, made themselves right at home on the green expanse at Papadopoulos Stadium.

Yarmalenko made his first bid at goal in the 10th minute when he ripped a hard shot from the flank that Tim Howard easily absorbed in front of frame.

But Howard wasn’t as fortunate the second time around. Yevhen Konoplyanka collected a long ball that beat the U.S. defense and fired a shot that was initially saved before the rebound squirted back to him. With Howard shielding his view, Konoplyanka deferred to Yamalenko, who easily buried it in the 12th minute.

A second Ukraine goal nearly appeared five minutes later when Yamarlenko pulled away from the U.S. defense and slotted it through, but only after the linesman raised his flag for offside.

The U.S. attempted to file a response in the 27th minute when Geoff Cameron sent a dangerous cross into the area for Altidore. But the Ukraine keeper came off his line to snuff out the opportunity.

A terror to the opposition backline all evening, Yamarlenko raced the right flank and fired a tough-angled shot that veered wide of the far post at the half hour mark.

Another wave of attacking football from Ukraine nearly resulted in a goal when Denys Garmash collected a ball inside the 18, but couldn’t neat Howard before deferring to Yamarlenko, was called offside.

The U.S. came out reborn after interval, with Alejandro Bedoya attempting to get on the board in the 49th minute. On a cross from Sacha Kljestan, the Boston College alumus brought it down and fired away, but the effort carried wide of frame.

Two minutes later, another chance opened up for the U.S. when Cameron found Altidore inside the 18. But the Sunderland striker’s header jumped over the bar.

Undeterred, the U.S. continued to pressure the Ukraine back four, and made another strong bid for the equalizer in the 53rd minute. Jermaine Jones sprung Clint Dempsey on a perfectly weighted ball into the attacking third that the Sounders striker nearly caught up to before the keeper dismantled it.

But the U.S. offense eventually fizzled out, and Ukraine took the cue to uncover the second goal that eluded them in the first half. Devic caught the backline flat-footed and went alone on Howard, who once again made the first save before it fell right back to the Ukraine midfielder, who finished it on the second try in the 68th minute.

The last opportunity a deflated U.S. side could find came in the 87th minute, when Aron Johansson expertly volleyed a Bedoya corner. But the high-velocity effort was cleared away, and not long after, the U.S. was forced to walk off the pitch with nothing to show for it.

The U.S. will return to action on Apr. 2 when they host Mexico at University of Phoenix Stadium in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com