New England Soccer Today

Last second victory

For 90 minutes the U.S. Men’s National Team dominated play against Venezuela on Saturday night at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz, but couldn’t find the goal they needed to take the lead. Substitute Ricardo Clark finally had the answer with a stoppage time header to give the U.S. a deserved 1-0 victory.

Clark gave the U.S. the win with essentially the last kick of the game. The Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder got on the end of a Jermaine Jones corner kick just in front of the penalty spot and headed a low shot just inside the near post past ‘keeper Leonardo Morales to give the U.S. the win.

The U.S. played with a mostly MLS-based starting line-up featuring current New England Revolution star Benny Feilhaber as an attacking midfielder, along with former Revs Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz at center back and defensive midfielder, respectively. Parkhurst was partnered with Attleboro, Mass, native Geoff Cameron in the middle of the defense.

Despite much of the team playing together for the first time, the U.S. looked in control from the start. Venezuela was on the back foot from the opening whistle and looked ready to crack about 20 minutes into the match.

Teal Bunbury had the first chance for U.S. in the 19th minute. After getting the ball from Jones at the top of the box, Bunbury cut around his defender and curled a left footed shot just high of the net.

Feilhaber then set up Brek Shea for a great chance a minute later, threading a pass through the defense. Shea ran into the left side of the box, but sent his low shot just wide of the far post.

It was Shea again coming close in the 23rd minute. This time the speedy FC Dallas midfielder headed a free kick from Kansas City’s Graham Zusi towards the lower corner. His shot was tipped just wide by a diving Morales.

Zusi and Shea switched sides midway through the half and the U.S. struggled to create the same caliber of chances after that. The pair never looked as comfortable on the opposite wings and looked better in the second half after returning to their normal spots.

Jones probably should’ve put the U.S ahead just three minutes into the second half after Feilhaber dribbled to the end line and sent a cross through the box. Jones got on the end of the ball in space, but sent his shot from about 15 yards out wide of the net.

Substitute Chris Wondolowski nearly gave the U.S. the lead in the 76th minute, when a long ball from Jones bounced in the box. Wondolowski held off his defender and got to the ball, blasting a shot on frame from about 12 yards that Morales just managed to punch wide.

Morales did his best to keep the match scoreless with a brilliant save just three minutes before the end of regulation time. A cross from substitute Zach Loyd found Wondolowski who headed a low shot that looked targeted for just inside the post, but Morales somehow managed to tip it wide with a diving save.

But the U.S. would have the final say with Clark’s 97th minute strike, earning a victory in their first match of 2012 as they prepare for World Cup Qualifying in the summer.

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