SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The U.S. National Team received a valuable lesson in learning how to crack open a defensive opponent on a blustery evening at Candlestick Park as they earned a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan off goals from Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson.
After 74 minutes of attacking frustration, Diskerud— temporarily donning the No. 10 jersey once worn by Galaxy forward Landon Donovan— put the Americans ahead. Just six minutes later, Johannsson doubled the Americans’ lead as the USMNT won their first game of the three match Send-Off Series that will lead into the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
LA Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez went 45 minutes in the victory appearing solid alongside regular national team partner Matt Besler.
The match had an ominous beginning, as U.S. captain Clint Dempsey was a pregame scratch after limping off during warm-ups with a groin injury only to be replaced by San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski. Given the opportunity to start, the San Jose Earthquakes forward was dynamic from the outset as he forced two saves from Azerbaijani goalkeeper Kamran Aghayev off headers around the six-yard box in the opening 15 minutes.
Following Wondolowski’s early looks on goal, the Americans appeared disjointed as they struggled to string together passes against an Azerbaijani side that seemed content to allow the USMNT ownership of the ball.
The Azerbaijanis held the Americans at the break and U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted to make there substitutions for the second half, bringing on Gonzalez, Brad Davis and Timmy Chandler to replace the trio of Geoff Cameron, Graham Zusi and DaMarcus Beasley.
Klinsmann’s changes provided little spark in the opening minutes of the second half and the USMNT boss again went to his bench, injecting Aron Johannsson and DeAndre Yedlin, and eventually Mix Diskerud around the hour mark.
The substitutions paid off in the 75th minute as Michael Bradley had an attempt cleared off the line only for the rebound to fall perfectly for Diskerud, who poked it home from five yards out for his third international goal. In the 81st minute, the Americans added to their lead when a Brad Davis corner found the head of an unmarked Johannsson, who put the match out of reach.
The United States will continue their Send-Off Series on June 1 when they take on Turkey at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. They’ll play their final match before departing for Brazil on June 7 against Nigeria at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.