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In the last of their three friendlies leading up to the beginning of World Cup qualifying, US Soccer took on World #1 Argentina at Giants Stadium. After losses to England and Spain, to expect a loss from the US would not surprise anybody.
Very early on, it looked to be inevitable, as Argentina's offense burst from the gate. They were led by Lionel Messi, who played the first half of the match, joined up front by Julio Cruz and Sergio Aguero. Cruz got two great chances in the fifth minutes, when he got one-on-one with Tim Howard, only to see the Everton keeper stop both of his shots.
Howard played a brillant first half for the US, keeping the ball out of the net. Cruz in particular tested the New Jersey native, as he seemed to get past the US backline regularly. The best chance for Argentina came right before halftime, when Cruz again got loose and Howard again produced a great save.
The US would get a number of chances to score in the first half. Both Landon Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley played off each other well, and Clint Dempsey was able to find space out wide. The main problem for the US though is that Eddie Johnson is not at a world-class level, and attempts to get him to score proved futile.
After halftime, the Americans were running much smoother. The threat of Messi being lifted might have helped. However, no scoring was taking place.
Just as momentum was right, the match got ugly in the 72nd minute as US midfielder Pablo Mastroeni was red carded by the Salavadoran referee for no discernible reason. Although he would be joined in red card land by Javier Mascherano, it killed the game's momentum for about 15 minutes.
The US would get a few chances late due to the work of Donovan, Freddy Adu (who did not start and brought on in the 61st minute), and Sasha Klejstan (brought on after Mastroeni's sending off).
The draw with the Argentines should boost US confidence in the run up to the qualifiers against Barbados next week. Adu needs to be starting along with Donovan, as he provides a creative spark that is otherwise lacking in the US team. The key offensive problem comes at striker. I would rest Johnson and try something else up front. On defense, credit needs to be given to Heath Pearce at left back, who has kept improving in this role as he keeps getting time with the team.