In the final match of the year, the U.S. Men’s National Team defeated Slovenia 3-2 on a foggy night at Stozice Stadium in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Led by captain Carlos Bocanegra making his 100th appearance for the Men’s National Team, the U.S. got off to a bright start and got all three goals in the first half from Edson Buddle, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
With the victory, Tim Howard moved into sole possession of second place all-time in victories for a U.S. goalkeeper with 38, surpassing Tony Meola.
Buddle opened the scoring in the ninth minute on a well-struck right-footed finish, but the lead did not last long as Tim Matavz equalized for Slovenia in the 26th minute. Dempsey pulled the U.S. ahead once again with a clinical header and Altidore tallied the eventual game-winner on a penalty kick late in the first half. Slovenia was able to pull one back in the second half with Matavz again providing the finish, but the U.S. was able to smartly kill off the match and earn its first victory in Europe in more than three years.
“It was an entertaining game,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “We saw again a lot of interesting things from our players that we wanted to see. As a group we are growing. We knew going into the locker room up 3-1 at halftime that it wasn’t finished. They proved that and caused us big problems. The team stood against it and tried to keep going forward and create more opportunities. There was a special atmosphere today because it was our captain’s 100 th game. It’s a very, very special moment, and the team wanted to do well for him. Obviously we are pleased with the result, but also the performance.”
Michael Bradley made a huge difference in orchestrating the midfield, and the pairing of Altidore and Buddle up front in the 4-4-2 opened up space. The U.S. fired off more shots on goal in the first half than were produced in the entire match against France last Friday.
In his first start for the U.S., Fabian Johnson made his presence felt right away as the midfielder hit the first shot less than a minute into the game. His attempt was saved by Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, but it was a precursor to the attacking mentality the U.S. showed in the first 45 minutes.
Eight minutes later, the U.S. captured a lead they would never relinquish after a miscue by the Slovenia defense allowed Buddle to hit an impressive strike from outside the penalty area. A careless touch by Darijan Matic at the top of his own penalty area allowed Dempsey to knock the ball away from the Slovenian defender. The ball fell to Buddle, who did well to bring it down with his chest and fire a right-footed drive off the post into the lower right corner.
The U.S. and Slovenia each made daring runs toward goal. Altidore had a close-range shot that went over the crossbar and a saved header. For the Slovenians, Matavz had a goal correctly disallowed for offside in the 20 th minute. Two more U.S. efforts from Dempsey and Buddle were flagged offside.
Matavz’s efforts finally paid off in the 26 th minute. Though he looked marginally offside when Zlatan Ljubijankic chipped him the ball, Matavz dribbled past the U.S. defense to go one-on-one with Howard and fired a shot into the top of the net from 12 yards.
Slovenia tried to capitalize on its momentum two minutes later when Josip Ilicic got into a dangerous position but curled his ball around the far post. Ilicic threatened the U.S. goal again in the 39 th minute, taking a free kick given from a Kyle Beckerman handball. Instead of serving the ball over the U.S. wall, Ilicic slipped a pass on the ground to the right and into the path of Miso Brecko, whose deep angle effort sailed past the far post and out of danger.
In the 41 st minute, Dempsey put the U.S. ahead once again when he lost his marker and got his head on a perfectly-weighted corner kick from Bradley. The goal was Dempsey’s 24th career strike, tying him for fourth all-time in goals scored for the United States along with Joe-Max Moore.
Less than two minutes later, the U.S. reinforced its lead thanks to a well-taken penalty by Altidore. Johnson drew the penalty when Brecko clipped the U.S. midfielder’s right foot and brought him down inside the box. Altidore stepped up and aimed for the lower left corner of the net, while Handanovic dove the wrong way.
The second half saw another early chance for Slovenia as the U.S. gave up possession, the ball falling straight into Valter Birsa’s path, but his effort hit the outside netting. Two minutes later, Matavz tried to double his tally, but despite an impressive run through the U.S. midfield, he could not get off a shot.
In the 55 th minute, the thick layer of fog proved an obstacle to the U.S.’s efforts in front of Slovenia’s goal. Steve Cherundolo made a great run down the right and sent in a cross. Altidore was open and signaling to the veteran defender, but Dempsey got there first and his sliding effort was blocked by Marko Suler in the box. The fog hindered the referee as well, who was unable to see that Suler got a hand on the ball.
The 61 st minute saw a flurry of activity in front of the U.S. goal, with a constant and relentless stream of Slovenia attacks. The ball hit the U.S. post twice in a matter of seconds before Matavz doubled Slovenia’s score. Ljubijankic found himself surrounded by three defenders and chipped the ball out to the unmarked Matavz, who slotted the ball past Howard.
Klinsmann made five changes during the second half, beginning with Brek Shea entering for Johnson in the 61 st minute. Maurice Edu came on for Buddle in the 77 th minute, and five minutes later, Danny Williams replaced Timmy Chandler. Jermaine Jones came on for Beckerman in the 90 th minute, and in the last minute of stoppage time, Bradley made way for Robbie Rogers.
After coming in for Johnson, Shea tried to make an impact with a few good balls from the left wing, but none of his efforts could restore the U.S.’s two-goal lead.
The last good chance of the game came for Slovenia in stoppage time after they earned a free kick in a dangerous area. Valter Birsa took the shot but sent it over the crossbar.
Bocanegra became the 12th U.S. Men’s National Team player in history to earn 100 caps for the U.S. MNT and the fourth defender to reach the milestone. Prior to the match, he received a crystal from the U.S. Soccer Federation and was presented with a jersey from the Slovenian team bearing his name and the number 100 on the back.
— U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report —
Match: USA vs. Slovenia
Date: Nov. 15, 2011
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Stozice Stadium – Ljubljana
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET
Weather: Foggy, 36 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
Slovenia 1 1 2
USA 3 0 3
USA – Edson Buddle (Clint Dempsey) 9th minute
SLV – Tim Matavž (Zlatan Ljubijankič) 26
USA – Clint Dempsey (Michael Bradley) 41
USA – Jozy Altidore (penalty kick) 43
SLV – Tim Matavž (Zlatan Ljubijankič) 61
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Steve Cherundolo, 4-Clarence Goodson, 5-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 3-Timmy Chandler (14-Danny Williams, 82); 6-Kyle Beckerman (16-Jermaine Jones, 90), 7-Michael Bradley (17- Robbie Rogers, 90+4), 8-Fabian Johnson (18-Brek Shea, 61), 10-Clint Dempsey; 9-Jozy Altidore, 11-Edson Buddle (15-Maurice Edu, 78)
Subs not used: 12-Bill Hamid, 13- Michael Orozco Fiscal
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
SVN: 1-Samir Handanovic; 2-Miso Brecko, 13-Bojan Jokic, 5-Bostjan Cesar, 15-Darijan Matič (18-Rene Krhin, 46); 20-Armin Bačinovič (8-Dejan Lazarevic, 88), 17-Andraz Kirm (21-Dare Vrsic, 70), 19-Josip Iličič (10-Valter Birsa, 46), 9-Zlatan Ljubijankič (7-Nejc Pecnik, 80); 23-Tim Matavž (14-Zlatko Dedic, 79), 4-Marko Šuler
Subs not used: 3-Miral Samardžić, 6-Branko Ilic, 11-Ales Mertelj, 12-Jasmin Handanovic, 16-Vid Belec
Head coach: Slavia Stojanovic
Stats Summary: USA / SVN
Shots: 11 / 14
Shots on Goal: 5 / 7
Saves: 4 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 9
Fouls: 15 / 10
Offside: 3 / 4
SVN – Nejc Pecnik (caution) 90th minute
USA – Jozy Altidore (caution) 90+5
Referee: Robert Schörgenhofer (AUT)
Assistant Referee 1: Armin Eder (AUT)
Assistant Referee 2: Matthias Winsauer (AUT)
Fourth Official: Dejan Balazic (SVN)
Man of the Match: Clint Dempsey