No Landon Donovan, no Taylor Twellman, no Brian Ching, no Eddie Johnson, yet still the U.S. scored four goals by four different players while officially generating just 10 shots. There were long spells of possession, crisp touches to escape midfield pressure and penetrate the attacking third, and a few dangerous crosses that missed connecting by margins that more tinkering and cohesion can eradicate. This was a tune-up, nothing more.
A sloppy equalizing goal blasted high into the net by Zhang Yaokun in the 15th minute sprinkled some nervousness onto a starting 11 featuring debutant Sacha Kljestan and four other players with five or fewer caps. Yet two of those with just a few caps, Michael Bradley (his fifth) and Benny Feilhaber (third), controlled much of the match in midfield, and Kljestan set up Feilhaber for the go-ahead goal with a lobbed ball Feilhaber looped over keeper Chen Dong and over the goalline just before charging Chinese defenders could reach it.
A blazing DaMarcus Beasley run in the ninth minute, after he'd twice earlier threatened the creaky Chinese back line, latched onto a great long ball from Bradley, who had just won possession with a crunching tackle in his own half. Dong's dive clipped Beasley, who stumbled before sliding to the ground and thus winning a penalty kick he dispatched himself with a fierce shot right down the middle.
The pace and cohesion of the U.S. play, both laterally and lengthwise, constantly stretched the game but bewildered Chinese. They never really solved the problem of balls played over and diagonally through their back line; the first two goals resulted from chips over the top, and twice in the second half Dong saved from Clint Dempsey after he'd been sent through alone.
China gave away too many set plays for the USA not to score again and it struck twice four minutes apart to blow the game open. Dempsey looped back post to head in Feilhaber's inswinging corner kick with a quarter-hour to play, and then the imposing Onyewu just overpowered his marker to crash home a Beasley free kick.
Tim Howard played the first half as the recently anointed No. 1 keeper and tipped away a dipping free kick with a superb fingertip save. He commanded his box with quick, decisive collections and catches. He shared some blame in the Chinese goal, not for the shot itself, but his failure moments before to deal with a floating ball that seemed to hang in the air forever before dropping at the edge of the goal area. A few second later, he flailed futilely as Yaokun's shot whizzed past him.
Spurred by the willingness of outside backs Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein to push the ball upfield at the right times and the ability of Feilhaber and Bradley to play early balls when possible, the U.S. seldom let China settle into a comfortable tempo. As the match wore on, Dempsey and Ante Razov found more and more space, as the Chinese tired and Dempsey took on more of a forward's role than the underneath slot he'd occupied at the outset in something resembling a 4-3-2-1 formation.
Rather than relying on bunkering tactics that at least a few CONCACAF teams will employ against the U.S. at the Gold Cup, China got into the game quickly, reacted bravely after going down a goal, and deserved its equalizer. It may have not erected an organized phalanx of resistance, but it did force the USA to play sharply and smartly -- on a tight field -- and carve out openings. Two goals from the run of play and two more from set plays are good results from a tuneup.
June 2, 2007 in San Jose, Calif.
USA 1 China 0
TEAM - Scorer (assist) minute
USA - DaMarcus Beasley (penalty kick) 10.
CHN - Zhang Yaokun (Wang Peng) 15.
USA - Benny Feilhaber (Sacha Kljestan) 28.
USA - Clint Dempsey (Benny Feilhaber) 75.
USA - Oguchi Onyewu (DaMarcus Beasley) 79.
USA --Tim Howard (Kasey Keller, 46); Jonathan Spector (Frank Simek, 74), Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), Jonathan Bornstein; Sacha Kljestan (Kamani Hill, 74), Benny Feilhaber (Jesse Marsch, 80), Michael Bradley; Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley (Lee Nguyen, 80); Ante Razov (Charlie Davies, 66)
CHINA --Chen Dong; Zhang Shuai, Zhang Yaokun, Xu Yunlong, Sun Xiang; Dong Fangzhuo (Zheng Bin, 67), Li Tie (Li Yan, 76), Zhao Xuri (Du Wenhui, 89), Wang Dong; Shao Jiayi (capt.), Wang Peng (7-Qu Bo, 59)
Stats Summary: USA CHINA
Shots 10 6
Saves 2 4
Corner Kicks 4 4
Fouls 18 11
Offside 8 3
CHN - Chen Dong (caution) 9.
USA - Michael Bradley (caution) 81.
Referee: Hugo Guajardo MEX)
1st Asst.: Arturo Velasquez (MEX)
2nd Asst.: Alfonso Horcasitas (MEX)
Fourth Official: Brian Hall (USA)