By Ridge Mahoney
Senior Editor, Soccer America
As debuts go, it wasn't bad. As debutants go, it was great.
Jonathan Bornstein and Kenny Cooper celebrated their first USA caps with their first international goals as interim head coach Bob Bradley embarked on his tenure with a 3-1 win over Denmark at Home Depot Center Saturday afternoon.
The Danes initially looked the more polished of the two sides but as their legs grew heavier in the second half they succumbed to the sinuous pace of Justin Mapp, also receiving his first cap, and some slick ball movement sparked by central midfielders Ricardo Clark and Pablo Mastroeni.
Denmark relied on piercing runs down the flanks and crosses to test center backs Bobby Boswell and Jimmy Conrad; an excellent serve by Simon Busk Poulsen, perhaps the Danes' best performer on the day, found lone striker Dennis Sorensen free seven yards out from goal to nail a header off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
Sorsensen escaped Conrad on the play, one of the few times the USA's central defense was breached. Yet while the back line played solidly for most of the match, the American attack stagnated at the edge of the attacking third in the first half.
A three-forward alignment lacked cohesion, and Landon Donovan failed to convert turnovers into chances. Eddie Johnson labored lead-footedly before being replaced by Cooper in the 63rd minute and Donovan contributed little before putting away a penalty kick won when Clark fought his way through the middle and was jersey-jerked by Anders Moller Christensen. Keeper Jesper Christiansen got his glove to Donovan's penalty but the ball still snuck inside the post and the first half ended, 1-1.
Mapp replaced forward Nate Jaqua at halftime and sparked the attack while roaming across midfield, with Chris Rolfe moving up to the forward line he usually plays on for Chicago, and Clark and Mastroeni pushing higher to support the strikers.
Mapp set up Bornstein for the second goal with a breathtaking dribble; after he swept up a 50-50 ball in the center circle, he veered right toward the sideline, then darted back inside to split two defenders and cut back a ball from the goal line that Bornstein volleyed into the net.
The Danes pushed back up the field, anxious to get an equalizer while there was still life in their legs and menace in their crosses. A sprawling block by keeper Matt Reis blunted one attempt and a wide-open header sailed wide with Reis rooted to the ground.
Cooper sealed the win by running onto an excellent long ball from Heath Pearce, who'd come in at left back in the 74th minute with Bornstein moving into midfield. Cooper beat the offside trap and cruised into the penalty area to stroke a low shot past Christiansen just as the defenders lunged in.
With four players earning their first caps and five more making just their second USA appearances, the Americans showed some heart by rallying from a goal down even if Denmark sent an entirely domestic squad. The win was deserved and just reward for a hard 2 ½ weeks of work in camp, the first conducted with Bradley at the helm.
Jan. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USA 3 Denmark 1.
Goals: Donovan (pen.) 44, Bornstein (Mapp) 57, Cooper (Pearce) 80; Sorensen (S.B. Poulsen) 37.
USA -- Reis, Albright (Namoff, 63), Conrad, Boswell (Califf, 89), Bornstein, Mastroeni (Beckerman, 86), Clark, Donovan, Rolfe (Pearce, 74), Johnson (Cooper, 63), Jaqua (Mapp, 46)
Denmark -Christiansen, Gravgaard, Jacobsen, Christensen, C.Sorensen (C.Poulsen, 68), Jorgensen, Nymann (Keller, 46), Wurtz (Bak Nielsen, 81), Zimlig (Do Norregaard, 58), S.B.Poulsen (Nielsen, 68), Sorensen (Bech, 46)
Corner Kicks: 2-5
Yellow Cards:USA - Albright 33, Mastroeni 51, Cooper 81; Denmark -Jorgensen 54
Referee:Mauricio Navarro (CAN), 1st Asst.: Hector Vergara (CAN), 2nd Asst.: Simon Fearn (CAN), 4th Official: Baldomero Toledo (USA).