The U.S. national team finished 2007 on a winning note with a 1-0 win over World Cup 2010 host South Africa Saturday in the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup.
A well-constructed goal by right back Steve Cherundolo highlighted a solid first-half performance by the United States, which finished the year with a 12-5-1 record.
Year-end victories at Switzerland and South Africa have put aside, at least for the time being, concerns prompted by a five-game losing streak after the victorious Gold Cup campaign.
The Americans, who had never won on African soil, adapted well in South Africa, where they will return in 2009 for the Confederations Cup -- and in 2010 if they qualify for the World Cup. They were unaffected by the altitude in Johannesburg, which is is 5,751 feet above sea level, and controlled play in the first half.
With the same three-man crew working in front of the backline -- Benny Feilhaber, Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley -- that started in the 1-0 win at Switzerland last month, the Americans were able to settle into the game at Ellis Park, the renowned rugby stadium.
The Americans worked on Ricardo Katza, the Bafana Bafana's shaky stand-in at left back, and scored in the 27th minute after a series of passes on the right side that involved Feilhaber, Freddy Adu, Bradley and Edu, the MLS Rookie of the Year who cut out three South African defenders with a through ball to the overlapping Cherundolo. The Hannover defender cut in from the right wing and beat South African goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez with an angled shot from eight yards out for only the second goal of his international career.
The complexion of the game changed drastically in the second half when the Bafana Bafana finally picked up the pace and attacked in waves, but they had nothing to show for their efforts. Despite outshooting the USA, 10-0, in the second half, South Africa didn't put a shot on the goal of Brad Guzan, a second-half substitute for Tim Howard.
U.S. coach Bob Bradley used all 17 players, including 18-year-old Jozy Altidore, who made his international debut. The squad was one of the youngest the USA has fielded in recent years. At 28, Cherundolo was the oldest player in the team.
"The result is important," said Bob Bradley. "We have some young players with us, so the experience to play in front of this kind of crowd and get a result is important. I thought Steve scored a very good goal, and we defended well as a group. To be able to maintain a lead in that type of atmosphere is a positive."
Nov. 17 in Johannesburg
South Africa 0 USA 1. Goal: Cherundolo 27.
South Africa -- Fernandez, Mere, Mokeona, Morris, Katza (Tshabalala, 71), Pienaar, Modise, Sibaya, Buckley, Zuma, McCarthy.
USA -- Howard (Guzan, 46), Cherundolo (Spector, 46), Onyewu, Bocanegra (Califf, 46), Pearce, Feilhaber (Bornstein, 86), Edu, Bradley, Beasley, Adu (Kljestan, 73), Dempsey (Altidore, 65).
Yellow cards: USA -- Feilhaber 83.
Referee: Eddie Maillet (Seychelles).
Shots: USA 3, South Africa 12.
Saves: USA 1, South Africa 1.
Corner Kicks: USA 2, South Africa 2.
Fouls: USA 9, South Africa 3.
Offside: USA 1, South Africa 1.