DC United center back Steve Birnbaum was the hero with a 90th-minute header to give the U.S. MNT a 3-2 win over Iceland allowing the Americans to open the year on a positive note at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
The home team erased a pair of deficits on goals from Jozy Altidore and Michael Orozco to set the stage for Birnbaum’s late heroics.
With almost all of the players on both sides out of season, the match had something of the feel of a preseason friendly, which of course it was.
The U.S. opened strong but Iceland was first on the board when Kristina Steindorsson took advantage of a weak defensive header from Matt Besler and some ball watching by his teammates to beat Luis Robles with a deflected shot in the13th minute.
A slimmer looking Jozy Altidore finished nicely from Michael Bradley seven minutes later to level. Altidore looked lively throughout his 75-minute shift, with his much-discussed offseason training regimen earning good early reviews.
Jurgen Klinsmann handed national team debuts to Columbus Crew winger Ethan Finlay and 20-year-old FC Dallas midfielder/defender Kellyn Acosta from the start and Tony Tchani who debuted off the bench. Acosta started at fullback today and after a sometimes shaky opening 45, the U.S. U20 star showed well in the second half.
The biggest negative on the day was a disjointed effort by the U.S. back four, especially in the second half. Fullback Brad Evans picked up a slight knock was replaced by Birnbaum at the half with Michael Orozco moving wide and the DC man slotting in beside Matt Besler.
That trio never clicked with Iceland doing plenty of second half damage down Orozco’s flank and through the middle. With most of the U.S. defense standing and watching Michael Bradey argue a call with the referee Iceland made it 2-1 in the 48th minute on a gem from impressive debutante, Aron Sigurdarson and only subsequent poor finishing by the visitors kept the Yanks in the match.
Defenders Orozco and Birnbaum did contribute on the offensive side with Orozco equalizing in the 59th minute from a Birnbaum header and, of course, Birnbaum went on to score the winner.
It can be hard to read a lot into games like this but players that impressed included Lee Nguyen, who brought some badly needed creativity to the attack. Altidore showed good movement and Michael Bradley was clearly the best U.S. player on the day while a pair of late substitutes also made their mark.
Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe came into the match as a wide player but he spent much of his stint drifting inside where he did some damage.
Most impressive was Olympic hopeful Jerome Kiesewetter who entered the game along with fellow U23 striker Jordan Morris. In 15 minutes of action, the Stuttgart II man caught the eye with some dangerous runs, at one point delivering a fine cross that Nagbe might have finished.
It wasn’t a great performance by the U.S. but it is always nice to start the year off with a win. Next up is Canada on February 5th with Klinsmann likely to give some time to players who didn’t see the field today as the U.S. MNT continue to build for the year to come.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
ISL 1 1 2
ISL – Kristinn Steindorsson 13th minute
USA – Jozy Altidore (Michael Bradley) 20
ISL – Aron Sigurdarson 48
USA – Michael Orozco (Steve Birnbaum) 59
USA – Steve Birnbaum (Michael Bradley) 90
USA: 12-Luis Robles; 3-Brad Evans (15-Steve Birnbaum, 46), 19-Michael Orozco, 5-Matt Besler, 14-Kellyn Acosta; 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones (25-Tony Tchani, 71), 7-Ethan Finlay (6-Darlington Nagbe, 61), 16-Lee Nguyen; 9-Gyasi Zardes (18-Jerome Kiesewetter, 75), 17-Jozy Altidore (8-Jordan Morris, 75)
Subs Not Used: 22-David Bingham, 2-Eric Miller, 10-Mix Diskerud, 20-Wil Trapp, 23-Perry Kitchen
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
ISL: 1-Ogmundur Kristinsson; 2-Birkir Mar Saevarsson, 3-Hallgrimur Jonasson (4-Hjortur Hermannsson, 46), 5-Jon Gudni Fjoluson, 23-Ari Freyr Skulason (18-Aevar Ingi Johannesson, 84); 7-Aron Sigurdarson, 6-Gudmundur Thorarinsson (14-Diego Johannesson, 46), 8-Runar Mar Sigurjonsson, 17-Kristinn Steindorsson (15-Aron Elis Thrandarson, 46); 10-Arnor Smarason, 22-Eidur Smari Gudjohnsen (capt.) (11-Kjartan Henry Finnbogason, 71)
Subs Not Used: 12-Gunnleifur Gunnleifsson, 9-Gardar Gunnlaugsson
Head coach: Heimir Hallgrimsson and Lars Lagerback
Stats Summary: USA / ISL
Shots: 16 / 6
Shots on Goal: 5 / 3
Saves: 1 / 1
Corner Kicks: 8 / 2
Fouls: 7 / 8
Offside: 3 / 2
ISL – Jon Gudni Fjoluson (caution) 45th minute
USA – Darlington Nagbe (caution) 72