Revenge of a sort gave the US national team a win in their final match of 2011.
Edson Buddle, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore each scored in the first half as the United States defeated Slovenia, 3-2, on a foggy night at Stožice Stadium in Ljubljana. The two teams tied 2-2 under controversial circumstances during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where the US were denied a seemingly good late winner.
The Americans' trio of goals on this night were one more than their previous total in six games under the guidance of Jurgen Klinsmann. The win marked Klinsmann’s second victory in charge, taking his record as US manager to 2-4-1 in the final international match scheduled for 2011.
Carlos Bocanegra earned his 100th cap in the match, starting at center back and playing 90 minutes.
After six matches in a 4-5-1 formation, Klinsmann set up his side ina more traditional 4-4-2, inserting Buddle alongside Jozy Altidore in the attack. The move paid off early as Buddle struck from distance in the 9th minute. The US then conceded before scoring twice more via a Dempsey header and Altidore penalty kick. Slovenia pulled one back in the second half but couldn’t find an equalizer at home.
In a hint of what was to come during an active first 45 minutes, both sides registered legitimate scoring opportunities in the opening moments of the match.
Fabian Johnson was the first to put the ball on frame, forcing Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to push his well-struck shot over the bar. The home team answered with a header into the hands of Tim Howard before Buddle opened the scoring in the ninth minute.
Dempsey disrupted Slovenia’s play in the back at the top of the 18-yard box, challenging for a ball that popped out to Buddle and led to the opening goal. The striker took one touch with his thigh and smashed a right-footed shot on the half volley that bounced before hitting the inside of the post and nestling in the back of the net.
The Americans just missed an opportunity to double the lead two minutes later after Johnson set up Altidore in the six-yard box but the forward skied his point-blank shot over the crossbar. That miss gave Slovenia a chance to push back, and they took advantage of a defensive mistake to even the score.
With the U.S. playing a high line, the home side found space behind the American back line when Tim Matavz beat the offside trap and found himself one on one with Howard in the 26th minute. The PSV Eindhoven hitman made no mistake, curling the ball around the goalkeeper to even the score.
It took 15 minutes, but the US answered forcefully. Dempsey put the Americans back in the lead in the 41st minute when he freed himself in the box to head Michael Bradley’s corner kick inside the far post. The goal tied the striker with Joe-Max Moore for fourth all-time on the U.S. scoring list with 24.
Two minutes later, the visitor’s made it 3-1 from the penalty spot. Timmy Chandler slipped a pass to Johnson in the box, and Miso Brecko clipped the midfielder from behind, sending him to the ground. Altidore stepped up to take the spot kick and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Picking up right where they left off in the first half, the Americans put the pressure on Slovenia in the beginning of the second half with Dempsey and Johnson leading the way. The home side hit back, though, and had their chances but couldn’t get the final touch quite right.
The most dangerous moments came back-to-back in the 60th minute when Bostjan Cesar’s header hit the underside of the bar and a follow-up shot a few moments later slammed off the post. That pressure paid off just seconds later, however, when Matavz picked up the ball in the box, rounded Kyle Beckerman and calmly slotted past Howard and inside the back post to make it 3-2.
Both sides traded chances the rest of the way as each manager took full advantage of his substitute bench. And despite the first-half fireworks, the score line didn’t waver, giving the Americans an entertaining victory on European soil -- their first since 2009 -- to end the 2011 on a high note.
USA – Edson Buddle (unassisted) 9
SVN – Tim Matavz (Zlatan Ljubijankic) 26
USA – Clint Dempsey (Michael Bradley) 41
USA – Jozy Altidore (penalty kick) 43
SVN – Tim Matavz (Zlatan Ljubijankic) 60
SVN – Nejc Pecnik (caution; Reckless Foul) 90
Slovenia – Samir Handanovic, Miso Brecko, Bojan Jokic, Marko Suler, Bostjan Cesar, Josip Ilicic (Rene Krhin 45), Darjan Matic (Valter Birsa 45), Armin Bacinovic (Dejan Lazarevic 89), Andraz Kirm (Dare Vrsic 70), Zlatan Ljubijankic (Nejc Pecnik 80), Tim Matavz (Zlatko Dedic 79)
Substitutes Not Used: Vid Belec, Branko Ilic, Miral Samardzic, Ales Mertelj, Jasmin Handanovic
United States – Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, Fabian Johnson (Brek Shea 61), Timothy Chandler (Danny Williams 82), Kyle Beckerman (Jermaine Jones 90), Michael Bradley (Robbie Rogers 94+), Clint Dempsey, Edson Buddle (Maurice Edu 78), Jozy Altidore
Substitutes Not Used: Bill Hamid, Michael Orozco Fiscal