Posted November 15, 2013

As it happened: Scotland 0, USA 0 (and European qualifying playoffs)

International Soccer, Jurgen Klinsmann, U.S. men's national team, U.S. Soccer
Sacha Kljestan fights for the ball in the USA's friendly against Scotland. (Scott Heppell/AP)

Sacha Kljestan fights for possession in the USA’s friendly against Scotland. (Scott Heppell/AP)

Fresh off finishing first in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Hexagonal, clinching a place at this coming summer’s World Cup all while keeping rival Mexico’s World Cup hopes alive, the U.S. men’s national team takes on Scotland in a rematch of the May 2012 encounter that the USA won 5-1 in Jacksonville, Fla. (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2/UniMas).

Jurgen Klinsmann’s side is without captain Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, as both are nursing injuries, with Dempsey’s coming while training ahead of the match. Fabian Johnson is out hurt as well, meaning that the potential opportunity for fringe World Cup players to state their case has presented itself.

We’ll be bringing you all of the action from the first of two USA friendlies in Europe in a five-day span, as the Americans look to close out a landmark 2013 in successful fashion.

And if you’re looking for updates on the crucial European World Cup qualifying playoff first legs, fear not, as we’ll be throwing scores your way throughout. Let’s get it started:

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That’ll do it for us for now, but check Planet Futbol and SI.com for reaction from this friendly and the European World Cup qualifying playoffs. Thanks for following along!

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And there’s the final whistle. Apologies if you were expecting goals. They did not come. Scotland 0, USA 0.

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90th minute – Jozy Altidore’s game will end without a goal, as Terrence Boyd replaces him. Came close on one blast from distance and nearly deflected in the go-ahead strike, but much like his Sunderland performances, a lot of work for nothing.

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89th minute – The sure-handed Howard snares Mulgrew’s long, bouncing free kick. Top showing for Howard, coming up aces the rare times he has been tested.

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For a guy who doesn’t play for his club, Shea certainly is bringing his usual element to the table as if he is in form. Don’t know that was the right pass to make, but he’s been making things happen down the left-hand side.

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85th minute – JOHANNSSON FIRES WIDE!! Brek Shea with a darting run down the left and cutback pass, instead of cross through the area, and Johannsson just missed the mark. Sure seems like the USA is getting closer and closer to finding that breakthough.

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83rd minute – CLOSE FOR THE USA!! First a nice diving save by Marshall on a shot by Johannsson, and then Hanley’s desperate defending had the ball deflect off Altidore and go over for a goal kick. Wow.

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82nd minute – Close chance for the USA as Johannsson muscles his way into possession and plays Altidore wide right, but the return pass was just out of his reach in the area.

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81st minute – Chris Wondolowski comes on for Alejandro Bedoya. Solid flashes from Bedoya but nothing definitive. Did enough to merit another start on Tuesday, I’d think.

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80th minute – OK, all focus is on the USA now, with 10+ minutes to go to find a winner, or at least something to build off heading into Tuesday’s match against Austria.

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FINAL SCORE: Ukraine 2, France 0. The screws absolutely came loose for France, with Laurent Koscielny foolishly getting sent off. Ukraine halfway to pulling off the shocker, though Aleksandr Kucher got sent off as well in the final stages.

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77th minute – That CERTAINLY could have been a handball call on Scotland as Shea attempts a cross in from the left, but instead it’s just whistled for a corner kick. Nothing comes of it.

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FINAL SCORE: Greece 3, Romania 1. The Greeks have one foot in Brazil, though that away goal could certainly come into play.

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71st minute – Johannsson with a beautiful cutback move to get by his defender down in the right corner, but then his cross can’t find a teammate in the box. Meanwhile, the Mohawked Eric Lichaj makes his official return to the U.S. national team replacing Brad Evans for his first cap under Klinsmann and first since the 2011 Gold Cup final. Long overdue.

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FINAL SCORE: Portugal 1, Sweden 0. Ronaldo wins it for Portugal, which will take the narrowest of leads into the second leg on the road.

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68th minute – USA in a 4-4-2 with Johannsson and Altidore leading the line up top. It’s like a “This Is Your Life” episode for Altidore tonight, first going up against his current teammate Fletcher, now teaming with former AZ Alkmaar teammate Johannsson.

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And Ronaldo HITS THE BAR on a header! Wow. Nearly had his second, which would’ve put Sweden in a two-goal hole. Still 1-0 there, but UKRAINE TAKES A 2-0 LEAD ON FRANCE!! From the penalty spot! Oh my.

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62nd minute – Welp, triple sub time for Klinsmann. Jermaine Jones, Eddie Johnson and Sacha Kljestan come off. Aron Johannsson, Mix Diskerud, Brek Shea come on. Line change.

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58th minute – ALTIDORE COMES CLOSE!!! Just misses the left post from the top of the box! USA starting to find its second-half mojo in the attack.

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EUROPEAN UPDATE: GOAL CRISTIANO RONALDO! Portugal 1, Sweden 0!

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53rd minute – SAVE TIM HOWARD!!! Snodgrass tests Howard with a free kick after a careless Cameron foul in the final third, and the Everton No. 1 made a lunging, full extension save to keep this scoreless.

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Words from Jurgen Klinsmann at halftime (provided by U.S. Soccer): “We want more urgency, more tempo. We adjusted to their rhythm and that’s not good for us.”

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50th minute – Another shaky moment for Evans as he goes to ground and takes out Conway down the left flank. No card given, but it sets up Scotland for a dangerous free kick. Designed play doesn’t trouble Howard too much, though.

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49th minute – SHOT ON GOAL ALERT!!! Jozy Altidore puts on one frame, but saved easily.

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Greece scores again! 3-1 to the Greeks! And what a goal it was, though it took a deflection. Tremendous volley by Mitroglou after a flicked-on header for his second goal of the game. Greece looking good for Brazil, though Romania has an away goal.

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If you follow @BrianStraus, you’d already know: The U.S. has played 5 games since the Gold Cup (this is 6th). U.S. outscored 1-5 in first half, outscored opposition 11-3 in second half.

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EUROPEAN UPDATE: Host Ukraine has taken a lead on France through Roman Zozulya! Les Bleus facing an uphill climb.

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The USA’s subs available are: Lichaj, John Brooks, Mix Diskerud, Aron Johannsson, Michael Orozco, Terrence Boyd, Chris Wondolowski, Brek Shea & Sean Johnson. Bill Hamid not in uniform today.

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HT: Wouldn’t mind seeing Eric Lichaj get his shot at right back over these final 45 minutes. Brad Evans has had a very unsure match thus far. He gave the USA what it needed during the summer months, but the questions over whether he is a World Cup-caliber right back will persist.

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45th minute – And mercifully, that half has come to an end. Scotland 0, USA 0.

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FINAL SCORE: Iceland 0, Croatia 0. Iceland holds on with 10 men, as their home stadium goes wild, setting up a VERY intriguing second leg in Zagreb on Tuesday. Preventing Croatia from notching an away goal was clutch. Very manageable result.

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39th minute – Brad Evans turns in an illegal throw. Yep, it’s been that kind of game.

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CLOSE FOR CONWAY!! JUST missed a wide open chance inside the area after Steven Fletcher did extremely well to get between Gonzalez and Cameron, turn and find the unmarked man streaking into the area. Best chance of the game. So much for the shots from distance.

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35th minute – Snodgrass lofts another Scotland chance high and out for a goal kick. If finesse shots from distance are going to be Scotland’s main weapon, then Tim Howard may have himself an easy night.

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33rd minute – Tremendous hustle play by Alejandro Bedoya to track down an over-hit ball by Bradley, slide tackle the ball by the corner to keep it in play and hit it off his defender and win a corner kick. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference for a coach.

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Half an hour in, and nobody would blame you if you’re getting that mid-afternoon-on-a-Friday malaise. Not a ton to write home about in the early stages, more of a sparring match than anything else.

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28th minute – Bradley picks out Bedoya with a well-weighted ball over the top, but he’s just offside. Bradley looking sharp in his USA return after his ankle injury.

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The three non-Iceland games are all at halftime. Ukraine-France 0-0, Portugal-Sweden 0-0 (with action galore) and Greece up 2-1 on Romania.

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24th minute – MULGREW curls his chance over the bar. Had the curve, just not enough dip. Still 0-0.

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23rd minute – Omar Gonzalez forced to foul Fletcher in a dangerous area, about 23 yards out from goal at a slight right-sided angle.

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LA Galaxy forward and MLS MVP candidate Robbie Keane has scored a 22nd-minute goal for Ireland, which leads Latvia, 1-0, in a friendly in Dublin. It’s Keane’s 62nd international goal.

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ICELAND UPDATE: Everyone’s European darling is still scoreless with Croatia at home in the 71st minute. Wonder what is going through Aron Johannsson’s head today. Have to imagine he has some emotional stake in Iceland’s fortunes.

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19th minute — USA starting to press more as Altidore holds up in the Scotland box and lays it off for Beasley, whose cross gets chested out for a corner. Bradley’s set piece comes to nothing, though.

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17th minute – ALMOST a chance for Eddie Johnson off a feed from Altidore, as the duo and Sacha Kljestan go triangle passing before Scotland intervened inside the area before Johnson could get to the final pass. Solid early showing from Kljestan in a new role with the national team.

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Rumor has it that Sunderland coach Gus Poyet is in the building at Hampden Park watching his two strikers, who have yet to match their scoring expectations on the club level, yet are leading the lines for their respective countries tonight.

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13th minute – Altidore with a WICKED volley that takes off and flies well high after a Bradley free kick. Omar Gonzalez latched onto the long-range kick, headed it across the box toward Kljestan, who laid it off for Altidore at the top of the area. Promising chemistry.

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11th minute – Snodgrass with a clever chip off the outside of his foot seeking out Fletcher behind Gonzalez in the USA box, but the Sunderland man’s header is high and off target.

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11th minute – Things to watch from a USA standpoint: The Omar Gonzalez-Geoff Cameron tandem in central defense, which has been used infrequently; Sacha Kljestan starting in an attacking midfield role while in the midst of his most successful scoring season of his career; Alejandro Bedoya looking to continue his run of form and carry more momentum toward a potential place in Brazil.

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7th minute – Scotland passing well, combining confidently ahead of Conway’s chance that goes lofted over the bar. Strong start for the hosts.

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Scotland already faring better in this one than it did last May. Donovan scored in the 3rd minute in that one.

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Pretty sure Tim Howard could qualify for the Boston Red Sox playoff roster with that beard. Fierce.

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3rd minute – Steven Fletcher blasts Scotland’s first chance high after latching onto a Geoff Cameron clearance attempt.

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Iceland down to 10 men against Croatia. As if the underdogs needed the odds stacked against them even more.

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And now Greece goes ahead! Might want to grab a split screen for that one. Dimitris Salpingidis with the go-ahead goal. Two goals in one game for Greece? That a new record?

Meanwhile, the USA is underway rocking the all-white kits.

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Scotland-USA about to kick off…just as Romania ties Greece! HUGE away goal for the Romanians. Bogdan Stancu with the equalizer.

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USA fans have made the trip for this one, as evidenced by this photo from U.S. Soccer:

USA fans

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EUROPEAN UPDATE: Greece goes ahead of Romania 1-0 in the 14th minute through Kostas Mitroglou. First European goal of the day. Croatia and Iceland are tied at halftime, Portugal-Sweden, Ukraine-France still scoreless in the first half.

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The U.S. is 2-3-2 all-time against Scotland, but is 2-0-2 in the past four games dating back to 1996. The Americans have played on Scottish soil twice, losing 6-0 in 1952 and tying 1-1 in 2005. The U.S. goal scorer that day was Josh Wolff.

Landon Donovan tallied a hat trick and Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones scored as well in the 5-1 win over Scotland last May.

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In other words, it’s the battle of the Sunderland strikers today.

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Scotland will line up as follows, per its FA:

Goalkeeper: David Marshall (Coventry)

Defenders: Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Steven Whittaker (Norwich City), Gordon Greer (Brighton & Hove), Grant Hanley (Blackburn), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic)

Midfielders: Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City), Barry Bannan (Crystal Palace), Scott Brown (Celtic), Craig Conway (Brighton & Hove)

Forwards: Steven Fletcher (Sunderland)

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It should be an emotional evening for U.S. starters Bedoya and Beasley, who spent time at Glasgow power Rangers FC. Beasley spent three seasons at the Ibrox before leaving in the summer of 2010. He won two league titles. Bedoya joined in the summer of 2011 and scored once, but he left the following year (along with Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu) when the club’s bankruptcy and liquidation resulted in relegation to the fourth division. He has since enjoyed a return to top form with French Ligue 1 side Nantes.

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There’s no use continuing to pretend that FIFA rankings aren’t important. So here they are. The U.S. has been rated 13th for the past two months – its highest rank since July 2010. Scotland is 35th (21st in Europe) after soaring 28 places from its September spot. A World Cup qualifying win over Croatia fueled the rise.

Despite soccer’s storied history in Scotland, the national team never has advanced past the first round of a World Cup and has missed the past eight major tournaments. It’s most recent World Cup appearance came back in 1998, when it went 0-2-1 in France. It last played in the European Championship in 1996.

Scotland is coached by Gordon Strachan, who took over in January and has led his country to a 4-4-0 record. (By contrast, the U.S. has played 21 times this year.) Strachan, 56, previously coached Coventry City, Southampton, Celtic FC (where he won three Scottish Premier League titles) and Middlesbrough.

Asked his opinion of the U.S., Strachan answered offered a typically European answer.

‘When they put their minds to something they can do it well,” Strachan told reporters. “If you look at the nation as a whole, in sports, they have great athletes. They have brought that athletic style to their football, with no lack of ability. They have improved tremendously. It has been great at grass roots for the last 40 years but because their players are getting about in Europe and the rest of the world, it has improved them all-round as players.”

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From our Brian Straus: There are no surprises in the back seven. Up front, Klinsmann has decided against trying Jozy Altidore alongside Aron Johannsson and instead will rely on Eddie Johnson and Alejandro Bedoya to link the midfield with a lone frontrunner. Ensuring Altidore doesn’t get isolated will be key. Friday represents a huge opportunity for Kljestan, who will make only his third start for the U.S. this year.

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Here is how Jurgen Klinsmann is deploying his charges today, courtesy of U.S. Soccer:

US-Lineup

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The Last Time They Met: USA 5, Scotland 1

5 comments
MichaelMcPherson
MichaelMcPherson

I want everyone to watch Beasley. Every single time he gets the ball he immediately turns around and goes BACKWARDS.

MichaelMcPherson
MichaelMcPherson

I wonder what species of farm animal DaMarcus Beasley captured on film with a naked Jurgen Klinsmann? A goat? A pig? A chicken? That has to be the reason Beasley is within 100 yards of a soccer pitch. He is GARBAGE and has played like crap for years now.

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

So basically a B+/B squad at best.  I'll take the results with a grain of salt in that regard.  A big victory there will tell me that we're doing well but a bad loss will make me nervous.  A tie tells me very little about our team at this point in time.

JoelHardman
JoelHardman

Fabian Johnson is a big missing piece.  Look back at how many goals in 2013 have come directly from his deep runs down the left side.  Also, hope to see EJ subbed out at half for AJ.

RickPotts
RickPotts

@MichaelMcPherson Gee, tell us how you really feel about Beasley.  Maybe we were watching different games.  I saw Beezer get forward quite a bit.