The U.S. national team fell to Ukraine 2-0 in Cyprus on Wednesday, as goals in either half from Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic inflicted defeat on Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.
Throughout the game the USA’s makeshift backline looked off the pace and Ukraine could have won by a more comfortable scoreline, with only Alejandro Bedoya and Jozy Altidore having half chances to score for the U.S. in a much brighter second half display.
In the first half Yarmaleko was found by Denys Garmash after a long ball over the top caught out U.S. central defenders John Brooks and Oguchi Onyewu as Ukraine took a 12th minute lead. Several other good chances fell the way of Ukraine, but it wasn’t until Devic’s strike in the 67th minute that the Eastern Europeans were out of sight. The U.S. did not look like dragging themselves back into the game, as Aron Johannsson’s volley was cleared off the line as the USMNT were easily shutout.
That said, it was only the USA’s third defeat in 19 games, as Klinsmann will have learned an awful lot from his squad as the build up to this summer’s World Cup continues.
(MORE: Three things we learned in USA’s defeat to Ukraine)
In an eerily silent Antonis Papadopoulos stadium in Cyprus, the U.S. started cautiously as Ukraine were fired up and ready to go.
And it took just 12 minutes for the “home” side to take the lead, as a defensive mix up saw Brooks play Ukraine midfielder Garmash onside and after his initial shot was saved, the ball fell to Yarmolenko to slot home easily and give Ukraine a 1-0 lead.
The U.S. backline looked shaky throughout a dominant first half from Ukraine, as time and time again dangerous balls saw the Eastern European side cause all kinds of problems for defenders Onyewu and Brooks.
In the 29th minute Yarmolenko got in behind Castillo at left back and surged towards the U.S. goal but took a little to long to settle himself before dragging his effort wide of Howard’s far post. Geoff Cameron was making some long runs from right back and delivered some inviting crosses in a timid first half from Klinsmann’s side. The only chance of real note for the U.S. came in the 40th minute as a corner was headed towards goal but Cameron couldn’t direct his effort on target.
(MORE: Emotional, poignant U.S. vs. Ukraine game reveals defiant Ukrainian spirit, as war looms)
After the interval the U.S. looked much better, as Kljestan clipped in a delightful ball that was knocked down to Bedoya at the back post and the Nantes midfielder rifled a volley towards goal which was heroically blocked by Ukraine. In the 50th minute Altidore then headed just over as a cross from the right saw the Sunderland man climb highest but failing to direct his effort on target.
That good start to the second half pepped up Klinsmann’s men as Bedoya fizzed an effort just wide and Clint Dempsey was thwarted by Ukraine ‘keeper Pyatov when clean through. Midway through the half Klinsmann made his first changes of the game, as Johannsson and Brek Shea came off the bench to try and add some extra attacking impetus as time was running out.
Just as the U.S. were beginning to dominate, another long ball over the top found substitute Devic who had his first effort brilliantly saved by Howard but the rebound was calmly tucked home to put Ukraine 2-0 ahead. Shea made some decent runs as he tried to get the U.S. back in the match after coming off the bench, but Yarmolenko almost scored his second and Ukraine’s third of the match with a cheeky lob from distance that Howard stumbled and then palmed clear. That chance came after another mishap from young U.S. defender Brooks as the German-American didn’t have a stellar outing.
The remainder of the game saw Klinsmann throw in some of his squad players, but the U.S. didn’t create any chances as they lost to Ukraine in a valuable learning experience before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
United States: Howard; Cameron, Onyewu, Brooks, Castillo (Shea, 64); Jones (Williams, 81), Kljestan (Johannsson, 64); Bedoya (Boyd, 90), Dempsey, Johnson; Altidore (Agudelo, 86)
Ukraine: Pyatov; Khacheridi, Shevchuk, Kucher, Fedetskiy; Tymoshchuk, Yarmolenko (Morozyuk, 90), Rotan (Edmar, 78), Konoplyanka (Gusev, 66), Garmash (Bezus, 46); Zozulya (Devic, 64)
Goals: Yarmolenko (12′), Devic (67′)