Agudelo scores as USA defeat South Africa
In a match that saw five Americans earn their first cap, 17-year-old New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo became the youngest player to score for the US national team in a 1-0 victory over South Africa on Wednesday.
The win ensured the US finished 2010 on a high note as they edged past the hosts in front of 55,000 vuvuzela-blowing fans at the Nelson Mandela Challenge in Cape Town's Green Point Stadium.
Agudelo was among three MLSers to debut for Bob Bradley's side, with the Kansas City Wizards' Teal Bunbury entering in the second half and Agudelo's Red Bulls teammate Tim Ream earning a start. There were six MLS players in Bradley's first XI.
Agudelo's match-winner came in the 85th minute after a beautiful give-and-go. Agudelo found fellow debutant Mikkel Diskerud in the box with two defenders closing in. The midfielder deftly drew the ball back before giving a return pass to the streaking striker. He played off his thigh before roofing a shot past the onrushing goalkeeper.
Chances were few and far between in the first half. A more experienced South African side held the majority of possession early as the US struggled to keep the ball. Ream and Clarence Goodson kept the back line organized, however, and Bafana Bafana couldn't break through. Bernard Parker had the best chance, but Brad Guzan stoned the striker after he beat the New York Red Bulls center back into the box.
Two minutes later, the Crew's Robbie Rogers had a clear look at goal, but his blast went straight into the arms of Itumeleng Khune.
In the 33rd minute, Eric Lichaj, who earned his first start and marked Siphiwe Tshabalala out of the match, saw yellow for a reckless challenge on the man who opened the scoring during the 2010 World Cup.
At halftime, Bradley brought on Bunbury for a largely anonymous Robbie Findley and Jonathan Spector replaced Jonathan Bornstein.
Immediately after the break, the away side — led by the creativity of Bunbury — had the better chances while South Africa appeared out of ideas. Khune was up to the task though, as he easily saved two American shots.
The rest of the match was notable for a plethora of substitutions but little else until very late. At the hour mark, Pitso Mosimane brought on Sthembiso Ngcobo and Andile Jali for Davide Somma and Kagisho Dikgacoi, while Bradley countered by giving Agudelo an early 18th birthday present. Seven minutes later, RSL's Nat Borchers replaced Ream.
Diskerud became the fourth American in the match to earn his first cap, taking out Alejandro Bedoya in the 78th minute. At the same time, Steven Pienaar was replaced in favor of Siboniso Gaxa.
Gale Agbossoumonde joined the cap parade in the 87th minute, replacing Goodson.
The US finishes their 2010 campaign with a record of 5-4-5, avoiding their first losing season since 1997.
Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.