I think the more sanguine US fans will have mixed feelings about this one, as Diskerud's late equalizer may mask a lot of legitimate concerns about the US defense. Russia continually got behind the US line and but for some sharp saves by Howard could have scored a lot more goals. But then again the Russians haven't conceded two goals this year until now, and this USA team somehow manages to force goals out of nowhere. It wasn't pretty but they dug deep for the result. It also wasn't quite "Yo, Adrian!" but they'll travel back on a high note and regroup to play Honduras in February - hopefully with a more settled defense.
Thanks for all your tweets and emails - some excellent ones I didn't have time to use. I'll see you at the weekend for the MLS Cup conference final second legs. For now, good afternoon.
FINAL SCORE: RUSSIA 2 USA 2
Final thoughts in a minute...
90 mins +5
Last flurry for Russia but a shot from distance was never going to beat Howard, and fittingly, the man who kept the US in this, dives on the ball for the final touch of the game.
GOAL! RUSSIA 2 USA 2 (DISKERUD!)
How on earth are they level? Long ball forward knocked down by Boyd and the advancing Diskerud sends a deflected shot squirming through for the most unlikely of equalizers.
90 mins +2
Dzyuba is just offside as he splits the US defense with a sharp run behind. But yet again the defense were made to look vulnerable there.
90 mins +1
We'll have four minutes of added time. Russia force yet another turnover but Howard is out sharply to claim the ball.
Jones twists and turns well to get a cross in from the left, that's slightly too high for Agudelo to direct on goal, though he does well enough to get into space to win the header. Wide though.
Bradley comes deep to pick up the ball to try and force something with time running out. The ball comes to Kljestan out wide, but he gets underneath his cross and it loops softly into Gabulov's arms.
Russia go up to the other end and Cheryshev cuts inside in the corner of the box to fire a low shot that Howard does well to save with his legs. The US keeper has kept the score down here. His defense looking way too porous all game.
Boyd will come on for Altidore to try and salvage something. Howard was furious with Goodson in the wake of that penalty as he felt that he would have had the loose ball. Diskerud comes on too - Cameron out.
GOAL! RUSSIA 2 USA 1 (SHIRIKOV!)
Howard sent the wrong way by a firm penalty and Russia lead again.
PENALTY TO RUSSIA
Game getting scrappy as both sides try to harry for the ball with time running out.
Free kick comes in and Goodson fouls Dzyuba as he bursts clear behind the defense. Goodson booked as he brings the attacker down from behind.
Great chance for Jones. Altidore gets to the byline down the right and slides a beautifully weighted low ball back to the edge of the box, where the arriving Jones has a clear shot, but he's leaning back and the ball flies over. He really should have got one on frame.
Russia have a free kick some 30 yards out, but the wall does its job and blocks it. Cheryshev on for Russia - think that's the last of their substitutions. Russia 1 USA 1.
That was very nice vision by Agudelo in the build up to the goal - he could easily have selected to loop a speculative header goalward. great finish by Bradley, whose goal silenced the stadium.
Now the US have men forward, but Altidore makes a poor touch on the edge of the box and Russia go up the other end. Shirokov, who's just been booked, fires a shot across the goal from the corner of the box. Wide of the post.
GOAL! RUSSIA 1 USA 1 (BRADLEY!)
Agudelo leans back to head a diagonal ball back across the edge of the box and Bradley arrives to crash a shot off the inside of the post!
USA pressing again now, just as they did at the same stage of the first half. Can they make it count? They're certainly stretching the Russians out wide a little more, but the hosts still look very dangerous on the counter.
Another long ball over the top, for Agudelo to hare after, but he's always second-favourite. But then there's a wonderful cross from the byline by Jones, that hangs up nicely for Kljestan at the far side of the box. He elects to head the ball back across the box rather than towards goal and Bradley, diving in can only scoop his own header high, when he perhaps should have done better.
A couple of emails:
"It never ceases to amaze me how lost the USMNT can look without Donovan in the team. Other than Michael Bradley, the midfield looks anonymous."
Speaking of which, Johnson barrels forward, Donovan-style, and slips the ball inside for Altidore, who can't quite get a decent first touch as he gets behind the Russian back line, and the grateful keeper claims it. Still Russia 1 USA 0.
No pressure on the man outside the box as the corner is knocked clear and Denisov is able to set himself and shoot just wide of Howard's right post. Good spell for Russia right now.
Korkorin makes another diagonal run in front of the US defense and strikes a low shot that Howard has to get behind. And then Howard has to make another point blank save as Yanbaev has a point blank, if slightly scuffed shot at him. Corner to Russia. Korkorin leaves the field though - which will delight the USA.
The US rather waste a corner and settle for a 70 yard back pass to Howard. Russia press up and Glushakov has a shot from the edge of the box that flies over the bar. We're going to see Kljestan on for the USA. Game shape beginning to fray with these substitutions.
Jones and Bradley combine well driving at the heart of the Russian defense but the move breaks down on the edge of the box, and now Russia can attack again. Gregoriev does well down the right to send a cross in that's headed goalwards and Howard has to grab it on the line.
Agudelo in for Gatt.
The US high line gets another marginal offside. Yanbayev coming on for the Russians as we approach the hour.
US have done better this half, generally. Still living a little dangerously with that high line, but making more of a fist of finding paths through the midfield. Agudelo is warming up - though "warming up" may be a relative term in the Kuban stadium right now. Russia 1 USA 0
Russia get tired of passing round the back and flood forward with some neat interplay around the edge of the box, that ends with a lovely turn, and less lovely shot from young Kokorin. Much to the displeasure of Tim Howard, who's yelling at his defense for standing off the dangerous Russian.
A minute later Bradley's good through ball is intended for Gomez. It doesn't work out but the Santos Laguna man applauds the Roma man's vision. Oh globalization...
Simon McMahon emails:
"Afternoon Graham. Nothing to do with the football, but one of my favourite memories from this year's Olympics was when Team GB's rowing bronze medallist Alan Campbell compared his outpouring of emotion on the podium to the tears he shed during Rocky IV when Apollo Creed died. 'Cinematic history' I think he called it, and who am I to argue?"
That has everything to do with football Simon. Guardian football. On the field Russia just trying to slow the tempo down a little and knock the ball around the back.
Big call by the referee, who books Kokorin for diving after he raced clear in the box and took the ball round a sprawling Howard and went down. Russia wanted a penalty, but the italian referee was not impressed. Could easily have been given though - replays show thee may have been contact, though Kokorin looked like he was trailing his leg.
Russia break again as the game gets more open but the through ball for Gregoriev down the right is just too long. The US counter and Bradley is brought down as he tries to sprint down the left channel again. US free kick that they take short - it goes nowhere though. Glushakov picks up a yellow for the foul.
Bradley drives forward down the left but he runs into traffic and the US have to try and switch the play. Russia take possession and advance and Howard has to do well to get down to his right as Kokorin sends a fizzing shot on goal from 20 yards.
Now Bradley finds a pocket of space some 25 yards out and central, and he looks up and tries the shot,but it's blocked. He's been more involved in these first fiv minutes than he was for much of the first half. Still Russia 1 USA 0
US start the half with an attempted long ball to Altidore. Then Jones forces his way through on the edge of the box and slides the ball to his left to Gatt who curls a slightly weak shot straight at the keeper. That was a decent chance.
Glushakov coming on for Russia as we get underway again.
The Jurgen Klinsmann experience
It’s been a mixed year for Jurgen Klinsmann. Memorable victories against Italy and Mexico, and qualification for the next round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying (aka The Grind™), was offset by a big loss to Brazil and some tentative performances along the way, as the coach shuffled midfielders around in myriad personnel and formation shifts in search of the right blend. Still, they’re set to end the year with the highest percentage of wins of any US team, ever, and I suspect that looking back most fans will prefer to (and are more likely to) remember the victory in the Azteca, than say, the 0-0 with Canada.
The USA need a montage...
Half time thoughts
So Russia got into their groove early and got their rewards with an early debut goal (and as it turned out, final touch of the game) for Smolov. Perhaps more importantly they did an excellent job of running off the ball early and closing down all the available channels every time the US tried to play the ball out from the back. They looked very confident.
The US gradually came into the game and began to come to grips with the midfield a little more, but it wasn't till late in the half that we saw Bradley begin to even attempt to set the tempo in midfield. Gatt has had a solid start, Altidore has done his best with limited service, and Chandler's had one or two nice crosses. Williams can only improve.
As friendlies go, this is a good workout for both sides. Hopefully we don't see this ruined by substitutions too early.
HALF TIME: RUSSIA 1 USA 0
Long ball forward from Goodson tries to find Altidore, but the striker fouls as he wrestles for it and that will be that for the half.
Half time thoughts in a minute...
Gomez takes the free kick and lifts it over the wall, but can't get it down in time and it flies over the bar. We're into the first of two added on minutes.
Now then. Gomez is brought down, centrally, some 30 yards out, for a US free kick...
Russian fans amp the volume as we head to half time. Solid performance from the hosts, even with the glimpses the US have been showing in the last ten minutes.
Gomez dives in to dispossess Kombarov, but does so illegally according to the referee, as Altidore looked to turn and run with the loose ball. Instead Russia get to attack, though the US are dealing better with their runs right now.
A little bit of panic at the back for the US, but they clear a little awkwardly and now they're pressing again on the edge of the Russian box. They look very susceptible to turnovers though.
Altidore turns and spins and his shot rebounds to Gomez. He can't get a clean shot either, but then Chandler swings in a lovely diagonal cross to the back post that almost lets Gatt in. Better build up from the USA, but it's Russia 1 USA 0.
Bradley lifts his head, passes and angles forward. The US need to see more of that sort of movement. In the same sequence the ball comes to Altidore well outside the box, and he chests it down for a first time shot that curls high and wide.
Another US free kick, another giveaway. They recover decently and all of a sudden fashion a chance as Gomez gets up well to win the ball ahead of the keeper, but his header flicks into the keeper's face. The general awkward looking nature of the incident is designated a foul by the referee, but Gomez actually got in sharply and fairly there.
Kerzhakov caught just offside running into a lot of space out left. If he'd held his run he'd have been in there, behind the high US line.
Right on cue, Eric's back to follow up on his Bocanegra comments:
@kidweil Terrible turnover. But how is it much different from a failed offside trap? Klinsi wants to play a high line, Boca can't recover :(— Eric M. Calhoun (@bullcitysports) November 14, 2012
The USA look to be inching into it a little, like Rocky three seconds into a montage. Chandler does well to race forward to a wide diagonal ball from Jones and whip in a cross. It's headed clear, but that was good vision by Jones.
At the other end Gregoriev picks up on another hash of a clearance from Williams, to drive a low shot straight at Howard.
Gatt involved again in finally stretching the Russian back line and the US have a corner. Gomez swings it in and it looks to have been headed clear safely, but then Williams forces it back and Goodson comes up with a snapshot that's low and hard and straight at Gabulov. Still Russia 1 USA 0.
Both teams want free kicks in dangerous positions as their men are bundled over. Eventually the US get one for an offside.
Kokorin makes a burst down the left and tries to cut in behind Cameron at the byline, but the last touch is off him. Cameron one of the few solid players for the US at the moment.
Bradley, who's been quiet, just about regains possession in midfield, but it's turned over, and in chasing back for it he picks up a yellow card. The US being rather overrun in the center of the park right now.
Gatt's been very involved early on in his debut. Tough place to start but he's holding his own.
@kidweil Saw the goal replay again. Bocanegra's lack of speed again an issue, couldn't close on Smolov. Might go from captain to bench soon.— Eric M. Calhoun (@bullcitysports) November 14, 2012
To be honest he was left scrambling after a horrible turnover ahead of him.
US trying to find space to get forward from midfield, but the Russians are working very hard to close down all the channels and stop the visitors from stretching them.
Jones and Gatt combine well and the latter bursts into the box - seemingly picking up an unnoticed arm in the face from Berezutsky as he does so. Better from the US.
Cameron tracks back well as Goodson is pulled out of position straight away. He touches the ball off Gregoriev's toes as he's about to shoot in the box. that might help his confidence, but the US still very much on the back foot. Russia 1 USA 0.
Bocanegra off and Goodson on, but instantly we have another delay as Kombarov goes down injured, with nobody near him. Lot of knocks early on.
Gomez is bundled over on the far left, but it's just a throw. Now Bocanegra is down and we have a pause in play while he is treated.
Meanwhile my editor drops by to endorse the official Guardian game meme
Altidore tries to capitalize on a rare Russian mistake, but he's caught out on his own up front and the defense recover. US not showing much up front.
Cameron makes a rather nervy giveaway that could have been costly, and then Bocanegra's clearance is not much better. The US looking very shaky right now.
US try to counter immediately and Altiore does a decent job holding up before losing out in the box. The US have made things hard for themselves.
GOAL! RUSSIA 1 USA 0 (SMOLOV!)
Williams makes an absolute hash of sliding a free kick sideways in his own half for an easy interception, and it's slid sideways for Smolov on the overlap to slide home from a narrow angle on the right!
Smolov's injured hinsel scoring that debut goal and has to go off.
Another Russian corner as Gatt is pushed back and has to slide the ball out in the corner. Kombarov provides a dangerous near post flick on, but nobody is on the end of it.
Jones picks up the ball with a timely tackle in midfield, then loses it straight away. Trying to work out the shape of the teams and it looks like Gomez is playing wide left at the moment. Not seeing much of the ball as yet - it's been mostly Russian pressure.
The US get forward for the first time, but don't commit many men forward. Decent pressure from Bradley though and now they enjoy a little possession that ends with a foul by Gatt as he competes for a loose pass.
Corner cleared at near post by Cameron, but it's whipped back in and Gatt has to be aware at the back post to nudge the ball out for another corner, which is headed wide. Nice for Gatt to get his first touch, but it's a decent start by the hosts.
Russia ease their way forward, but an errant pass on the edge of the box gives the US a throw. Early punch for Howard as Kerzhakov gets a touch inside that ricochets up in the box.
Now Cameron concedes the first corner.
OK we're off - Russia get us underway and pass the ball around the back.
Russia: Gabulov; Anyukov, Ignashevich, Denisov (capt), Kokorin, Kerzhakov, Berezutsky, Shirokov, Yeshchenko, Kombarov, Smolov
USA: Howard; Chandler, Cameron, Bocanegra (capt), F. Johnson; Williams, Jones, Bradley, Gatt; Gomez, Altidore
So Gatt in from the start, and having committed to the USA, interesting to see Chandler in at the back too - he’ll likely get a good long run out today. Bradley anchoring the side and looking at the rest of the midfield, he’ll need to have a steady game as the rest adjust to each other. No chance for Akinfeev to extend his shutout run, which may be good news for the USA. Smolov making his debut
Notes and corrections
@kidweil Pedantic correction for your MBM - Russia didn't lose 1-0 in Greece, it was a Euro 2012 game against Greece in Poland— virile games (@virilegames) November 14, 2012
Actually, that's not that pedantic a correction - more of a rather reasonable pointing out of something I completely blanked on. Thank you.
Who we looking forward to seeing on the Russian side? Kokorin is worth a look. And interesting to see if Alexander Kerzhakov is any better than he was in the Euros.
Dr Holly Masturzo drops by to elevate the discourse...
Then one of our Chicago fans encourages us to be a little more realistic about how long that elevated discourse will last:
@kidweil IVANNNNNN DRAGOOOOOO!!!!— On The Fire (@OnTheFire97) November 14, 2012
We made our choice to go with Rocky IV as a running theme, and we're standing by it. Over at the MLS live tracking of this game, they've gone with the headline "Cold War Kids", which is of course more a) timely b) nuanced, and therefore has no place here.
The USA weren’t the only team to beat Italy on Italian soil this year - Russia won 3-0 in June this year, during an impressive year where they’ve only been beaten once, 1-0 in Greece. They’ve also made a perfect start to their World Cup qualifying campaign - winning four straight games, and not conceding a goal, including a victory over Portugal last month, and a follow up win over Azerbijan that had Capello praising the form of his goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who is currently on a team record-breaking shutout streak.
The US were relieved to get Michael Bradley back and holding their shape in the center of the park against Guatemala - it will be interesting to see what line up Klinsmann goes with today. He’s not invited any players still involved with MLS Playoffs so there are one or two additional slots that have opened up, notably for Josh Gatt, just coming off another title-winning year for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Molde side in Norway. With no Eddie Johnson available, there’s also a recall for Jozy Altidore - controversially eliminated last time out. Juan Agudelo gets another call up to show what he can do, after enduring a tough season following his trade from New York Red Bulls to struggling Chivas USA, and his apparent fall from favour with Klinsmann. Though as Klinsmann pointed out of Altidore this week, these are young players and it's tobe expected that they grow and change.
In fact along with the goalkeepers Rimando and Johnson, Agudelo is the only MLS player present in the line up. Other than the increasingly permanent presence of Herculez Gomez of Santos Laguna, this is an overwhelmingly European-based squad.
Anyway, here’s what happened last time we saw them, against Guatemala last month:
Good morning. Welcome to a friendly game of soccer, played in a friendly spirit by a couple of friends.
It’s Russia vs USA, which is basically the world’s biggest open goal for a minute-by-minute blogger of a certain vintage. Thankfully at the Guardian, we’re a dignified bunch and will be concentrating principally on the experimental composition of Coach Klinsmann’s squad, and the opportunity being given to fringe players such as Chivas USA’s Juan Agudelo and Molde’s Josh Gatt, and perhaps getting a last look at the squad before they reassemble for the business end of World Cup qualification in the Hexagon. It throws up a lot of interes...oh go on then...
So this is a match-up that has history (the 20th Century). On the field, the teams have met four times since Russia became a standalone footballing nation (see 20th Century for details), with the series standing at 2-0-2 in favor of the Russians. The two sides last played in Moscow in 2000, with the Americans going down 2-0.
The USA come into this game fresh from winning their World Cup qualifying semi-final group - confirming their passage to the next stage with a fairly comfortable 3-1 defeat of Guatemala in Kansas City. Their last away game was a few days earlier, and perhaps the least said about the team’s struggle in a rain-sodden Antigua the better - though we said plenty at the time. Russia meanwhile are ranked 9th in the world, and of course are managed by one Fabio Capello and his band of trusted Italian assistants (with just a hint of native Russian influence in Sergei Ovchinnikov as goalkeeper coach). Capello will be aware that Klinsmann’s most notable results as coach have been road wins against sides the US had never beaten on home soil (Italy, Mexico) and will be anxious not to allow his team to be added to that list.
I’ll be back with more build up and team news closer to the game - which will kick off shortly after 10am EST. In the meantime get your emails coming in to @KidWeil or firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @KidWeil if that's your thing. I appreciate that some of you on the East Coast may be at work this morning, in which case I suggest you title your emails “Towards a third quarter synergistic model”. I equally appreciate that some of you on the West Coast may have stumbled on this page while trying to hit the snooze button, in which case I’m glad you’re here, grab a coffee, phone in with a two-hour bug, and enjoy the game.