Last-minute men: U.S. tie Poland
A late goal from Carlos Bocanegra - back in the stadium where he began his professional career - gave the USA a 1-1 draw with Poland on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago in their final tuneup before the start of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying.
Bocanegra, who played four seasons for the Chicago Fire before transferring to England's Fulham FC last winter, headed home a corner kick from Landon Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes) in the 89th minute, just 12 minutes after after Piotr Wlodarczyk had put the visitors up with a scrappy goal.
The U.S. should have grabbed an early lead when Kansas City Wizards forward Josh Wolff earned a penalty kick after going down from a challenge by Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc. Former Columbus Crew striker Brian McBride stepped up to strike the spot kick, but Boruc dived to his left to save a weak shot along the ground.
The U.S. team was dominated with MLS players, as all but one player in Bruce Arena's squad has spent significant time in the league, where 13 of the 18 players currently ply their trade. Nine of the players in the team were named as starters for the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game on July 31 in Washington, D.C.
Donovan had a strong game for the USA and showed his passing skills in the 17th minute with a fantastic long ball over the Polish defense that Wolff ran on to. Wolff attempted to chip Boruc to the back post with a shot that narrowly missed, though any goal would have ruled out when Wolff was judged to have fouled his defender.
Poland sent many high, searching passes toward strikers Ireneusz Jelen and Wlodarczyk. U.S. central defenders Eddie Pope (MetroStars) and Bocanegra proved their aerial prowess and won the majority of 50-50 challenges.
The USA spent most of the time trying in vain to break down the dogged defending of the Polish team. Before the half was out, an enterprising run from Donovan in the 37th minute was halted in the U.S. attacking third, and just before the break Wolff found himself in a good position only for 'keeper Boruc to close down any attempt.
In the first minute after the break, Chicago Fire midfielder DaMarcus Beasley impressed his home crowd with a great through pass to Wolff, but once again the ball was tackled away.
The USA finally got a shot on net when Beasley started another U.S. attack in the 58th minute, beating several defenders on the dribble before switching the ball to a wide-open Donovan on the right, but Boruc saved his good low shot to the far post.
San Jose Earthquakes forward Brian Ching - the first Hawaiian to ever play for the U.S. men's national team - replaced McBride in the 65th minute and made an immediate impact. His first touch after coming on was a headed ball right to the feet of his Earthquakes teammate Donovan, who in turn linked up with a streaking Wolff, but his hard shot whistled wide of the right post.
Another Earthquake, Brian Mullan, then made his first national team appearance in the 72nd minute, but four minutes later Poland took the lead when Tim Howard could only deflect Marcin Burkhardt's hard cross from the left flank. Wlodarczyk barely prodded the resulting rebound over the line, just in front of the dive of Bobby Convey (D.C. United) at the post.
MetroStars midfielder Eddie Gaven entered the match in the 82nd minute and became the fourth-youngest player ever to make an appearance for the U.S. national team. After another four minutes the U.S. team was level.
Los Angeles Galaxy defender Chris Albright's shot was deflected to earn the corner, and Donovan found Bocanegra in the heart of the box. His powerful header was low and to the back post and just squeaked past substitute Tomasz Jarzebowski, who was stationed on the line, to provide the leveller.