The US remain winless in 2011 after failing to find an equalizer on Tuesday in a 1-0 loss to Paraguay in a friendly in front of nearly 30,000 at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
Benfica striker Óscar Cardozo scored in the 18th minute, and the 2010 World Cup quarterfinalists held on for the victory.
The Americans came out more confident and composed than they did last weekend against Argentina, particularly in defense. The center-back pairing of Jay DeMerit and Tim Ream proved stout and calm as the Paraguayans looked to attack. Meanwhile, the US pushed forward confidently and improved vastly in possession.
But it was a momentary lapse on a set piece that enabled the visitors to strike first. Barely more than a quarter-hour in, Ream was pulled to the ground off a corner kick, and an unmarked Cardozo found the ball at his feet off a deflection. The Benfica sniper promptly top-shelved it to put La Albirroja up 1-0.
The US lacked the finishing touch on their limited scoring opportunities. In the 41st minute, Jay DeMerit got his head on the end Landon Donovan’s looping free kick, but put the ball wide. The Vancouver Whitecaps captain was forced out of the match after landing awkwardly on the play and was diagnosed with a strained right groin.
After a number of substitutions, the Americans put together a nice sequence in the 66th minute when Juan Agudelo back-heeled a Timmy Chandler lead ball into the path of a streaking Eric Lichaj down the right wing. But Clint Dempsey sent the Leeds United loanee’s cross far wide of goal.
Nine minutes later, Donovan nearly found the equalizer when Lichaj’s long throw-in deflected to the LA Galaxy captain at the far post, but the three-time World Cup veteran put the ball into the side netting. In the 86th minute, Michael Bradley unleashed a bullet from 20 yards out that forced Paraguay ‘keeper Justo Villar to make a fingertip save.
In the dying minutes, a long Lichaj throw-in again almost brought an equalizer, as Jermaine Jones ripped a deflection from the top of the box, but Villar was again there for the save.
The US now drop to 0-2-1 through three matches in 2011, all friendlies against South American sides. As expected, Bob Bradley shuffled the deck a bit after last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Argentina. Teen starlet Agudelo was lively in his first start for the senior national team. His New York Red Bulls teammate, Ream, put in a solid 90 minutes on the back line in his fourth US cap.
FC Nürnberg fullback Chandler got his second cap in his first start at right back, while fellow German-American, ‘keeper David Yelldell of MSV Duisberg, got his first USMNT cap after coming on at the half for Marcus Hahnemann.
The US’ next scheduled game is a friendly against defending World Cup and European champions Spain at Gillette Stadium on June 4. Three days later, the Americans kick off CONCACAF Gold Cup group-stage play against Canada in Detroit.
PAR – Cardozo (Mareco), 18'
PAR – Vera (caution), 29'
United States – Marcus Hahnemann (David Yelldell, 46’); Timothy Chandler (Jonathan Spector, 80’), Jay DeMerit (Carlos Bocanegra, 42’), Tim Ream, Jonathan Bornstein (Sacha Kljestan, 77’); Maurice Edu (Jermaine Jones, 46’), Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan; Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore (Eric Lichaj, 60’)
Subs not used: Mikkel Diskerud
Paraguay – Justo Villar; Marcos Cáceres, Víctor Hugo Mareco, Paulo da Silva, Miguel Samudio; Enrique Vera (Darío Verón, 78’), Osmar Molinas (Marcos Riveros 63’), Cristian Riveros; Hernán Pérez (Oswaldo Martínez, 68’), Óscar Cardozo (Lucas Barrios, 79’), Marcelo Estigarribia (Aureliano Torres, 91’)
Subs not used: Antolín Alcaraz, Edgar Barreto, Edgar Benítez, Diego Barreto, Néstor Ortigoza