The U.S. Men's National Team's second post-World Cup match against Poland on Saturday certainly looked like a start-up moment to a new four-year cycle. There were highs and lows, decent spurts but also poor movement. There were a few sloppy scrums and a few missed chances.
All-in-all, the U.S. managed a 2-2 draw against Poland in front of 31,696 at Soldier Field. Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu netted goals for the U.S., but Poland answered both strikes, as Adam Matuszczyk and Jakub Blaszczykowski scored for Poland.
"We put ourselves in a position twice to win the game," U.S. forward Clint Dempsey said. "We just conceded on two bad plays. But it's just a friendly. I don't think it's the end of the world."
Former Chicago Fire and current U.S. head coach Bob Bradley particularly was disappointed in allowing Poland to tie the game at 2 midway through the second half, when the U.S. had chances to increase its lead instead.
"That was a part of the game where I think we had the chance to really finish it off," Bradley said. "We didn't take advantage of it. Our tempo in that period of time was too slow, at times having the ball, but a casualness that ended up letting them back into it, and ultimately they get the goal."
Chicago native and FC Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones made his first national team appearance as the 29-year-old was in the starting lineup. Jones took advantage of the opportunity with an assist on Altidore's first-half tally in the 13th minute. Jones made the pass at midfield while Altidore stormed past Poland's Lukasz Piszczek on the run, striking the ball past Poland goalkeeper Artur Boruc for the 1-0 lead.
"I made the movement and I thought he did great looking up," Altidore said. "The awareness was great, perfectly weighted pass. It was kudos to him. I thought he had a good night tonight."
Poland's first tally by Matuszczyk in the 29th minute was the end result of the U.S. being unable to make a couple of clearances in its defensive third. Poland attacked from the right side and Stuart Holden's clearance attempt was headed straight up into the air. Onyewu then tried to clear with a header, but he could not strike it cleanly forward. Poland's Ludovic Obraniak was underneath the ball and made a quick touch to set up Matuszczyk, who shot to the left side of the goal past U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard to tie the match at 1-1.
"The clearances tonight weren't the best," Howard said. "We put ourselves under some pressure."
Onyewu gave the Americans a 2-1 lead when he headed home a Holden corner kick from the right side in the 52nd minute. Onyewu flew over a pair of Poland defenders and found the inside of the left post.
The back-and-forth scoring action continued when Poland's Blaszczykowski tied the score at 2-2 in the 73rd minute. Jones was trying to make a pass to his left, but Poland broke it up, and Blaszczykowski was there to clean up with a shot just inside the left post.
"It was a little bit of a misunderstanding," Jones said through a translator. "I looked over at Tim and didn't see the guy that came in from the back side. It's just a little bit of a mixup between playing with some guys for the first time."
Overall, Jones played an aggressive match and at times made some strong passes. He had one tight pass in the 42nd minute to Holden, a razor sharp, left-footed feed that found the U.S. midfielder, even though Poland's defense closed in on him.
For his first cap, his highs and lows were reflective of the U.S. squad as a whole.
"He still needs to get used to the style of play here," former Fire defender and U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said. "Sometimes he's so overly aggressive, he wants to go and chase on his own. That's good, because we need someone like that. He's hungry in the middle of the park. He's a ball-winner. He's going to be great for us."
Bocanegra will not be joining the U.S. for Tuesday's match against Colombia as he departs for St. Etienne. With Heath Pearce coming in and Jonathan Spector also having played at left back, the team will likely lean in those directions in replacing Bocanegra.
Analysis: By no means was Saturday night the prettiest of matches, with several sloppy sequences in front of each net for both teams.
Altidore did get a goal, but he had a multitude of chances, including a 42nd-minute strike that skimmed off the crossbar, and a one-on-one situation against Boruc in the 58th minute, when Boruc made a kick save.
The U.S. had a 17-8 advantage in shots, but Poland had the 7-5 edge on goal. Poland had several potential counters where the team could have cashed in. In the 21st minute, Howard came up with a huge save when Robert Lewandowski had a break.
Bocanegra's take on Jones is right on the money. If Jones can refine that aggressiveness with consistency, he should turn into a dependable person in the middle of the pitch.
This is a four-year work in progress, so clearly there is plenty of time to iron things out. Bradley only utilized one substitution on Saturday and plans to insert other players into the mix for Tuesday's match.