US looks sharp in final tuneup
Buddle scores two to defeat Australia
ROODEPOORT, South Africa — The dress rehearsal could not have gone much better for the US soccer team.
In a small stadium near an open field in a suburb west of Johannesburg, the Americans beat Australia for the first time, a 3-1 victory yesterday on a sun-splashed autumn afternoon that filled the US players with confidence.
Next up is the game the Americans have been waiting six months for: their high-profile World Cup opener against England next Saturday.
“We don’t fear them,’’ Landon Donovan said. “We feel they’re a team we can compete with.’’
Edson Buddle, who was not even in the national team picture a few months ago, scored in the fourth and 31st minutes for his first two international goals. Herculez Gomez, another player not expected to make the roster, entered in the 82d minute and scored against the Socceroos in second-half injury time, his second national team goal in 12 days.
“It seems like everything Edson touches is a goal,’’ goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
Tim Cahill scored for Australia in the 19th minute when he beat Howard, his Everton teammate, for his 20th goal in 40 international appearances.
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction,’’ said Steve Cherundolo, who took over from Jonathan Spector at right back. “We still have a few things to work out.’’
In the two previous warm-ups since gathering in mid-May, the US team lost to the Czech Republic, 4-2, using mostly second-stringers, then rallied for a 2-1 win over Turkey last weekend.
This was the team’s first game since arriving in South Africa Monday, and the first it used with the much-criticized Adidas Jabulani ball.
“I think the majority of the problems today were due to the flight of the ball,’’ Donovan said. “I think a lot of times the ball doesn’t fly true, and it puts your defenders under a lot of pressure. So we’re going to have to do some work this week just judging the ball better.’’
In the next six days, US coach Bob Bradley will watch injured forward Jozy Altidore, who didn’t play after spraining his right ankle during training Wednesday. In his absence, Bradley started Buddle, Major League Soccer’s scoring leader, as his target forward and paired him with speedy Robbie Findley.
Findley went wide with an open shot in the 15th minute that could have made it 2-0. But his speed stretched the defense.
Bradley also must decide on the fitness of central defender Oguchi Onyewu. Appearing in his third match since having knee surgery Oct. 21, Onyewu entered in the 61st minute for Clarence Goodson, who was paired with Jay DeMerit.
“I’m feeling good,’’ Onyewu said. “Everyone’s starting to jell together.’’
The time for tinkering is over. Australia opens the World Cup against Germany June 13. The United States heads to its first competitive match against England since the great 1-0 upset at the 1950 World Cup.
“I’m ready,’’ US midfielder Clint Dempsey said.