Jurgen Klinsmann hoped to finish the year with a victory for the U.S. National Team, but on Tuesday at Vienna’s Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Austria had other plans in mind, toppling the Americans 1-0 in the international friendly.
The U.S. squad was marred by injuries and Klinsmann also didn’t call in players who are in MLS Cup playoffs, leaving several key pieces out of the lineup for the final two matches of the year. It started with a listless 0-0 draw with Scotland on Friday and ended on Tuesday with just the fourth defeat of the year for the U.S.A., who had its best ever record for a year at 16-4-3.
Klinsmann’s starting lineup was absent of several regulars, including Sounders FC’s Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans, as well as Landon Donovan and Clarence Goodson to injury and Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Brad Davis and Kyle Beckerman because of the MLS Cup playoffs. Additionally, Eddie Johnson was on the bench for the U.S. as Klinsmann took the opportunity to get another look at Brek Shea and Aron Johannsson.
Evans started on Friday against Scotland, but suffered an injury in training this week and was held out as a precaution. Similarly, Dempsey suffered a calf injury in training prior to the Scotland match and returned home last week.
While the U.S. looked to attack after Friday’s scoreless draw, Austria’s defense proved tough to crack.
In the 17th minute, Geoff Cameron was robbed of a goal when he snapped a header inside the near post and Austrian goalkeeper Robert Almer swatted the ball away with his left hand as it crossed the line. Cameron and his teammates appealed for a goal, but none was awarded and the match remained scoreless.
In the 33rd minute Austria broke through to take the lead as Gyorgy Garics cut behind the defense up the right side and found Marc Janko in between the center backs for a first-time shot to take a 1-0 lead.
In the 56th minute, Johnson came on along with Mix Diskerud to try and provide a spark for the stagnant U.S. attack, but the chances were limited, as Johnson finished the night with two shots without getting either on frame and the match finished with a 1-0 U.S. defeat.
It ended what was an otherwise tremendous year for the American side, particularly from the three Sounders FC representatives.
The U.S. finished at the top of the CONCACAF region in the Hexagonal Round of World Cup qualifying and won the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time since 2007.
Evans established himself as the starting right back for Klinsnmann, starting in eight matches in that role. His seminal moment came in Jamaica when he scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time to give the U.S. its first ever win in Kingston, 2-1, in a World Cup qualifying match in June.
Johnson re-established himself as a regular on the international scene, making 17 appearances and scoring five goals, including two in World Cup qualifying and two in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Dempsey, meanwhile, took over captaincy in March and was the on-field leader through World Cup qualifying. He had six goals and two assists on the year and is a finalist for U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year.