Thoughts on USA-Venezuela

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 21: Ricardo Clark #15 (C) of USA celebrates with (L-R) Chris Wondolowski #17, Michael Parkhurt #4 and Zach Loyd #13 after Clark scored against Venezuela during the final moments of the friendly match at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 21, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. USA defeated Venezuela 1-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The USMNT secured their first win against a South American opponent in quite some time last night, defeating Venezuela thanks to a dramatic last-minute Ricardo Clark header to win the game 1-0. Brek Shea played the entire game for the United States, going close on a couple chances while Zach Loyd had 25 good minutes at left back for Jurgen Klinsmann's squad. A few thoughts on the FCD guys and the game:

Brek Shea's Night On the whole, Shea was pretty good last night. He could have had two first half goals on the chance that flashed just wide and the snap header that was brilliantly saved by Jose Morales in goal for Venezuela. Shea moved from the left side to the right side on an interesting outing for him.

You could tell in the second half with about ten minutes to play that he was absolutely gassed, but the insertion of FC Dallas teammate Zach Loyd seemed to re-energize him a bit. Shea's pinpoint cross earned the corner from which the game-winner was scored.

Zach Loyd's Night I thought the FC Dallas right back had a huge impact on the game once he came in. The attack for the last 20 minutes of the game was almost exclusively down the left side with the Shea/Loyd combination and Loyd served in two fantastic crosses, one forcing a remarkable save from Morales. I loved how Loyd made overlapping runs every time Shea was on the ball, something you didn't see too much from Heath Pearce. Will be very interesting if he earns a start on Wednesday night in Panama City.

Keep reading for more as well as what national media said and highlights

The Rest of the Squad Pretty much the same reaction from me that you'll read from most. Jermaine Jones was a leader out there and seemed to be the only guy that really wanted to win before the entire team decided to play with urgency for the last ten minutes or so. For the United States to be competitive at a high level, they'll need to show that urgency for 90 minutes rather than just the last ten.

The defensive unit as a whole was fantastic, though they will be tested much more by Blas Perez and company on Wednesday than they were last night. Zusi showed he isn't quite ready at this level while Teal Bunbury needs to get better with both feet if he wants to be an international-level forward.

Also a huge kudos to the Phoenix crowd, over 20,000 for a C-tier friendly is huge and about double what they typically get for the January camp friendly in California. It seemed the crowd really spurred the team on to victory at the end.

Wednesday main event Extremely excited for Wednesday night's friendly in Panama City in a game that could feature four different FCD players on the field at once with Shea and Loyd for the United States as well as Blas Perez and Carlos Rodriguez for Panama. Wednesday will be your first chance to get an up close look at the two marquee signings of the off-season. Can't wait.

What others said

Leader Schaerlaeckens of ESPN

F - Brek Shea, 6: A mixed bag. But for a few flashes of offensive genius, resulting in two of the biggest U.S. chances, Shea was lethargic.

D - Zach Loyd, 7: Coming on in the 73rd, Loyd looked comfortable and capable in the back, showing also that he can contribute going forward.

Greg Seltzer's game grades

Brek Shea (7.5) – The FC Dallas winger was twice denied on textbook headers and once flashed a shot just wide of frame. Looking more refreshed than when we last saw him in USMNT colors last November, Shea was on point with his running and touches. Overall, it was great progress at this level, if not his best ‘Nats outing to date.

Zach Loyd (6.5) – In 16 minutes, the FC Dallas handyman delivered a pair of tempting crosses and was not at all shy in his step.

Three thoughts on the game from Grant Wahl

There was no more influential player on the field on Saturday than Jones, for good and for ill. Wearing the captain's armband after joining the team last week -- he's serving a long-term suspension in the German league -- Jones was at his best breaking up traffic, winning balls, spraying incisive passes and barreling around to strike fear in U.S. foes.

Post-match quote sheet from US Soccer

U.S. midfielder BREK SHEA
On switching from the left side to the right:
"I’m trying to throw the other team off so they don’t get used to our tendencies. Sometimes we did it on purpose, and other times we did it to help each other out and we just stayed there. I don’t think it was my best tonight, but in the team won so it’s good. I’m fortunate to keep being called in, and hope to get better each game.

MNT vs. Venezuela: Highlights - Jan. 21, 2012 (via ussoccerdotcom)

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