U.S. forward Teal Bunbury, left, controls the ball against Chile defender… (Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images )
Sometimes, the most unlikely games can turn out to be the most entertaining.
That was the case Saturday night in Carson, where an experimental U.S. national soccer team, turning in a lively and sometimes surprisingly cohesive performance, came from a goal down to earn a 1-1 tie with Chile.
It was the first game of the year for the U.S. and it gave the Home Depot Center crowd of 18,580 good reason to cheer.
Seven players made their national team debuts for the U.S., and quite a few in the young squad of 18 did well enough to be invited back.
If a coach's faith in his players is reflected in his starting lineup, then these were the 11 that caught Coach Bob Bradley's eye during the 18-day camp that preceded the game:
Nick Rimando started in goal. The back line consisted of Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Read and Zach Lloyd. In a five-man midfield, Bradley employed Alejandro Bedoya, Jeff Larentowicz, Dax McCarty, Mikkel Diskerud and Brek Shea.
Chris Wondolowski, the top goal scorer in Major League Soccer last season, was the lone striker.
The U.S. showed the initiative from the start, and it was McCarty, the team's captain, who showed the way. In the 12th minute, he took an improbable dipping shot from all of 35 yards that forced goalkeeper Paulo Garces to tip the ball over the crossbar at the last instant.
Wondolowski, one of those making his debut, followed suit a short while later, sending a low, raking shot toward the net. Garces had to dive to his right to make the save.
A couple of late tackles had Mexican referee Francisco Chacon Gutierrez reach into his pocket for the yellow card, with Chile's Francisco Silva and U.S. defender Lloyd the culprits.
Chile fitness coach Luis Maria Bonini was ejected for protesting too loudly against the card earned by Silva for taking down Shea with a late lunge near the sideline.
At halftime, Sean Johnson replaced Rimando in the nets and Marvell Wynne took Gonzalez's place in central defense. At the hour mark, Bradley took Shea and Wondolowski out, switched to a 4-4-2 formation, with a two-man forward line of Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo.
The move, which created more movement and speed in the U.S. offense, was partially in response to Chile taking the lead. In a fast and well-executed move down the right flank, the Chile carved open the U.S. defense.
Felipe Seymour, a halftime substitute for Chile, sent the ball to Fernando Meneses, cutting Larentowicz out of the play. Meneses' cross eluded Wynne's try at an interception and fell kindly for forward Esteban Paredes. The only player on Chile's team at the 2010 World Cup stabbed it home from close range.
The goal came in the 53rd minute and the U.S. tied the score in the 75th minute.
McCarty initiated the move with a through ball to Agudelo, just 18 and already catching attention in his tangerine boots. Agudelo evaded a defender or two and was upended by Sebastian Toro just inside the penalty area.
Bunbury, making his second appearance for the U.S., stepped up to take the penalty kick and stroked the ball into the bottom right corner of the net, leaving Garces with no chance of making a save.
Bradley completed his six substitutions by sending Anthony Wallace and, later, Eric Alexander into the game for, respectively, Lloyd and Bedoya. Afterward, he praised the U.S. effort.
"There was a strong response when we were down, and I thought that was quite good," he said.
Said Chile Coach Marcelo Bielsa: "There were moments when we dominated and moments when we were dominated."