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Ricardo Clark leads U.S. to exhibition victory

He scores on a header in stoppage time to help the Americans defeat Venezuela, 1-0.

January 21, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • Ricardo Clark of the United States prepares to head in the game-winner against Venezuela in the second half of a friendly soccer match.
Ricardo Clark of the United States prepares to head in the game-winner against… (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)

Reporting from Glendale, Ariz. -- Juergen Klinsmann called Saturday's friendly with Venezuela a good test for his U.S. national soccer team. Good thing it wasn't the final exam.

Because while the Americans did a lot of things well in their first match of the year, they needed to go deep into stoppage time to make that pay off, with Ricardo Clark scoring on a header to give the U.S. a 1-0 win before a crowd of 22,403 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Since replacing Bob Bradley as national team coach in July, Klinsmann has pushed a fast, aggressive European style of play new to the U.S. — one his players haven't always been able to keep up with. But Saturday they controlled nearly every facet of the game, outshooting Venezuela, 15-6, and dominating possession time though failing to finish a number of excellent scoring chances.

"They implemented everything we told them. We controlled [Venezuela] completely. It gives them confidence," said Klinsmann, whose team takes a two-match winning streak into Wednesday's game in Panama City, the second-to-last scheduled exhibition before the U.S. begins World Cup qualifying in June.

Still the U.S. couldn't find the back of the net until about seven minutes had elapsed in stoppage time, finally doing so on a corner kick.

And it's significant that two of the three European-based players on Klinsmann's 21-man roster combined on the only goal, with Jermaine Jones bending a corner kick to an unmarked Clark, who redirected it into the left corner of the net.

The teams combined for 28 fouls, four yellow cards and a red.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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