Ukraine's Denys Garmash, left, goes after the ball against Geoff… (Petros Karadjias / Associated…)
It was supposed to be a final U.S. tune-up for this summer's World Cup. But what Wednesday's 2-0 loss to the Ukraine in Cyprus proved is the American national soccer team likely needs a complete overhaul if it expects to be competitive in Brazil.
A first-half goal by Andriy Yarmolenko and a second-half score by Marko Devic capped an emotional week for the Ukraine, which nearly canceled the match after Russian troops occupied the Crimean peninsula last weekend.
Instead they turned the game into a display of patriotism. Before kickoff the Ukrainian players, in a show of solidarity, stood at midfield, draped their arms over one another's shoulders and sang their national anthem before the near-empty stadium.
Both teams then observed a moment of silence for those who died during the street protests that disposed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Once the game started the Ukrainians wasted little time in exposing a disorganized U.S. defense, with midfielder Denys Harmash beating an off-side trap with a 40-yard run that ended with a point-blank shot on goal. U.S. keeper Tim Howard stood tall to make the save but the rebound came to Yarmolenko, who tapped the ball into the empty net to make it 1-0 in the 12th minute.
The Urkanians got behind the U.S. again on a long ball up the middle in the 68th minute. Howard again saved the first shot but Devic gathered in that carom, then left-footed the ball between two stationary defenders to double the lead.
The Ukrainians were playing for little more than pride since they won't be going to this summer's tournament in Brazil. But for the U.S., the match was huge, coming on the final FIFA international date before preliminary World Cup rosters are due.
That made the game the last chance for U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann to get a close-up look at some of his European-based players competing for a handful of open spots on the World Cup team. Few of those players made a favorable impression, though, since the U.S. defense repeatedly proved porous and the offense generated few chances -- and failed to finish the ones it did get.
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