The United States gave South Africa their chances to take the lead at the Nelson Mandela Challenge, but with the Bafana Bafana unable to break through a sharp Brad Guzan, today's friendly has gone to halftime scoreless.
For the States, is has been all Guzan. The nominal number two for both club and country has not seen much action over the last two-and-a-half years, but whatever rust had accumulated on the former Chivas USA `keeper was knocked off pre-match, with the Villa stopper making numerous strong reads in the first half. Three times he saved Bafana chances after the hosts broke through the line, and toward the end of the half Guzan was decisive coming off his line to swallow-up a through ball.
By that time, the States' defense had shored-up. Tim Ream's rough start gave way to some decisive play over the final 15 minutes. Eric Lichaj has looked confident on the right. Jonathan Bornstein stepped-up his game as halftime approached, while Clarence Goodson has been solid. By the end of the half, commentators had forgotten early struggles and started praising the States' defense.
In attack, the States' have broken down whenever the ball's been played to Robbie Findley. The Real Salt Lake attacker is playing alone up-top and has been unable to bring his teammates into play (before losing the ball), Robbie Rogers has show some aggression in getting the ball on frame as well as attempting to serve his teammates, but for the most part the midfield has been anonymous.
It's a tough task - going to South Africa mid-week with a team that's not used to playing with each other. In that like, the States' performance has been understandable. With Bob Bradley telling Jeremy Schaap that Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo could be coming on, hopefully the second half will see a United States team that's more effective going forward.