After more than 70 minutes of scoreless play, two substitutes propelled the U.S. men's soccer team to a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan on Tuesday night in a World Cup tuneup marked by swirling winds at Candlestick Park.
Five minutes after he entered the game, U.S. midfielder Mix Diskerud slammed home the first U.S. goal in the 75th minute from 6 yards out after midfielder Michael Bradley's sharp drive was saved.
Six minutes later, Aron Johannsson found himself unmarked in the Azerbaijan penalty area on a corner kick. He used the available space to guide a cross from Brad Davis (another substitute) with a header into the top-right corner of the goal.
“This was exactly what we needed at this point in our preparation,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We've had two fully loaded weeks with a lot of work.
“Tonight, we had a good game. We needed to grind it out, but we'd told the players beforehand that with these [windy] conditions, they would need to be patient.”
Minutes before kickoff, Clint Dempsey was scratched from the starting lineup after he felt a slight soreness in his groin. The team confirmed it was simply a precautionary measure.
“It's not serious,” Klinsmann said. “[Dempsey] had a little pain with his groin during training [on Monday], and he was nervous today during warm-ups. The [trainers] confirmed that he'll only need one, maybe two days of rest.”
The Seattle Sounders forward, who had been slotted to start alongside Jozy Altidore up front, was replaced by Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski. It took “Wondo” just four minutes to take his first attempt on goal, in the form of a diving header that was saved off the goal line. Ten minutes later, another powerful header from Wondolowski drew a save.
“It was a bit hectic for Chris, coming on like that in the beginning,” Klinsmann said. “But I think he did fine. With a little bit of luck, he scores that header right away.”
Wondolowski provided the best chances for the U.S. during a first half in which it dominated possession, but endured slew of sloppy mistakes as it tried to settle into the adverse conditions.
Still, two goals and a win had Klinsmann in a good mood.
“We know there's a lot of work still ahead of us,” Klinsmann said, “but our energy and drive were there tonight. It was nice to see guys like [Diskerud] come on and make an impact. He looked like he'd been playing the whole game.”
The announced attendance at Candlestick was 24,688.
The U.S. plays next against Turkey on Sunday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.