Goalkeeper Brad Guzan had an outstanding game as the USA played out a goalless draw with Ivory Coast, whose array of attacking talents were unable to breach a stalwart American resistance.
Guzan, who is being lined up for a move to English Premier League club Aston Villa, was the last line of an impressive defence, which had to contain the likes of Chelsea winger Salomon Kalou, captain Gervinho and his strike partner Sekou Cisse, top scorer in May’s eight-nation Toulon Tournament where the Young Elephants finished third.
The USA started with what appeared to be their strongest starting line-up, with veteran Brian McBride partnership 18-year-old Jozy Altidore up front, and 19-year-old Freddy Adu in an attacking midfield role.
However, coach Peter Nowak seems to have plenty to think about after the team’s performance improved after both forwards and three midfielders were replaced at half-time. Holding midfielder Michael Bradley was the only one of the front six to retain his place for the second 45 minutes.
“I was pleased with the defence and the keeper did well. We still have a lot to work on to get everything working together properly, but we did okay,” said the former Poland international.
Ivory Coast had the best of the first half, with holding midfielder Koulimane Coulibaly pulling the strings
Salomon Kalou started on the left wing, often switching with Cisse, but it was Coulibaly who looked the most likely to score, finding his range with a couple of early efforts from long distance before forcing saves from Guzan in the 32nd and 35th minutes with shots from outside the box.
Altidore had the clearest chance for the USA in the 42nd minute when he rose to meet Stuart Holden’s cross, but the six-foot one-inch striker saw his downward header bounce over the bar.
For the second half, Nowak played five across the middle, with Sweden-based Charlie Davies as the long striker. Benny Feilhaber managed to pick up a yellow within two minutes, while impressive right-back Marvel Wynne followed him into the book five minutes later after bringing down Kalou outside the box.
The Chelsea star took the resulting free-kick, which hit the wall land fell for Gervinho, but the Le Mans star only managed to prod it wide of the post.
Two minutes later, a right-wing cross was met by Cisse whose header rebounded off a defender back to him, and his follow-up shot forced a save from Guzan.
In the 61st minute, left-back Serge Pascal Wawa made an impressive overlapping run on the left, but as he fell following a burst into the box, was only rewarded with a yellow card for diving.
Cisse had arguably the chance of the night in the 71st minute when he held off Maurice Edu to chase a flick on from Kalou, but Guzan saved the effort with his legs.
“We improved a lot from the way we played in the game against Korea on Sunday and I think we did well,” Gervinho said. “We just didn’t take our chances, but we’re definitely getting better.”