In a game in which the US Men’s National Team had to come from behind twice, a 90th minute goal from Steve Birnbaum clinched a 3-2 victory over Iceland. After an underperforming 2015, starting 2016 with a win was crucial for the stars and stripes. The win makes it three in-a-row against European opponents, and also serves as a confidence builder going into Friday’s match against Canada.
Iceland got the game’s first goal in the 13th minute, when a scramble in the final third saw the ball land on the foot of Kristinn Steindórsson. His shot, which was deflected by Michael Orozco, got past US keeper Luis Robles.The US tied the game in the 20th minute when Jozy Altidore took a through ball and slotted it past the Icelandic keeper. The 1-1 score-line didn’t hold deep into the second half as Iceland retook the lead off of a great bending shot by Aron Sigurdarson in the 48th minute. Sigurdarson, who made his debut Sunday for Iceland, was the most dangerous Icelander on the field.
Again, the resilient yanks found an equalizer. Michael Orozco finished a Birnbaum headed pass to tie the match 2-2. Birnbaum then nabbed the winner off of a Michael Bradley cross. His 90th minute goal ensured the US got off to a great start in 2016.
A lot of positive signs can be taken from Sunday’s match. First, with his two assists, Michael Bradley reasserted himself as the American’s best player. In the second half, Bradley brought clarity to a midfield that became chaotic and bogged down.
The US also got a great performance by Jozy Altidore. Taylor Twellman mentioned early in the ESPN 2 telecast that Altidore was down 10-15 pounds from last year . It was immediately apparent as Altidore was a factor all match. He made many intelligent and explosive runs behind the Iceland back-four and held up the ball quite well. With an Altidore playing as he did Sunday, the ceiling for the USMNT rises exponentially.
The US also got strong performances by debutants Kellyn Acosta and Ethan Finlay. Although Acosta shares some of the blame for Iceland’s first goal, he was dangerous throughout the match going forward. Finlay, the Marshfield, Wis native, was effected down the right flank for the majority of the match. He showed glimpses of what had US fans calling for his selection for the better part of 2015.
Again, Coach Klinsmann showed his great touch with substitutions. He called on Birnbaum, who had a goal and an assist. Klinsmann also brought on Jerome Kiesewetter and Jordan Morris, who were both dangerous as soon as they came on the field. Despite a need to sure-up an inconsistent back-line, the USMT can take a lot of positives away from their victory over Iceland Sunday. Iceland, a team that will be participating in the 2016 European Championships, provided the US with a solid test. A test that the USMNT largely passed Sunday afternoon in earning a 3-2 victory. The US returns to the field Friday night against Canada (9:15 CT FS1).