Soccer: Buddle's 2 goals lead US over Australia 3-1
AP Sports Writer
ROODEPOORT, South Africa — The dress rehearsal could not have gone much better for the United States.
In a small stadium near an open field in a suburb west of Johannesburg, the Americans beat Australia for the first time, a 3-1 victory Saturday on a sun-splashed autumn afternoon that filled the U.S. players with confidence.
Next up is the game the Americans have been waiting six months for, their high-profile World Cup opener against England on June 12.
"We don't fear them," Landon Donovan said. "We feel they're a team we can compete with."
Edson Buddle, not even in the national team picture a few months ago, scored in the fourth and 31st minutes for his first two international goals. Herculez Gomez, another player not expected to make the World Cup roster, entered in the 82nd minute and scored against the Socceroos in second-half injury time, his second national team goal in 12 days.
"It seems like everything Edson touches is a goal," goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
Tim Cahill scored for Australia in the 19th minute when he beat Howard, his Everton teammate, for his 20th goal in 40 international appearances.
"We're definitely moving in the right direction," said Steve Cherundolo, who took over from Jonathan Spector at right back. "We still have a few things to work out."
In the two previous warmups since gathering in mid-May, the U.S. lost to the Czech Republic 4-2 using mostly second-stringers, then rallied for a 2-1 win over Turkey in last weekend's sendoff.
This was the team's first game since arriving in South Africa on Monday, and the first it used with the much-criticized Adidas Jabulani ball.
"I think the majority of the problems today were due to the flight of the ball," Donovan said. "I think a lot of times the ball doesn't fly true, and it puts your defenders under a lot of pressure. So we're going to have to do some work this week just judging the ball better."
In the next six days, U.S. coach Bob Bradley will watch injured forward Jozy Altidore, who didn't play after spraining his right ankle during training Wednesday. In his absence, Bradley started Buddle, Major League Soccer's scoring leader, as his target forward and paired him with speedy Robbie Findley.
Findley went wide with an open shot in the 15th minute that could have made it 2-0. But his speed stretched the defense.
"They worked great together," said midfielder Michael Bradley, son of the coach. "The movement was good. They were a real handful to play against."
Bradley also must decide on the fitness of central defender Oguchi Onyewu. Appearing in his third match since knee surgery on Oct. 21, Onyewu entered in the 61st minute for Clarence Goodson, who was paired with Jay DeMerit.
"I'm feeling good," Onyewu said. "Everyone's starting to jell together."
Howard played the first half, and backup Marcus Hahnemann the second. He made a point-blank stop on Mark Bresciano in the 59th minute, and Cherundolo stopped Scott Chipperfield's shot at the goal line in the 63rd.
The defense for the 14th-ranked U.S. was shaky against No. 20 Australia, the biggest cause of concern going into the World Cup. Bob Bradley said he thought the team was getting sharper, but he saw the need for improvement in "the coordination of the defense at times and the ability when we get advantages to connect quickly and make something out of them."
The U.S. had never scored in two previous matches against Australia, losing 1-0 in 1992 and tying 0-0 six years later.
With injured English star David Beckham looking on and fans blowing vuvuzelas — the long plastic horns that sound like a cross between bees and the brass section of an orchestra while tuning up — Buddle put the U.S. ahead early in a wide-open match with a few chippy plays but no consistent hard tackling.
"There were chances on both ends," Australian midfielder Vince Grella said. "I think considering how flat we sort of were, we created a fair enough amount of chances. We were sloppy. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to work that out. We have to do better, and we know it."
There were lots of friends in this friendly.
U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey exchanged hugs before the game with Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, his Fulham teammate. Howard shook hands with Cahill and later smiled when asked about the goal by his club teammate.
"A poacher's goal," he said. "The fact he scored it makes it more humorous. That's what kind of goals he gets."
Named by his father after Pele, Buddle scored his first goal after he took the ball from Grella in the Australian end. Buddle moved one step inside the penalty area and sent a 16-yard shot over the left shoulder of Schwarzer.
Cahill tied the score off a corner kick from Luke Wilkshire. Carlos Bocanegra and DeMerit let Cahill escape unmarked, and he extended a foot to score from 6 yards.
Schwarzer made an outstanding save to deny Dempsey in the 27th minute. Freed by Donovan's through ball, Dempsey broke in, but Schwarzer just got his left hand on the ball and pushed it outside the far post.
"Mark's a good keeper," Dempsey said. "It's always tough to score against him."
Dempsey and Craig Moore received yellow cards in the 37th minute, for shoving after a shift-grab, the chippy highlight. Buddle put the U.S. back ahead with a header from 4 yards after Cherundolo streaked down the right side, beat his man and crossed.
Josh Kennedy missed an open header in front in the 34th minute, and another free shot from close three minutes into the second half.
"There was the breakdown here or there," Schwarzer said. "It wasn't great, but we worked on some things we need to do."
The time for tinkering is over. Australia opens the World Cup against Germany on June 13. The U.S. heads to its first competitive match against England since the great 1-0 upset at the 1950 World Cup.
"I'm ready," Dempsey said.