United States 2, Azerbaijan 0 - Diskerud, Substitutes, Rescue Slow Start to Send Off Series

Ezra Shaw

It wasn't a great first hour of soccer to watch, but Mix Diskerud donned his hero cape and came off the bench with Aron Johannsson and both substitutes scored in the USA's 2-0 win over Azerbaijan from Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Mix Diskerud was given the unfortunate task of being the first United States player to wear #10 at a World Cup since Landon Donovan took over the shirt so many years ago.

It didn't take him long to make an impact wearing soccer's most iconic jersey number.

Diskerud powered home a loose ball following a Michael Bradley shot in the 75th minute in the second half and Aron Johannsson scored his second international goal a few minutes later in the 81st as the USA eventually broke down a tough Azerbaijan defense for a 2-0 victory in their first game of a three match Send Off series for the 2014 World Cup.

The night started off poorly for the USA when captain Clint Dempsey was scratched from the starting lineup and was replaced by Chris Wondolowski. And it was Wondolowski who had two early chances sending two close range headers and forcing Azerbaijan keeper Kamran Agayev into two saves. But the game was then void of any real action despite the work rate of wingers Graham Zusi and especially Alejandro Bedoya.

It was the second half that would eventually spark the US into more chances. Brad Davis was brought in on the left side of midfield at halftime along with Omar Gonzalez and Timmy Chandler in the defense. It was Davis who had the more immediate impact on offense, drawing a free kick that was judged to be outside the box but replays clearly show Davis well inside the area. There would be no penalty kick for the breakthrough, the Americans would have to earn it.

Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson entered just after the hour mark, and it would be Diskerud who would strike first. Following a Davis corner kick, Diskerud challenged for the ball where it fell to Michael Bradley. Bradley's shot would be blocked but Diskerud was on hand to power the rebound from close range off of keeper Agayev for the opener. It was Diskerud's third career goal for the US.

Minutes later, another Brad Davis corner kick would find Johannsson unmarked in the center of the box and the Icelandic-American made no mistake, coolly heading the ball into the top corner and giving the US a 2-0 lead. Azerbaijan tried to mount a counter attack at the end of the game but could not get past the US defense or Tim Howard, who earned his 53rd victory in the US shirt tying Kasey Keller for most all-time among US keepers.

Overall it was not a great day for many of the Americans, perhaps tired after lots of conditioning over the early weeks of training camp. Matt Besler had some unnerving moments early on including a bad pass turnover that lead to an Azerbaijan shot on goal. Jermaine Jones did well to operate as the holding midfielder but he too wasn't at his best distributing the ball and a silly foul gave away a free kick in a dangerous spot. Jozy Altidore did well with his hold up play but really struggled to generate any clear chances from it.

Jurgen Klinsmann's attacking options off the bench remain sold as proven by Diskerud and Johannsson's goals today and two assists from Davis. Azerbaijan didn't muster enough of an attack to really test the new US backline although the starting group did fairly well after settling into the game.

The USA's next opponents in the Send Off Series will be against Turkey (June 1, Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ) and Nigeria (June 7, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL) will provide much tougher tests for the USMNT.

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