USA vs. South Korea: Score, Grades and Analysis
The U.S. men’s national team pulled out a 2-0 victory over the Korea Republic thanks to a brace from Chris Wondolowski. The game may have been labeled as an “International Friendly,” but the intensity levels were high, as both teams are trying to find their form before the 2014 World Cup and have players on the roster bubble fighting for their right to travel to Brazil.
The United States got off to a winning start in 2014, while Korea opened the year with back-to-back losses (after losing 4-0 to Mexico in January). Despite the fact that both teams were fielding reserve-laden sides, it was a good test for each squad.
For the U.S., it was a chance to encounter a tight back line and free-flowing counter-attack. It didn’t take them long to break through that back line, however, as Wondolowski broke the tie with a goal in the fourth minute.
A perfect cross by Graham Suzi led to a shot on goal by Brad Davis, and the Korean keeper punched it right into the path of Wondolowski, who knew exactly what to do with the glorious chance.
After falling behind early, it remained to be seen whether South Korea had the firepower to climb back from the deficit, but they put plenty of pressure on the U.S. defense—especially from set pieces.
Korea had six corner kicks to USA’s one, and the size of forward Shin-Wook Kim (6’4”) posed problems for the U.S. defense all game.
It was a tight contest for the majority of the game, but it was again Wondolowski who capped off a U.S. attack and made something out of nothing. A low cross into the box was deftly back-heeled by Landon Donovan and fell right into Wondolowski’s wheelhouse as he put it away to give his team the win.
He was subbed out right after the goal and certainly gave his manager plenty to think about as he continues to mold the team he will take to the World Cup.
For Korea, it was another disappointing result. There are legitimate concerns over the defense, as they’ve given up six goals in their last two matches.
There is plenty of talent on the Korean squad, but they haven’t been performing to their potential in the lead up to the festivities in Brazil.
Chris Wondolowski: A+
Choosing whether or not to bring Chris Wondolowski to Brazil may be one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s toughest decisions on the roster. With his recent play, Wondolowski is making the choice a little easier.
“Wondo” scored both of his nation’s goals against the Korea Republic and showed his knack for both being in the right place at the right time and scoring goals in bunches:
Chris Wondolowski has scored in four #USMNT games. Three of those are multi-goal games.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) February 1, 2014
Against Korea Republic, Wondolowski made his case for inclusion in the final squad.
Wondolowski won’t compete with Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan for a starting role on the U.S. men’s national team, but his clinical finishing and opportunistic play would make him an intriguing “super sub” option for Klinsmann.
Graham Zusi: A-
Graham Zusi has earned the starting spot on the right side of midfield, and he showed why against Korea.
He didn’t have any stats, but he was consistently making plays and initiating attack sequences for the U.S. offense.
His service from the wings posed a threat for the Korean defense on almost every occasion, and he was instrumental in the buildup to both goals.
With his strength, speed and top-notch crossing ability, Zusi figures to be a big part of the American offense in Brazil.
Shin-Wook Kim: B
Shin-Wook Kim was the only Korean player who truly stood out, and part of that is because Kim literally stands out.
His 6’4” frame has already been discussed, and he was a terror off set pieces against Team USA. He only had two shots (one of which was on target), but he revealed a flaw that could be fatal for the Americans in Brazil.
They are vulnerable to set pieces, and the quality of service into the box will be much higher against the teams in their “group of death”: Germany, Portugal and Ghana.
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