CARSON, Calif. – When the U.S. national team hit the field against South Africa featuring a slew of young and inexperienced players, Los Angeles Galaxy and U.S. star Landon Donovan wasn’t sure what to expect.
That the Nats were able to handle the pressures of playing in a sold-out stadium against a difficult team on the other side of the planet is one thing – that the Americans won makes it more startling.
“Given the travel that everybody had to endure, the lack of familiarity not only the players but with the coaching staff and then guys who just don’t have a lot of experience,” Donovan said, “I thought it was a great result.”
The U.S. won 1-0 on a late goal by New York Red Bulls youngster Juan Agudelo, who at 17 years of age became the youngest goalscorer in U.S. national team history.
The challenges for the Americans were vast, Donovan said. After all, Jonathan Bornstein's 35 caps made him the most experienced player in the side. Five players were making their international debut. Add the inexperience and the untried lineup, and the challenges mount up.
“They played well,” Donovan said. “It’s difficult when you have a few new players in a team, much less… 12, 13, 14 and a lot playing on the field at the same time.”
Agudelo’s club teammate, Tim Ream, was the only uncapped player to start the match but Mikkel Diskerud, Gale Agbossoumonde and Teal Bunbury all played with the national team for the first time.
The squad also featured some MLS veterans such as Eddie Gaven, Brian Carroll and Logan Pause, but it was the youngsters who left a strong impression and gave hope for the future.
“I was very impressed with a lot of different players,” Donovan said. “The kid (Eric) Lichaj has done very well in the two games I’ve seen him. I though Diskerud in his few minutes did well. I thought Agudelo did well, great goal, really good goal. For a kid that age to score a goal like that, I was very impressed. As a whole our backline did real well and (Brad) Guzan did good. I was encouraged.”