Feilhaber scores first national team goal
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- With many of the stars on the U.S. national team playing with Major League Soccer clubs this weekend, some of the younger players got a chance to show they can contribute in international play.
Benny Feilhaber scored his first goal for the national team and assisted on another Saturday night to help the Americans tune up for a busy summer of tournaments with a 4-1 exhibition victory over China.
Feilhaber was among five U.S. starters who entered with five or fewer national team appearances. All made key contributions, with Feilhaber also assisting on Clint Dempsey's second-half goal.
"Each and every game I play, I feel more confident and the players around me have felt more confidence with my game, so I've been able to get more balls and more touches," Feilhaber said. "That's the important thing about it. Every game, you get more balls, more touches, more confidence."
Sacha Kljestan, making his national team debut, fed Feilhaber for a goal in the 28th minute that gave the United States a 2-1 lead.
Michael Bradley, son of new U.S. coach Bob Bradley, set up DaMarcus Beasley's penalty-kick goal to open the scoring in the 10th minute, and defenders Jonathan Bornstein and Jonathan Spector made key contributions from the back line.
"It's a good sign for the future," Dempsey said. "We have a lot of young kids coming up. They're very talented. All it's going to take is a little time for them to get adjusted and they'll be doing the same things we were doing. It will be more difficult to keep your spot. That's what you want, a more competitive environment.''
Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson were among the stars playing in MLS this weekend, their last club games ahead of the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup. The United States opens the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean on Thursday night against Guatemala. After that tournament, the U.S. team plays as an invited guest at the Copa America, South America's championship.
"Obviously the Gold Cup is a huge tournament for us," Feilhaber said. "My goal is to play well in the Gold Cup and show well for the national team and earn a spot."
Those will be the first real competitions for Bradley, who had the interim tag removed from his title last month. Bradley was hired in December to replace Bruce Arena and is now 4-0-1 as U.S. coach.
"It felt the same as all the other games," Bradley said.
Michael Bradley, making fifth national team appearance, set up Beasley early with a sharp pass down the middle. Beasley dribbled in the box and was tripped up by goalkeeper Chen Dong, who was given a yellow card. Beasley converted the penalty kick in the 10th minute, beating Chen with a shot down the middle.
China answered when Dong Fangzhuo sent a pass into the box that Wang Peng deflected. Zhang Yaokun came up with the loose ball and beat goalkeeper Tim Howard, who enters the Gold Cup as the No. 1 American goalkeeper ahead of Kasey Keller.
Feilhaber and Kljestan teamed up for the go-ahead goal midway through the first half. Kljestan passed to Feilhaber in the right side of the box. Feilhaber dribbled in and chipped the ball over the charging goalie, getting tripped up after the shot. Zhang Yaokun made a desperate attempt to save the ball but was unable to stop the ball from going in to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.
"I wouldn't have wanted to pass it to anybody else," Kljestan said. "When we came up in the 20s we were just two young kids trying to make it. It was our dream to play on the national team let alone play together. To have his goal scored on my assist is a great thing for us.''
Dempsey finally converted midway through the second half after having two good chances stopped by Chen. But the Chinese goalie could do nothing when Feilhaber's corner found Dempsey all alone for an easy header that made it 3-1.
Oguchi Onyewu scored the final goal for the United States, heading in a cross from Beasley in the 79th minute.
Keller was not tested at all in the second half as China struggled to generate much offense without regular captain Zheng Zhi, who He stayed in Asia to play for his club team Shandong in the East Asian Champions Cup.
The Chinese play exhibitions against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Tuesday and the Colorado Rapids on June 10 as part of their tuneup for next month's Asian Cup.
Notes: Charlie Davies and Kamani Hill entered as second-half subs in their first appearances with the U.S. national team. The United States improved to 4-1-2 against China.