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U.S. fortunate to escape Russia with draw in final match of 2012

Three thoughts on the U.S.' 2-2 tie against Russia in Wednesday's friendly in Krasnodar ...

The U.S. got a tie despite being largely outplayed. This was just a friendly, so there's little reason to make much of the result, just as there was little reason to do so when the U.S. won at Italy and Mexico in friendlies earlier this year. That said, there's still some value in bagging a tie even when you weren't the better team on the day, and the U.S. managed to do so thanks to Mix Diskerud's injury-time equalizer. Goalkeeper Tim Howard made several key saves that kept the U.S. in the game, and give some credit to subs Juan Agudelo and Terrence Boyd, who had knockdown header assists on the U.S. goals. It's fair to ask if Michael Bradley may now be making The Leap. The Roma starter was the best player on the U.S. squad, continuing an upward trend in his play over the past year, and his opening strike from distance was a thing of beauty.

Mistakes in key moments hurt the Americans. On the whole Russia outplayed the U.S. except for a good American stretch midway through the second half. The two Russian goals were due in part to U.S. mistakes: the first on a bad giveaway by Danny Williams inside his own half and the second on a late penalty that resulted from poor positioning and judgment by defender Clarence Goodson, even though Howard appeared to have the play covered. Overall, questions about the U.S. back line will remain, namely who should be the starting center backs. Geoff Cameron seems to have one spot nailed down, but the other one is up for grabs heading into World Cup qualifying in February.

Josh Gatt deserves more call-ups. The big surprise in Jurgen Klinsmann's starting lineup was the inclusion of Gatt, a speedy 21-year-old right midfielder who just won his second title in Norway with Molde and earned his first U.S. cap Wednesday. Gatt didn't set the world on fire, but he also didn't look out of place and had some useful moments in the game. (Not everyone's U.S. debut always goes so well. Remember Brek Shea's?) Gatt's game needs some seasoning, but he does have building blocks that could be important for the U.S. moving forward, speed and youth foremost among them. It would make sense if Klinsmann kept Gatt in mind once World Cup qualifying starts up again, not so much as a starter in 2013 but as a guy who might be ready come 2014.

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