The pattern since last spring is familiar: the United States do well in the first half and fade as the final whistle approaches.
The former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner took advantage of a defence that gave up two more late goals to score his first international hat trick, and Denmark rallied to beat the US 3-2 in a friendly at Aarhus on Wednesday night.
“It’s very disappointing because it’s not the first time we let a game get away from us in the last few minutes,” Michael Bradley said after his first start as American captain. “It’s something that we’ve got to start to learn from.”
Jozy Altidore scored in the first half and set up former club teammate Aron Johannsson’s goal in the second. But Bendtner levelled for the hosts in the 83rd minute and got the winner in the first minute of added time.
Christian Eriksen looped a ball over the defence and Bendtner ran onto it, took a touch and beat goalkeeper Nick Rimando from about 15 yards for his 29th goal in 65 international appearances.
Altidore was frustrated the Americans “gave a game away like that”.
“The goals we gave up were just soft,” he said. “We’re not hard enough to play against.”
The US have just two wins from 11 matches since beating Ghana in their opener at the 2014 World Cup, where they were knocked out by Belgium in the second round. The Americans have given up 12 goals from the 80th minute on in their past 12 matches.
John Brooks had a chance to tie it in the third minute of added time but put an open header wide off Bradley’s pass. The Danes outshot the US 12-4.
“We have to step it up in terms of managing the game all 90 minutes,” US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “Maybe you’re just losing the focus for a second, just losing your marker because of heavy legs, getting tired a little bit.”
Klinsmann changed seven starters from last month’s 2-0 home win over Panama, keeping only Rimando, midfielders Bradley and Gyasi Zardes, and Altidore.
On a cool evening Klinsmann changed his entire back line, starting Timmy Chandler on the right, Michael Orozco and Brooks in the centre and Greg Garza on the left. Alejandro Bedoya and Fabian Johnson also were in the midfield of a 4-4-2 formation, and Johannsson was up front.
Club America defender Ventura Alvarado, eligible to play for the US and Mexico, made his international debut when he entered in the 80th minute.
Altidore put the Americans ahead in the 19th minute with his 27th international goal. After an unmarked Bendtner levelled in the 33rd, Johannsson gave the US the lead in the 66th off a pass from Altidore, who played with him on the Dutch team AZ Alkmaar during the second half of the 2012/13 season. Johannsson made his first national team appearance since the World Cup.
Before Johannsson’s goal, the US had been outscored 9-0 in the second half of games since the World Cup while outscoring opponents 9-2 in first halves.
The US were missing regular captain Clint Dempsey and defender Jermaine Jones because of injuries. Klinsmann bypassed No 1 goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defenders Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez.
Altidore’s goal, his fourth in six games, came against the run of play. Chandler lofted a 40-yard cross from the right flank, and Altidore got by Daniel Wass. Running onto the ball after a bounce, Altidore took a left-footed shot from 8 yards that deflected off sliding defender Simon Kjaer and beat goalkeeper Stephan Andersen.
Bradley created the second American goal when he played a 30-yard pass over the defence to Altidore, who burst past Wass. Altidore took a touch and laid off the ball to Johannsson, who scored from 8 yards on the field of AGF Aarhus, the club he played for from 2010-13.
The Americans next play Switzerland on Tuesday in Zurich.
“We have to sit down tomorrow and in the coming week to figure out what we did wrong and fix that,” Johannsson said.
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