The U.S. soccer team played its first game of the new year with a nod to its past, showing inconsistency and pluck, youth and misjudgment. But the team managed to fight back from a first-half deficit for a 2-2 tie against Denmark, the European champions.
Joe-Max Moore of Irvine justified U.S. Coach Bora Milutinovic’s confidence in him by scoring the game’s final goal. Bruce Murray, U.S. soccer’s most prolific scorer, had his 20th goal during the second half and seemed to rouse his team from listlessness. Jean Harbor, who has yet to sign a contract with the national team, came on in the second half and was a force, with and without the ball.
“We stunk in the first half. I’ll say I played badly, too,” Murray said. “It frustrates me that we didn’t really look too good. But we have a fighting spirit.”
Because of a slow start, the team needed that spirit to bail them out. The United States’ play in the first half in front of 13,215 at Sun Devil Stadium was as familiar as it was frustrating for Milutinovic. U.S. players were frequently stripped of the ball at midfield, and Denmark kept constant pressure on U.S. goaltender Tony Meola.
Denmark took a 1-0 lead on Mark Strudal’s goal in the 29th minute and had seven other shots on goal during the first half.
That changed in the second half, when the United States faced only two shots on goal.
Murray made the score 1-1 with a header in the 58th minute. But Denmark took the lead in the 85th minute on a goal by Jakob Kjeldbjerg.
Two minutes later, Harbor set up Moore on the tying goal. Harbor, who did not start, is prized for his experience and presence. His ability demands at least one defender marking him closely, opening the field to teammates.
That’s what happened on the tying goal. Harbor held the ball, while two Danish players rushed to cover, then crossed it to Moore. Moore quick-passed to Mike Sorber, who gave it back. Moore found the corner of the net from about 12 yards out.
“I got the opportunity to score and made the most of it,” said Moore, a former Mission Viejo High School and UCLA standout.