PHILADELPHIA — When Robbie Rogers’s effort settled into the net, providing the U.S. men’s national soccer team with a 1-1 draw Wednesday night at Lincoln Financial Field, Juergen Klinsmann beamed with delight and pumped his arms — once, twice, three times.
In his first match in charge of the U.S. squad, Klinsmann had to wait most of the evening before bursting with emotion — something he exhibited regularly as coach of Germany’s 2006 World Cup squad. It came in the 73rd minute when Rogers, a former University of Maryland standout, finished Brek Shea’s cross just one minute after entering.
Rogers offset Oribe Peralta’s first-half goal in the friendly, which was a rematch of the CONCACAF Gold Cup final six weeks ago.
“It was a special moment, before the game listening to the anthem and feeling the energy in the stadium and feeling the energy from the players,” said Klinsmann, 47, a legendary figure in German soccer who has lived in the United States for 13 years. “I really enjoyed it.”
The rivalry has shifted decidedly in Mexico’s favor this year. Buoyed by the Gold Cup championship, El Tri displayed supreme confidence and imposed its attack with efficiency and menace. The Americans, meanwhile, were taking baby steps under their new instructor.
The contrast was striking in the first half, but bolstered by the entrance of Rogers, Shea and Juan Agudelo, the Americans were lively and entertaining in the last 25 minutes in front of 30,138 observers.
“We attacked, we kept the ball, it was totally different” in the second half, Rogers said. “All the subs brought great energy to the game, and that’s your job.”
Klinsmann was hired, in part, to offer a new style and change an approach that seemed to have grown stale during a laborious Gold Cup campaign this summer. On Wednesday, he didn’t disappoint, implementing a fresh look.
He started three Mexican-Americans who play in the Mexican league — Jose Torres, Edgar Castillo and Michael Orozco Fiscal — and pushed Michael Bradley into an advanced role in central midfield. The formation included two defensive midfielders, three attacking midfielders and a lone forward (Edson Buddle). There was also symbolic change: The starters wore traditional 1-11 uniform numbers. “It’s a signal that there’s a fight going on for those numbers,” Klinsmann said.
Unlike the Gold Cup final — which Mexico won 4-2 at the Rose Bowl on June 25 — this encounter lacked consequence. The importance of the match, however, never seems to matter to these regional powers, who always offer compelling theater. The game crackled with intensity from the opening whistle. Under a new coach, though, the Americans lacked ideas and rhythm.
In the 17th minute, Mexico caught the Americans off-guard on Andres Guardado’s short corner kick. Guardado received the ball back and drove the ball to the edge of the six-yard box. Bradley was marking Peralta, properly positioned between the forward and the net. But Peralta instinctively swung his right leg around Bradley before the U.S. midfielder could react and redirected the ball into the far corner.
Early in the second half, the Americans forged their finest threat. Carlos Bocanegra powered Landon Donovan’s corner kick on target, but goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made a sensational reflex save.
Klinsmann turned to his bench, inserting Rogers, 24, Shea, 21, and Agudelo, 18. The trio combined to set up Rogers’s equalizer. Agudelo collected a throw-in and touched the ball back to Shea, who surged into the box, beating one defender and drawing another toward him. At the end line, Shea served a low cross past the outstretched Ochoa to Rogers at the back post for a one-touch finish.
The Americans pressed for another goal, the best chance coming when Donovan set up Shea for a low drive that Ochoa steered aside.
“Newness is always kind of hard because we’re trying to get a feel for [Klinsmann] and he’s trying to get a vibe for us,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “It will be good to get in for a week [next month] and get to know one another even more. It’s been good, it’s been upbeat, so there’s a positive feeling.”
U.S. Notes: Forward Freddy Adu, midfielder DaMarcus Beasley and defender Tim Ream were not included on the game-day roster. . . . The Americans will play Costa Rica on Sept. 2 in Carson, Calif., and Belgium four days later in Brussels. Four additional matches this fall are in the planning stages.