The Ukrainian Men’s National Soccer Team gave a spirited performance in defeating an undermanned and lackluster USMNT squad 2-0 on Wednesday to give their nation a brief respite from the violence and tension that has enveloped the largest country in Europe since protests broke out on the streets of Kiev and Russian troops occupied the Crimean peninsula.
The international friendly — only the fourth time the two countries have locked horns — was originally supposed to be played in Kharkiv, Ukraine but was moved to Larnaca, Cyprus because of the political unrest. Earlier media reports indicated the game could be possibly be canceled.
There was a small contingent of patriotic Ukrainians waving the yellow and blue national flags and cheering on their team in the mostly empty stadium that was so quiet at times that the ESPN cameras could pick up the in-game conversation between U.S. goalie Tim Howard and attacking midfielder Clint Dempsey.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann‘s lineup did not include MLS regulars Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Johnson, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, but leaned in favor of a more European-based squad for the friendly. Klinsmann went with a young back four, and they struggled at times as Edgar Castillo, John Brooks, Oguchi Onyewu and Geoff Cameron were out of sorts most of the match.
Ukraine proved once again that despite not qualifying for this summer’s World Cup, they are one of the most formidable national teams in Europe. Head coach Mykhaylo Fomenko went with a lineup of mostly domestic-based players from Dynamo Kiev, Dnipro and Shakhtar Donetsk. The only starter playing club football outside of Ukraine was Zenit‘s Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
The first goal scorer at the 12th minute was Andriy Yarmolenko, and the insurance goal was scored at the 67th minute by Marko Devic. Given the unfolding crisis on Ukrainian soil, the men’s national team put in a focused and determined effort to claim a victory that the entire country can be proud of.