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US Soccer team's young stars make mark ahead of World Cup

by Dorian Merina | Take Two®

Fans wait for the US Men's Soccer team during a practice session at San Francisco's Candlestick Park behind the banner, One Nation, One Team.

The U.S. Men's Soccer team is one step closer to Brazil and next month's World Cup with a win last night against Azerbaijan. The U.S. won 2-0 on a windy night at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.

But it took more than 70 minutes to get on the scoreboard, and both goals came from substitutes. Mix Diskerud, 23, struck first, poking the ball in the back of the net after Michael Bradley's shot was deflected by keeper Kamran Aghayev. Ten minutes later, Aron Johannsson, 23, scored on a header from a Brad Davis corner kick. Striker Clint Dempsey, who was scheduled to wear the captain's armband, sat out the game due to a groin injury.

"Everyone did fine, did exactly what we hoped they would do," said coach Jurgen Klinsmann after the match. "We had the chance to get a lot of subs to give them playing time, as well."

Klinsmann, who likes to keep his players guessing, will be counting on that playing time during these "friendly" games to help him fine-tune his starting line up. The game was one of the last chances for players to impress.

But steady winds at Candlestick kept them from hitting a rhythm or demonstrating the more exciting, attacking style that Klinsmann has sought to bring to US soccer. The crisp one-two passing that players showed in recent against Mexico or South Korea was largely absent, with few scoring chances from either side until well after halftime.

"That was a game where we had to grind them down," said goalkeeper Tim Howard, who with last night's win against Azerbaijan tied Kasey Keller as the US goalie with the most wins, 53. "They were tough."

After the grueling two-week training at Stanford, the US team heads to the East Coast tomorrow. They face Turkey this Sunday, then Nigeria on June 7.

But the date that looms large for US fans? June 16. That's when the US faces Ghana in the first game of the World Cup -- the true test of how the team stacks up against the best in the world.

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