Veterans lead U.S. past Venezuela 

January, 22, 2012

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Four young players earned their first caps with the U.S. national team Saturday night, but it was the play of three recently overlooked veterans that impressed the most in the Yanks' 1-0, stoppage-time win here against Venezuela.

Ricardo Clark, making just his second appearance since that crushing loss to Ghana at the 2010 World Cup, nodded home the winner off a corner in the 97th minute. The assist went to armband-wearing Jermaine Jones, the Chicago-born, German-raised Champions League regular with Schalke who has never looked fully comfortable with the U.S. since switching allegiances from Die Mannschaft and making his debut with the Americans 14 months ago.

Earlier in the match, former Gold, Confederations and World Cup supersub Benny Feilhaber, operating in Clint Dempsey's usual spot as a playmaking midfielder, was at the heart of the Americans' most promising moves.

For each player, taking the field for this far-from-glamorous B squad friendly was a huge opportunity to prove they deserve a full-time return to the first string.

In this game at least, they did.

"I think I was able to do some things," said Feilhaber, the New England midfielder who played his first international game since Jurgen Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley as U.S. coach in July 2011. "First game back with the national team in a while -- it's always good to put on the shirt and play for our country. Obviously Jurgen's system is new for me and for a lot of us. It takes a little bit of adapting. Today was a good start for me in that [No. 10] spot, and a little bit of a stepping-stone."

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.