US grind it out against Uruguay
© Foto-net

The high-flying USA, who ran riot through the group stages with a tournament-best nine goals, were forced to grit their teeth and come from behind in their 2-1 extra-time Round of Sixteen victory over Uruguay.

The Americans, who previously put on some sumptuous displays of one-touch football, looked to be caught off guard early by the organised and defensive-minded Uruguayans. A clever bit of work on the right side mid-way through the first half by Freddy Adu led to a fine cross for Josmer Altidore, who was unlucky to see his near-post header slip just over the bar.

With 22 fouls in the first half, the contest picked up its tactically conservative and confrontational nature shortly after the re-start. The Americans suffered a big blow on 51 minutes, when three-goal striker Josmer Altidore limped off with a knee injury and was replaced by Harvard University student Andre Akpan.

The Uruguayans, on one of relatively few attacks, managed to get the crucial first goal in minute 73. Luis Suarez crossed brilliantly for an unmarked Edinson Cavani, whose header was misplayed by stand-in goalkeeper Brian Perk. Suarez was then on hand to hammer home the chance his enterprising work had created.

When all looked lost for the Americans, their warrior in the middle of the park, Danny Szetela, showed his mettle once again. In a game where Adu's creativity was largely ineffective, Szetela's grit and graft were sorely needed. After winning the ball in the corner of the box with three minutes to go, he fired a cross past the Uruguayan keeper, where new man Akpan's pressure forced Mathias Cardaccio to put through his own net.

The Uruguayans nearly sealed it late in regular time, but Manuel Diaz's header could only angle off the post as the game headed to extra time. The Americans improved with each passing minute of the additional time, and two minutes into the second 15 a precise Adu corner was slapped at by Uruguay keeper Yonatan Irrazabal, forced back in by Julian Valentin and hammered into the roof of the net at close range by Michael Bradley.

The Americans now move on to meet Austria in their quarter-final in Toronto on 14 July, while the Charruas head for home with lessons in pocket.