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Buddle bags brace for States
Edson Buddle staked his claim for a starting spot against England next Saturday with two goals for the United States in their friendly victory over Australia in Roodepoort.

LA Galaxy striker Buddle, the leading goalscorer in Major League Soccer this season, struck twice in the first half of an open and entertaining final warm-up match before the World Cup gets under way.

They were 29-year-old's Buddle's first goals at senior level for his country after a promising early career has been severely affected by injury setbacks.

With first-choice frontman Jozy Altidore sitting out the game with a mild right ankle sprain, Buddle showed perfect timing in advancing his cause for a role in next weekend's Group C opener and Herculez Gomez, another back-up striker, showed his worth by coming off the bench to score the third in the 93rd minute.

The USA suggested they may pose a threat to England offensively with Landon Donovan, who had a loan spell at Everton last season, a class act when drifting in from the right flank.

But, in contrast, their defence continually looked shaky and was carved open on several occasions.

USA needed only four minutes to open the scoring through Buddle. He took advantage of some slack defensive play before beating Mark Schwarzer with a powerful 15-yard drive.

Australia were second best in the early stages and Robbie Findley should have doubled the USA's advantage after 15 minutes. He was put clear of the Australia defence by Clint Dempsey's pass, took the ball past Schwarzer but then shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

It was against the run of play when Australia levelled matters after 19 minutes. The American defence failed to deal with a hanging corner from Richard Garcia - and Everton's Cahill made no mistake from close range.

Lucas Neill had a goalbound shot blocked from a Jason Culina corner as Australia looked to take the lead.

Back at the other end, Schwarzer needed to be alert to parry away an effort from Fulham club-mate Dempsey after Donovan had put him clear. But he was unable to prevent Buddle restoring the USA's lead after 31 minutes when he headed in a right-wing centre from Steven Cherundolo.

Tim Howard beat away a Culina drive from the edge of the area and there was certainly a competitive edge to the game.

Dempsey and Australia's Craig Moore were both yellow-carded after squaring up to each other in the middle of the pitch. The former had the ball in the net early in the second half but his effort was ruled out for offside.

Veteran Wolves keeper Marcus Hahnemann, who replaced Howard at half-time, did well to twice block close-range efforts from Mark Bresciano.

The USA continued to look uncertain almost every time the ball was put into the danger area in their box.

Australia dominated the second period and Hahnemann turned aside another fierce drive, from substitute Nikita Rukavytsya.

Dempsey was on the receiving end of a series of fierce challenges with Vince Grella cautioned for one of them on the midfielder.

Herculez Gomez made it 3-1 in stoppage time when he tucked away Donovan's low cross.

# Bradley pleased with display

United States coach Bob Bradley was happy with his side's final warm-up match but admits there are still areas to work on.

He said: "In all ways it was an absolute final tune-up. We are pleased with the lead-up to the England game. These matches are always tricky with a week to go but the competitiveness of the match was exactly what we needed. Overall our understanding on the field is good, our fitness is good and we are getting sharper and sharper.

"In terms of improving still, I think the co-ordination of the defence at times can improve and also the ability, when we get advantages, to connect quickly and make something out of them.''

Bradley was pleased with Buddle's contribution but would not confirm whether the LA Galaxy player would start against England. He said: "No decisions will be made yet on starting line-ups but Edson continues to get more comfortable within the group. You saw the things that have highlighted his MLS season so far, taking chances well, good finishing.''

Bradley also insists he is sorry to see England skipper Rio Ferdinand ruled out of the World Cup. He said: "Whenever you get close to a World Cup and see players pick up late injuries and miss out, then I think all players, all coaches, everyone in the game, feels bad when that happens.

"When a player like Rio Ferdinand goes down injured, when there is a question mark against Didier Drogba etc, these are things you don't want to see.''
 
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