EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Juan Agudelo scored in the 59th minute, and the United States rallied for a surprising 1-1 tie against Argentina and Lionel Messi in a high-profile exhibition game on Saturday night.
Esteban Cambiasso put fourth-ranked Argentina ahead in the 42nd minute after a thrilling run to the endline by Messi, who passed through the legs of U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra. Angel Di Maria's initial shot was stopped by goalkeeper Tim Howard, and Cambiasso scored on the rebound.
After the U.S. switched to a more offensive approach, energizing the crowd of 78,936 at the New Meadowlands Stadium, the 18-year-old Agudelo scored his second goal in three international appearances. It followed Landon Donovan's corner kick and an initial header by Bocanegra that was saved by goalkeeper Mariano Andujar.
Messi, the two-time FIFA player of the year, went through and around the U.S. defenders as if they were mere guard rails, but was held scoreless for the first time in Argentina's last three games.
The 19th-ranked U.S. improved to 2-6-2 against Argentina, winning 3-0 in the first round of the 1995 Copa America and 1-0 in a 1999 exhibition at RFK Stadium.
Messi, the 2009 and 2010 FIFA player of the year, was held scoreless for the third straight time against the U.S.
He was the center of attention on the chilly night, when the gametime temperature was 35. Wearing orange boots, thick black gloves and a white, long-sleeved shirt under his short-sleeved jersey, he was a threat every time he touched the ball on the offensive half. Midfielder Jermaine Jones tried to shadow him when he was in the center of the midfield, and Oguchi Onyewu knocked him down with a clutzy elbow to the head while going for a header in the 24th minute. After he received treatment and got up, fans chanted "Mess-iiii! Mess-iiii!"
Messi stripped the ball from Clint Dempsey near midfield in the 40th minute, sped toward the goal, spun around Michael Bradley, cut to the center and shot from inside the penalty area, with Howard reaching up for the save.
Two minutes later, it was Messi again. He went around Jonathan Spector, ran to the endline and then played the ball through Bocanegra's legs into the 6-yard box. Maria's shot was saved by Howard, the rebound went to Cambiasso, and he scored with a right-footed shot from 6 yards for his fifth international goal and first since a September 2008 World Cup qualifier against Peru.
The U.S., debuting new red jerseys with blue sashes, was backed up in its own end for most of the time in the first half, and the Americans struggled to string together four consecutive passes.
At the start of the second half, the U.S. switched to a more offensive lineup with Agudelo replacing Jones and Timmy Chandler coming in at right back in his national team debut, replacing Spector.
Messi forced Howard to make a sliding save with his right leg on a shot from the 6 in the 47th minute. A minute later, Chandler was given a yellow card for a rough foul on Javier Mascherano.
The U.S. finally strung together eight straight passes in the 52nd minute. After the ball was squared it bounced to Maurice Edu, whose shot from the area was wide by about a yard.
Agudelo tied the score after Donovan's free kick was headed by Bocanegra and the shot was blocked by Andujar. Agudelo charged in and knocked it into the net, shocking the Albiceleste and provoking wild cheers.
NOTES: With his 129th international appearance, Donovan moved past Marcelo Balboa into sole possession of third place on the U.S. list, trailing Cobi Jones (164) and Jeff Agoos (134).