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LONDON – Teofilo "Teo" Gutierrez headed in a late goal as Colombia came from behind to beat the United States 2-1 in a friendly at Craven Cottage on Friday.
Wilting under late pressure is becoming all too familiar for the Americans, who have conceded second-half goals in three consecutive, winless matches.
Jozy Altidore had put the U.S. in front from the penalty spot in the 10th minute at Fulham's west London stadium, having scored just once for Sunderland this season.
Colombia was the superior side all night but only managed to equalize in the 61st when Carlos Bacca, who had been denied a penalty at the end of the first half, struck the equalizer.
Gutierrez then scored in the 87th minute for the win.
"In a way, you've got to be men. We've got to grow up a bit," Altidore said. "We didn't match that intensity in the second half."
The raucous Colombia fans were stunned when the U.S. scored the first goal. Pablo Armero handled in the penalty area, and despite Colombian protests and goalkeeper Camilo Vargas then diving the correct way, Altidore's spotkick landed in the net.
It was a rare bright moment this season for the Sunderland striker.
"I know about his difficult situation with his club team, but all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that he solves it, he scores goals, he convinces the (Sunderland) coach to start him," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We know when he comes to us he is full of energy."
The Colombians were accomplished performers throughout the match, showing why they are ranked 20 places higher than the No. 23 Americans, despite struggling to find the net. James Rodriguez sent a free kick wide, Jeison Murillo's looping header was pushed over by U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan and Bacca hit the outside of the post after withstanding Jermaine Jones' sliding challenge.
Bacca was also denied a penalty when his shot struck Jones' arm in a crowded penalty as the first half ended.
"We will improve, but I like the ambition," Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. "Our midfield was way too eager. Colombia is a team that plays with such attacking swiftness and it would be helpful to have a bit more a pause."
Having solidly resisted waves of Colombian attacks all night, the U.S. conceded when Rodriguez weaved into the penalty area before passing to Bacca, who appeared to be offside. And facing no resistance, Bacca darted across the goal and put the ball into net from a tight angle.
The pressure intensified on the U.S. defense with Guzan saving shots by Gutierrez and Pablo Armero before being beaten again when Gutierrez headed in Edwin Cardona's cross.
Klinsmann blamed another U.S. collapse on the World Cup hangover, with players unable to hold out for 90 minutes.
"We had many players struggling after the World Cup to get back into shape, especially European players," he said. "We had quite a few European players losing their starting spots."