Ronaldinho inspires Brazil over US

Published Sunday, September 9, 2007 10:09 PM by Shane Barrow

Brazil overcame a tentative start, shimmying and weaving around defenders and getting a go-ahead goal on Ronaldinho's free kick late in the second half to rally past the United States 4-2 in a wide-open exhibition game Sunday. 

It was the fifth straight defeat for the United States, its longest losing streak since 1994, and the Americans dropped to 1-12 against Brazil, a five-time World Cup champion ranked No. 1 in the world. Carlos Bocanegra put the Americans ahead in the 21st minute off a Landon Donovan corner kick, but Brazil tied it with an own-goal off defender Oguchi Onyewu in the 33rd following a shot by Kaka. The South American champions went ahead when Lucio headed Ronaldinho's corner kick in the 53rd.

Clint Dempsey then tied the score for the 17th-ranked Americans in the 73rd but Ronaldinho, a two-time FIFA player of the year, put a ball over the defensive wall two minutes later, easily beating goalkeeper Tim Howard. Elano converted a penalty kick in injury time after Michael Bradley pulled down Julio Baptista.

The US team, champions of North and Central America and the Caribbean, held its own early.  Bocanegra scored off the first corner kick. Donovan -- perhaps taking a few lessons from Los Angeles Galaxy teammate David Beckham -- played the ball into the penalty area and the ball bounced off Bocanegra's chest and past goalkeeper Doni.

It was just the seventh goal in 51 international appearances for Bocanegra, but two have been against Brazil. The last time the teams met, Bocanegra put the US team ahead in a 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup match in Miami, but Brazil rallied to win 2-1 in overtime.

Brazil tied it with some jogo bonito -- beautiful play. Robinho brought the ball down and passed to Ronaldinho, who made a pass that split the defense. Kaka shot from about 10 yards and goalkeeper Tim Howard batted the ball out, but it bounced off Onyewu's chest and rebounded back into the net. Lucio then put Brazil ahead with only his third international goal. After a poor clearance by Bocanegra gave a corner kick to Ronaldinho that went to the far side of the penalty area, where Lucio had broken free unmarked and headed it in from an angle.

Heath Peace's blistering 25 yd shot was saved by Doni in the 68th, and the Americans complained when Josh Wolff was pulled down and there wasn't a call.  Dempsey then tied it when he one-timed a right-footed shot from the middle of the penalty area off a pass from Steve Cherundolo. But a foul by Bocanegra created the free kick for Ronaldinho, whose ball went over the wall as two Brazilians and second-half sub Bobby Convey moved their heads. With the sun in his eyes, Howard didn't appear to see the kick.

Afonso had nearly put Brazil ahead in the ninth minute, when he took a long pass from Ronaldinho, trapped the ball with his chest and beat Onyewu and Howard only miss just wide right.  Robinho put in a nice display in first-half injury time, getting around two defenders in a corner, running along the end line and getting past Onyewu only to fall and earn a yellow card for diving.