AARHUS, Denmark (AP) — The United States finished its 2009 schedule with a 3-1 loss to Denmark, losing its second straight match on a quick tour that was the last time Europe-based players will gather before March.

Jeff Cunningham gave the United States the lead with a 26th-minute goal, but substitutes Johan Absalonsen, Soren Rieks and Martin Bernburg beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan during the first 10 minutes of the second half.

The United States finished the year with 13 wins, eight losses and three ties, qualifying for its sixth straight World Cup and losing in the finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup and the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

“It kind of stinks that we ended it this way. You never want to go out on a loss,” U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said. “Do we still have things to work on? Yeah. But heading into the World Cup, we have a lot of confidence and we’ll be pushing forward.”

After the World Cup draw on Dec. 4, the next time most of the U.S. squad will be together is March 3, when the Americans are likely to play an exhibition game at the Netherlands.

“2009 was still an excellent year,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “We’ll always look for things as reminders of the work that still needs to be done, and when you end with a game like Denmark it provides the opportunity to look hard at things and remind players hard work is necessary to continue to be successful.”

Edgar Castillo, who switched from Mexico’s national team to the United States earlier this year, made his American debut when he entered in the 61st minute.

“It was a good experience for my first time,” the 23-year-old defender said. “I was a little nervous but the nerves went away and I got excited when I was going to step on that field. I’m happy to be here and happy to be playing here.”

Cunningham, Major League Soccer’s scoring leader this year, put the U.S. ahead in the 26th minute after a poor clearance by Danish goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen. It was the first international goal in 12 appearances for Cunningham, who before last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Slovakia hadn’t played for the U.S. since 2005.

The Americans were missing Landon Donovan, who remained in the United States to play in this weekend’s MLS Cup for the Los Angeles Galaxy, and several other regulars.

Denmark was without Jon Dahl Tomasson, Dennis Rommedahl, Daniel Agger, Soren Larsen and Nicklas Bendtner.

U.S. midfielder Benny Feilhaber of Aarhus, playing in his home stadium, had a seventh-minute shot that was deflected by a diving Sorensen. Cunningham put the United States ahead with a left-footed shot from about 26 yards.

Absalonsen, Soren Rieks and Martin Bernburg entered at the start of the second half, and all played key roles in Denmark’s comeback.

Simon Kjaer looped a pass over Jonathan Spector in the 47th minute, and Absalonsen tied the score. Five minutes later, Absalonsen sent a low ball to Rieks, who pushed it past Guzan. Bernburg added the third goal in the 55th minute after the ball went between Bocanegra and Jonathan Bornstein.

“It would have been nice to finish off the year with two better results, but that’s life,” said midfielder Michael Bradley, son of the U.S. coach. “We’ll get ourselves ready at the beginning of next year and make sure we’re ready for a strong push at the World Cup.”


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