GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ricardo Clark had barely played in the last six months. His last appearance for his German second-division team came in July, and this was his first game for the U.S. national squad since August.
Finally given a chance, he provided the goal that had eluded his team all night.
Clark headed Jermaine Jones' corner kick into the net in the 7th minute of stoppage time and the United States beat Venezuela 1-0 in a friendly on Saturday night.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann inserted Clark into the game in the 86th minute.
"Ricardo came in and you could see that he was struggling because he hasn't played for many months," Klinsmann said. "He was trying hard to catch up with the group and still not there because of that long stretch. But once on the field he is a player that is technically very gifted."
The U.S. had dominated play with nothing to show for it before Clark beat goalkeeper Jose Morales from 7 yards away for his third international goal and first since September 2009.
Venezuela was livid at the finish, upset with a series of calls and non-calls by officials that led to a series of events concluding with the winning goal.
Moments after Clark scored, Venezuela's Jose Velasquez was ejected with a red card. Venezuela drew four yellow cards to one for the United States.
"For us, it was sad to give up a goal in the 98th minute," Venezuela coach Cesar Farias said. "For us, this result leaves a sour taste and the way we lost, but the experience is important."
The first match between the countries in five years featured the "B'' teams of both nations because the top players are with their professional squads.
An exception was Jones, who is playing with the national team while serving an eight-game suspension by the German soccer federation.
"It was a great cross," Clark said of the corner kick that led to the goal. "I found a good spot and made the most of it."
It was Clark's first game since the United States played Mexico on Aug. 10. He last scored in international competition against Trinidad and Tobago on Sept. 9, 2009.
The 28-year-old midfielder from Jonesboro, Ga., is ignominiously remembered for a play in the 2010 World Cup, when Ghana's Kevin-Prince Boateng stripped the ball from him and put the Black Stars ahead in the fifth minute. Ghana went on to eliminate the Americans 2-1 in overtime.
Jones, who served as U.S. captain for the game, was suspended when the German federation concluded he had intentionally stepped on the foot of star player Marco Reus during a break in the action of a German Cup game between Jones' team Schalke and Borussia Moenchengladbach.
The U.S. outshot Venezuela 15-6, many of the opportunities from short range, but the shots were errant, or Morales made one of his five saves.
Even though it was a struggle, Klinsmann liked what he saw from his young players.
"We had 10, 12 chances and they had no chances, we controlled completely and that gives them confidence," he said. "We wanted to give them a feeling of this type of game that they can play with these nations."
Morales was shaken up after he took a knee to the left thigh from American C.J. Sapong. The goalkeeper sat on the ground for several minutes until the decision was made to leave him in the game, an incident that led to the extended stopping time that featured the winning goal.
The United States beat a team from South America for the first time since a 3-1 win over Ecuador on March 25, 2007. The U.S. had 10 losses and three ties against teams from that continent since then.
The U.S .improved to 3-4-1 since former German World Cup star Klinsmann took over from Bob Bradley as coach last year.
Jones had one of the best chances for a goal but missed from point-blank range. The U.S. had also failed miserably on set plays until the game winner.
Venezuela had a scoring shot in the 62nd minute but Carlos Salazar's header went right into the hands of goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Moments later, the U.S. squad missed another chance when Teal Bunbury's shot off a breakaway was just right of the post.
Venezuela and the United States played for the fourth time. The U.S. leads the series 2-0-1.
Clark's goal was only the sixth for the U.S. teams in Klinsmann's eight games as coach.
Clark, a former player with Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo, is with Eintracht Frankfurt but has fallen out of favor and hasn't been in a match for the team since July 25, the second game of the season.
The United States plays Panama in Panama City on Wednesday.
Hamid made his U.S. national team debut along with defender A.J. DeLaGarza, midfielder Graham Zusi and substitute Sapong.