The pattern since last spring is familiar: The United States does well in the first half and fades as the final whistle approaches.
Nicklas Bendtner took advantage of a defense that gave up two more late goals to score his first international hat trick, and Denmark rallied to beat the United States 3-2 in an exhibition game at Aarhus on Wednesday night.
“It’s very disappointing because it’s not the first time we let a game get away from us in the last few minutes,” Michael Bradley said after his first start as American captain. “It’s something that we’ve got to start to learn from.”
Jozy Altidore scored in the first half and set up former club teammate Aron Johannsson’s goal in the second.
But Bendtner tied the score for the hosts in the 83rd minute and got the winner in the first minute of stoppage time. Christian Eriksen looped a ball over the defense and Bendtner ran onto it, took a touch and beat goalkeeper Nick Rimando from about 15 yards for his 29th goal in 65 international appearances.
Altidore was frustrated the No. 32 Americans “gave a game away like that.”
“The goals we gave up were just soft,” he said. “We’re not hard enough to play against.”
The U.S. is 2-6-3 since beating Ghana in its opener at the World Cup, where it was knocked out by Belgium in the second round. The Americans have given up 12 goals from the 80th minute on in their last 12 games.
John Brooks had a chance to tie it in the third minute of stoppage time but put an open header wide off Bradley’s pass. The 28th-ranked Danes outshot the U.S. 12-4.
“We have to step it up in terms of managing the game all 90 minutes,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “Maybe you’re just losing the focus for a second, just losing your marker because of heavy legs, getting tired a little bit.”
Klinsmann changed seven starters from last month’s 2-0 home win over Panama, keeping only Rimando, midfielders Bradley and Gyasi Zardes, and Altidore.
On a cool, 41-degree evening, Klinsmann changed his entire back line, starting Timmy Chandler on the right, Michael Orozco and Brooks in the center and Greg Garza on the left. Alejandro Bedoya and Fabian Johnson also were in the midfield of a 4-4-2 formation, and Johannsson was up front.
Club America defender Ventura Alvarado, eligible to play for the U.S. and Mexico, made his international debut when he entered in the 80th minute.
Altidore put the Americans ahead in the 19th minute with his 27th international goal. After an unmarked Bendtner tied the score in the 33rd, Johannsson gave the U.S. the lead in the 66th off a pass from Altidore, who played with him on the Dutch team AZ Alkmaar during the second half of the 2012-13 season. Johannsson made his first national team appearance since the World Cup.
Before Johannsson’s goal, the U.S. had been outscored 9-0 in the second half of games since the World Cup while outscoring opponents 9-2 in first halves.
Wearing its new navy road jerseys, the U.S. was missing regular captain Clint Dempsey and defender Jermaine Jones because of injuries. Klinsmann bypassed No. 1 goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defenders Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez.
Altidore’s goal, his fourth in six games, came against the run of play. Chandler lofted a 40-yard cross from the right flank, and Altidore got by Daniel Wass. Running onto the ball after a bounce, Altidore took a left-footed shot from 8 yards that deflected off sliding defender Simon Kjaer and beat goalkeeper Stephan Andersen.
Bradley created the second American goal when he played a 30-pard pass over the defense to Altidore, who burst past Wass. Altidore took a touch and laid off the ball to Johannsson, who scored from 8 yards on the field of AGF Aarhus, the club he played for from 2010-13.
The Americans next play Switzerland on Tuesday in Zurich.
“We have to sit down tomorrow and in the coming week to figure out what we did wrong and fix that,” Johannsson said.
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