Young U.S. side dominates from start to finish in friendly win vs. Bolivia
CHESTER, Pa. -- The U.S. men's national team manhandled Bolivia 3-0 in an international friendly at Talen Energy Stadium on Monday. Walker Zimmerman, Josh Sargent and Tim Weah all scored their first international goals. Another debutante, goalkeeper Alex Bono, recorded his first shutout, although he was rarely troubled on the night.
Here are three thoughts on the U.S. performance:
1. U.S. dominates from start to finish
The lineups of both teams were short on experience. Four U.S. starters -- Bono, Sargent and defenders Antonee Robinson and Erik Palmer-Brown -- were making their international debuts. The fact that the Bolivian league playoffs are going on meant manager Cesar Farias was forced to bring in a slew of inexperienced players, as well, with three members of his starting XI making their first international appearance.
That didn't stop the U.S. from dominating from the outset. The attacking front three of Rubio Rubin, Sargent and Weah had some decent interchanges, though precision with the final ball was lacking at times. Rubin set the table for Weah in the 10th minute, only for Bolivia goalkeeper Guillermo Vizcarra to save superbly with his right foot.
The U.S. kept up the pressure, forcing numerous set pieces, and the home side finally broke through in the 37th minute. Joe Corona swung in a corner from the right wing, and Zimmerman's header from 11 yards found the top corner for his first international goal.
Sargent padded the U.S. lead just seven minutes into the second half, picking off an errant pass from substitute goalkeeper Carlos Lampe and firing his shot almost right through Lampe.
The game began to open up a bit thereafter, and Palmer-Brown had to be alert to cut out a dangerous centering feed in the 57th minute.
The U.S. was soon in the clear, thanks to a goal fashioned by first-time internationals. Robinson broke free on the left wing in the 59th minute, and Weah powered his cross home with a first-time finish.
The usual parade of substitutes saw even more spaces appear, and another U.S. debutante, Keaton Parks, threatened a few times, but there were no more goals to be had.
Overall, it was a win that has to be put in context, given the understrength nature of the opponent. But the first steps in an international career have to be taken somewhere, and the U.S. youngsters acquitted themselves well.
2. Attackers show promise, easy night for defense
Much of the pregame talk centered on the fact that Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie would be sharing the field as senior international teammates for the first time. But the most chemistry was shown by Weah and Sargent, who were teammates with the U.S. U-17 squad that contested the World Cup at that age group in November; the two were consistently combining in and around the box, with Rubin getting on the ball, as well.
It was by no means perfect. The end product could have been better, with Weah's deliveries from the flank not as accurate as they needed to be. But overall, the trio of Weah, Sargent and Rubin was aggressive and the desire to combine was admirable.
Sargent might be only 18, but he has good size to do some of the dirty work needed during the buildup phase, and he certainly showed good instincts on his goal to not give up on the play, even if it was gifted to him. Rubin floated into open spaces and caused plenty of problems for Bolivia. And Weah finished off a night to remember by converting from close range.
As for the U.S. defense, it was a pretty comfortable night. Bono didn't have to record a save, while the rest of the defense was barely noticed, which counts as a positive. It must be said that McKennie provided a more than adequate shield in front of the backline. He timed his moments to step forward and break up plays well, and he kept the ball moving.
Zimmerman will certainly treasure his goal, though he and Palmer-Brown will admit there will be tougher tests ahead. Matches against Ireland and France beckon, but with as many as 10 changes expected to be made to the U.S. roster, it remains to be seen if that duo will be around to face the next challenge.
3. Pulisic looks like he needs rest
Pulisic was the headliner for the match, given that he grew up about 95 miles outside Philadelphia in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and he had plenty of friends and family on hand to witness his first match in a U.S. shirt in more than seven months.
While Pulisic no doubt enjoyed reconnecting with loved ones, more than anything, he looked like a player who at the end of a long club season definitely needs a rest. This is not to say he played badly. There were times when Pulisic's trademark acceleration on the ball got the crowd going, and he certainly didn't shy away from attacking opportunities. But he just seemed to be lacking a hint of sharpness, and the sight of him going down under a heavy challenge just before halftime drew a stadiumwide intake of breath.
As the second half progressed, the muttering on press row was that Pulisic should be taken off, lest the soccer gods strike him down. He ended up playing 89 minutes, but not before taking a late ball to the face. At least now he can enjoy his summer holidays.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.