It’s a good thing the U.S. Men’s National Team got in a warmup friendly before its upcoming pair of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying clashes.
Bruce Arena’s men stumbled through a listless first half, but recovered for a decent performance in the second half to tie Venezuela 1-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.
Christian Pulisic’s fifth-career international goal salvaged a somewhat acceptable result for the USMNT in its first test in altitude before hosting Trindad and Tobago in Colorado on June 8 and visiting the Estadio Azteca on June 11.
Venezuela took control of the scoreboard in the 29th minute, when Jose Manuel Velazquez broke open in front of the net and smashed home a shot past Tim Howard. The goal was conceded off a corner kick routine that was handed second life by a poor Clint Dempsey clearance. As the ball returned to the box, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson failed to keep eyes on Velazquez before he opened the scoring.
The only bright spot of the first half for the Americans was the play of Howard in net. The Colorado Rapids man, who is looking to keep his spot on the goalkeeping throne at least until next summer made a big stop four minutes after the first tally as he dove to his right and stopped the ball on the line to keep the Americans within a goal of the visitors.
As the game progressed into the second half, the USMNT worked itself into the game, and a goal finally came its way in the 61st minute. The home side took advantage of nice buildup play on the left wing that resulted in the ball at the foot of Fabian Johnson. The winger, who had an otherwise forgetful match, picked out Pulisic with a pass and then everyone took a backseat to the Pulisic show.
Pulisic played the ball over to his left foot and directed his shot into the right side of the goal to hand the Americans a welcome sigh of relief. Throughout the rest of the second half, the USMNT was dangerous on occasion, with substitute Jordan Morris looking bright, but nothing flew into the back of the net.
Arena broke out a 3-5-2 in the second half, with a three-man back line of Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream and Matt Hedges. Jorge Villafana and DeAndre Yedlin acted as wingbacks, while Michael Bradley and Kellyn Acosta laid behind Pulisic. The formation is not a foreign concept for Arena and it might not be out of the question with the two games in a short span next week.
The result may not have been the best for the USMNT, but the match served its purpose as Arena was able to rotate his squad, switch up the formation and get a better look at who may be the difference makers when the Hex returns on Thursday.