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U.S. Men's National Team

Pulisic equalizer earns USMNT tie with Venezuela

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.

18 comments
  • Gary Page

    At times the US looked mediocre. Much of the time they didn’t look that good. One hopes they will play with more intensity and desire in the next two games. They aren’t good enough to win just by showing up. Even for a friendly it was a blah performance.

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  • johnnyrazor

    I really don’t like this 4-4-2 diamond. If the point is to get as many forwards on the field as possible it isn’t doing much good because we can’t make the passes to get them the ball anyway. Wood and Dempsey both were starved for service most of the match.

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  • Old School

    Dislike: The diamond formation appeared to create too many traffic jams centrally.

    Extreme Dislike: The FS1 camera work. To me, it appeared evident that camera man has never worked a soccer match in his life. We don’t need to be zoomed so far in that only a 10 yard radius is visible. Amateur stuff.

    After 10 minutes I almost turned off the match. I wouldnt have missed much if I did.

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  • I scored three goals in one game

    Don’t like the diamond, don’t like the 3 man back line that was out there in the second half or villafana as a wing back. Nagbe and CP seem to be in each others way early. Seem to be a waste of a friendly.

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    • Ronniet

      I’d have to disagree with your last point about the 3 in the back in the second half. I thought we defended better in it, and it allowed Villafana(who I thought had his best game tonight) and Yedlin to contribute to the attack positively. I’d even go as far as to say it’s a formation I see us using going forward. Overall it was what you’d expect considering the altitude and some players still need to familiarize themselves with one another because of all the injuries or suspensions this year.

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      • I scored three goals in one game

        I like them playing with a back 3 don’t get me wrong just not the back 3 they used. I would rather have seen the starters going with 3 at the back, but I guess the 3 subs might get the run out against Mexico after the short turn around after T&T depending on Brooks injury.

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  • Dennis

    I liked the three in back. It gives the US the ability to outnumber the opponents in midfield and get more possession.

    In the first half, it looked like Bradley was trying to cover too much space and too many attackers and his play suffered for it. He also hit at least one very poor pass that challenged his own defense, but Venezuela were unable to punish the US for it.

    I think Pulisic is better on the wing where his ability to dribble at defenders, speed and ability to make good entry passes can flourish. I thought, that in the middle, he was too tentative. When the US has players like Pulisic, Wood and Morris who can attack the wings at pace why did Arena chose a setup in the beginning that encouraged the front 3 (Wood, Dempsey and Wood) to attack the same central space?

    Nagbe and Johnson were supposed to be the guys to attack up the side, backed up by Villfano and Yedlin, but their efforts pretty much came to naught. Johnson, in particular, was where the US attack went to die in the first half as he stumbled over and miss-played the ball multiple times. OTOH, his pass to Pulisic for the goal in the second half was excellent.

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  • David M

    This was an extremely poor peformance by the team. Not really a single dangerous attack in the entire game.

    Over the years, I was one of Michael Bradley’s biggest fan; however, he has clearly regressed since coming back to the MLS and now offers very little. Offensively he’s a non-presence, defensively he’s very slow to cover and constantly keeps giving the ball away. I’d like to see Cameron tried in his spot.

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    • recoveredamishman

      Cameron, Acosta, Williams… All of them would surpass MB given the time to settle in and adjust. McCarty would be a sideways move, but at least there would be some movement. MB seems most comfortable standing between the centerbacks and booting balls to the corners. It looks impressive but it isn’t.

      Like

  • mikezissou

    wasnt this the same comment room that was so excited for a diamond in the Sbi preview?

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    • johnnyrazor

      The preview is always a case of is it what should happen or what will happen. I think most of us thought it would happen. It also was the first time we had Bradley at DM and FJ and Nagbe on the wings so that provided excitement for some. Turned out at least in the first run that perhaps it isn’t the best for that group.

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  • Dennis

    After watching the U-20s lose to Venezuela, being out-shot something like 20-5, having little possession and even less dangerous possession I trust that those calling for the U-20s to replace the starters on the USMNT will give up on that idea for a while.

    The U-20s did show a lot of pluck and nearly stole the game in the last minute of regulation.

    J. Klinsmann had an outstanding game in goal for the US. Without him (and the crossbar) the final score could easily have been 3 or 5 to nothing.

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    • johnnyrazor

      When you actually look at the U20s none of them are stars in MLS and the European players aren’t getting regular first team minutes anywhere. Even EPB doesn’t play for SKC, although some of that may be that he is unlikely to be there by August. I’m sure by the time Qatar qualifying comes around some fans will be calling for Pulisic’s benching because he’s had his chance time to blood new players.

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    • Old School

      After watching the U-20s lose to Venezuela, being out-shot something like 20-5, having little possession and even less dangerous possession I trust that those calling for the U-20s to replace the starters on the USMNT will give up on that idea for a while.

      On this note, I found it a bit disturbing Bruce Arena, during the pre-halftime interview, said he’s not concerned with lopsided possession.

      That was an inferior Venezuela squad and having our entire “A-Team” (minus Altidore who is up for discussion to begin with). There’s no reason we shouldn’t have dominated the possession game, especially, given the what the diamond formation should garner.

      I guess we’re comfortable with moving back to punting the ball forward and hoping we capitalize on set-pieces?

      Like

  • i scored three goals in a game once

    They need 5 in the midfield, Bradley needs help. I wouldn’t care if its a 3-5-2, 4-5-1 or lets get crazy and go 3-6-1(3-2-4-1). No more diamond

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    • mikezissou

      its tough watching them get outnumbered in the midfield every game. Plus it puts bradley in a position to fail which has a domino effect. Also the USMNT has a number of good midfielders. Pairing a guy who plays with a cerebral style like bradley with a guy plays with an edge and likes to tackle like Dax sounds like it would work. It doesn’t have to be those two. There is no Messi on this team so no one is undropable (CP excluded). I think that would put the more attacking plays in a position to succeed as well

      i am not saying never play with 2 forwards, but doing it every game regardless of opposition is a recipe for disaster

      Like

  • Scott e Dio93

    Focus less on trends (rainbows)! Focus proper preparation for over 2,000 meters! gulati! USSF & MLS need communication for preparations future Qualifiers or Gold Cup!

    mexico is more preper for us (USNT)!

    Like

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