U.S. Dominates Bolivia in Lopsided Copa Warm-Up
May 28, 2016
JURGEN KLINSMANN'S U.S. men's national team was so bad in the first half against Ecuador Wednesday night, and so good in the second interval after certain personnel changes were instituted, that American fans were eager to see a drastically different Starting XI Saturday night against Bolivia.
Instead they got Gyasi Zardes at striker again, Jermaine Jones in the midfield, and up-and-comers Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic on the bench.
And you know what? Against Bolivia, it didn't really matter.
And you know what else? Because the old-school Yanks were good enough to dispatch a poor Bolivian side, 4-0, it's increasingly likely that Klinsmann will go with his familiar core on Friday night against Colombia.
Despite their spectacular showing against a tough Ecuador team, Nagbe and Pulisic are likely headed to the bench as Copa America Centenario begins.
Saturday's ho-hum friendly, meanwhile, was never much of a contest. Thanks to a pair of Alejandro Bedoya assists, the Yanks jumped out to a 2-0 first-half lead and never looked back, dominating the 79th-ranked South Americans.
The game got off to a slow start, as both teams knocked the ball around without much purpose. (The Americans did display much more urgency than they had three nights prior.)
In the 26th minute, the Yanks took advantage of some questionable Bolivian defending to take a 1-0 lead. On the play, Clint Dempsey found Alejandro Beydoya on the right flank, about 45 yards from goal. The Nantes midfielder promptly delivered a clever one-touch pass into space, Gyasi Zardes ran onto the ball, and with his only touch the Los Angeles Galaxy attacker delivered a right-footed shot past onrushing Bolivian goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra. The ball bounced easily into the back of the net and the U.S. took the lead.
The Americans hadn't looked particularly impressive to that point, but the 4-3-3 formation featuring Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Bedoya in the midfield was a marked improvement over the midfield troika—Bradley, Jones, and Beckerman—that started Wednesday night against Ecuador.
Bradley and Bedoya showed good understanding as the pair created the Americans' second goal 10 minutes later. With the U.S. captain standing over a dead ball 30 yards out, Bedoya made a smart run down the right flank and Bradley found him with a perfectly weighted ball. Bedoya sprawled out to make a cross, delivered a dangerous ball into the center of the box, and John Brooks stepped forward to slap an uncontested left-footed shot into goal to give the Yanks a 2-0 lead.
It looked all too easy—and it probably was.
Bolivia's sieve-like defense didn't show much improvement in the second interval, as the U.S. had the lion's share of possession and dominated play.
In the 52nd minute, Bradley floated an innocuous long ball to Bobby Wood on the left side of the attacking zone. The Hamburg striker chested the ball toward the end line and then crossed it right in front of goal. The tireless Zardes was in the right spot at the right time and stabbed a one-time shot into the back of the net to put the Yanks up by three.
Zardes' previous second-half touches were poor, but he buried his one chance in front of goal with authority to secure the brace and put the game out of reach.
Zardes and Bedoya came off at the 63rd-minute mark, replaced by Nagbe and Pulisic. Sure enough, the dynamic subs created a beautiful goal almost immediately.
Nagbe did most of the work on the tally, slicing through the Bolivian defense and setting up the 17-year-old Pulisic with a soft pass that found him in stride on the right side of the penalty area. Pulisic made no mistake with his shot, cooly beating Viscarra with a low, hard shot inside the near post.
With the strike, Pulisic became the youngest American on record to score a goal for the men's national team.
A this point, any remaining drama quickly left a shockingly empty Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. The Bolivians just wanted the game to end. The Americans kept pushing hard, as the remaining midfielders and forwards looked to pad their stats and/or push for a starting spot.
Late sub Chris Wondolowski had the best chance in the dying moments of the match, but he couldn't put his wide-open shot past the Bolivian goalkeeper.
Was the U.S. as good as it looked Saturday night? Was Bolivia just really bad?
We will have a better sense of things Friday night when the Yanks square off against fourth-ranked Colombia in the opening match of Copa America Centenario.