In the last warm-up game before the Copa America Centenario, the United States Men's National Team put out close to their strongest lineup possible. The only exception from a normal looking XI was Matt Besler-although this seemed like a bizarre selection by manager Jurgen Klinsmann, Besler performed very well. The coach's reasoning was that he simply wanted to rest his starting full-backs.
The first half was a good one for the men in stars and stripes. They had 62% of the possession over their counterparts. Bolivia only managed two shots and none on target in the opening half with only a handful of true chances. The United States had an abundance of opportunities and put two of them in the back of the net. Both goals were supplied by Nantes midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. On the first occasion, Clint Dempsey sent a pass back and Bedoya flipped a ball over the top for Gyasi Zardes. Bolivian goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra came to the edge of the box and Zardes took advantage, slotting the ball into the back of the net easily. The second goal would come from a set piece, as Michael Bradley took a free kick early from just outside the box, getting it through to the edge of the box for Bedoya. The ball was delivered into the center of the box, where Dempsey swung and missed. John Brooks was the benefactor of Dempsey’s miss as the ball fell to his feet, and he was able to easily put the ball away for the USA’s second goal.
The US would take that two-goal advantage into the second half, hoping to extend their lead and dominance over Bolivia.
The United States Double Down
The second half seemed a continuation of the first. The US had a majority of the possession and chances and Bolivia were left with the scraps. Jurgen Klinsmann would make use of all 6 of his available subs with DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, Graham Zusi, Christian Pulisic and Chris Wondolowski all entering the pitch in the latter stages of the game. Even with all the new faces coming into the game, the star from the first half, Gyasi Zardes, continued his good form. He scored his second goal in the 52nd minute and lead the US front line on a night when Dempsey seemed to be absent could very well give Zardes the momentum, going into Copa America, to become an international superstar.
However, the LA Galaxy man was not the breakthrough player on the night. That honor belonged to 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic, who came on in the 63rd minute. From that second on, the 17-year-old from Hershey, PA, was everywhere on the pitch. He seemed to be the focal point of the attack and was on the ball at every opportunity. In the 69th minute, he would get his reward. Darlington Nagbe made a run into the Bolivian box and cut the ball to his right to find Pulisic to create history. He passed the ball into the back of the net to give the US their 4th goal on the night and with that Pulisic became the youngest American to ever score for the national team. After two stand out performances leading up to Copa America Centenario, he is making a serious case to start in the tournament. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann shared his thoughts on the youngster after the game, “He's grounded. He knows that he has a long way to go, but he has no fear and this is very important, not having fear, especially when you play in our region and it becomes really physical.”
The United States’ first group game will be against Colombia on June 3rd in Santa Clara, CA. Games against Costa Rica and Paraguay will follow. Bolivia face off against Panama to begin their tournament with games against reigning Copa America Champions, Chile after that and their final game against reigning Copa America runners-up, Argentina.