Yanks Start Slow Against Venezuela, Settle for Draw
June 03, 2017
ON PAPER, everything seemed to be pointing the United States' way ahead of Saturday's friendly against Venezuela.
United States men's national team coach Bruce Arena was no doubt thrilled to have Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, and DeAndre Yedlin at his disposal—all three are top players and all three missed the March qualifiers against Honduras and Panama. Together with Clint Dempsey, Christian Pulisic, and Darlington Nagbe, the Yanks appeared to have a formidable attack in place.
The only problem: The Yanks played like complete strangers.
Johnson would pass to the left only to watch Dempsey turn right. Wood would make a run but Yedlin would fail to spot him. Pulisic and Nagbe would both converge on the same batch of real estate and a promising sequence would sputter.
It was a messy, low-energy contest and it ended in a 1-1 draw.
The American "A Team," if that's what it was, will likely benefit from the 90 minutes they spent together at Rio Tinto Stadium. A bit more familiarity should produce a more cohesive attack—either that or Saturday's shoddy showing will serve as a wakeup call before Thursday's World Cup qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago (8pm ET; FS1, UniMas, UDN).
Venezuela opening the scoring at the 29-minute mark on a quirky sequence off a corner kick. The ball bounced off three heads before finding Jose Velazquez in the six-yard box. He karate kicked the ball past Tim Howard to give Venezuela the lead despite the visitors' utter inability to maintain any sort of possession.
The goal went against the run of play and it felt as though the Americans would snap out of their funk, lurch into motion, and take control of the match.
But it didn't play out that way.
Five minutes later, in fact, Rubert Quijada nearly doubled Venezuela's lead off another corner kick. Somehow, though, Howard scrambled to make an astounding save off a low shot that seemed destined for the back of the net.
The U.S. accomplished precisely nothing in the opening stanza and things didn't seem appreciably better in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
The U.S. finally broke through just after the hour mark when Jorge Villafana pounced on a loose ball and passed to Fabian Johnson on the left side of the penalty area. The Borussia Moenchengladbach man wisely found Christian Pulisic in the center of the pitch, and the 18-year-old did all of the rest. Pulisic sidestepped his marker, created space for himself, and then slotted a left-footed shot past Jose Contreras to even the score.
The Yanks didn't celebrate the goal. Pulisic, in fact, looked almost angry that it had taken that long to score against Venezuela.
Unfortunately for the U.S., the floodgates did not exactly burst open at this point. In fact, Arena made six second-half substitutions, which only added to the team's disjointed performance. All told, the U.S. managed just two shots on goal and has a ton of work to do before Thursday's crucial qualifier at Dick's Sporting Good's Park in Denver.
What did you think of that game? Were the Yanks just shaking off some rust or are you concerned about the showing? Share your take below.