USMNT Report: Experimentation pays off against Puerto RicoThe United States defeated Puerto Rico, 3-1, thanks to new faces and younger players
by Herb Scribner | Sunday, May 22, 2016
The United States Men’s National Team started its summer on the right foot.
In a game that was as throwaway as desk papers on a Friday, the USMNT defeated Puerto Rico 3-1 with goals from Tim Ream, Bobby Wood and Paul Arriola.
Though the game didn’t feature great soccer, it did get the USA ready for the hot and dry conditions they are surely to find this summer in the Copa America.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Paul Arriola — It’s rare a player does so well in his or her first appearnace for an international team. But Arriola deserves MOTM honors for an assist on Bobby Wood’s goal and for a goal he scored late in the game to put the US up 3-1.
ANALYSIS: It wasn’t exactly the easiest game to watch — stadium was makeshift, camera work was deplorable and the ball spent more time in the air than the ground — but USA fans will relish in the fact that the Yanks scratched out a victory.
I’ve gotten on Klinsmann’s case in the past for switching his lineups and putting players in uncomfortable positions, especially in big games. This game — a friendly against the No. 152-ranked Puerto Rico — was a match to actually do this. We got to see some unfamiliar and newer USA faces stretch their legs and get more acquainted with international soccer. Arriola was a welcomed addition, as was seeing Perry Kitchen, formerly of DC United, play as a right midfielder. We even got a few flash moments of Eric Hyndman and Alfredo Morales — some of whom won't be with the USA this summer for the Copa America.
Eric Lichaj and Julian Green also made appearances, both of which seemed to be like a last chance for the players to prove themselves to Klinsmann and his staff that they belong on any USA roster moving forward.
The first half goals came from Bobby Wood and Tim Ream, but neither were overwhelmingly pretty. Ream’s came off a rebound, whereas Wood’s occurred while a Puerto Rico player was down and injured. The debate’s still out about whether the Yanks should have held off play, but Wood still put in a bull-like run to the finish line for the strike.
Paul Arriola did well in his first cap for the USA, earning an assist and then a goal of his own in the 56th minute. He made a perfect run for Alejandro Bedoya to find him.
Defensively, the United States struggled at points. In the 50th minute, PR’s Ramirez tried a one-time strike after he was left open at the back post. He was wide open, without any defender around him. That's not something you want to do in soccer, especially at the international level. Always mark your man.
In fact, Puerto Rico’s goal in the 42nd minute from Luis Betancour occured because centerback John Brooks left him too much space, giving ample room for him to flick the ball back and over Guzan.
But for the most part, the defense had a lax day. Williams was productive in the back, as was Miazga in the second half. Goalkeeper Tim Howard faced very little opposition in the book, a "lazy Sunday," as Eric Wynalda called it on the FS1 broadcast.
Yedlin had a surprisingly good game for the USA. He struggled early on this season in England's Premier League, though did pick up his form towards the second half of the season. Against Puerto Rico, Yedlin was quick, fast and mobile, always available for a pass on the wing. He made several overlapping runs up the field, too. Sure, it was Puerto Rico, a team that's not all the strong internationally, but Yedlin's confidence is likely riding high, as is Klinsmann's confidence in the Totteham Hotspur/Sunderland defender.
What was really surprising was the mere absence of a midfield. Yedlin made a lot of runs up the wing, but Bedoya and Kitchen were invisible for much of the game, providing very little against Puerto Rico.
Moving forward, the USA has a mountain to climb in this year’s Copa America. It’ll be much different playing teams like Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay. But at least the match against PR got the USA accustomed to climate and field conditions they'll face in a few weeks for the Copa. It also got some players enough minutes to be comfortable with each other. How many of Sunday’s squad starters make it to the Copa’s starting lineup remains to be seen, but at least Klinsmann took the time to experiment in a throwaway game.
There won’t be time for that later.
NEXT UP: Friendly — May 25: United States vs. Ecuador, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas. 8 p.m. EST, ESPN2, UniMas