International friendly recap: USMNT 1–1 Venezuela

The U.S. salvaged a draw versus Venezuela on Saturday night. The U.S. gave up a poor goal from a restart in the first half, before Christian Pulisic scored with a shot from the top of the box midway through the second. The U.S. will hope to have an improved performance once World Cup Qualifying resumes on Thursday.

First half

The U.S. opened with a very attacking lineup, with Fabian Johnson and Darlington Nagbe in the wide midfield positions in addition to the trio of Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, and Bobby Wood. Ale Bedoya was on the bench. In the early going, Venezuela was content to sit deep and allow the U.S. to control things, then look to hit on the counter. And it looked a good strategy, with Venezuela getting in a dangerous cross or two within the first ten minutes. But the U.S. build up was good, lacking only the final ball.

Just as the U.S. looked to be really turning the screw, a careless turnover from Johnson led to a corner for Venezuela. The initial ball floated far and deep, but was kept alive and sent back in; the U.S. cleared. The clearance wasn’t deep enough, though, and the ball was sent back in yet again. John Brooks, having done well in the game to that point, lost his man, who poked home from the center of the six. Venezuela kept their foot on the gas, earning another corner with a wicked dipping shot drawing a diving fingertip save from Tim Howard. He was forced to make another great save on the corner, pushing the ball onto the post.

The U.S. settled down after that, but couldn’t force any chances. The U.S. owned possession, but it was stale. A fresh approach was necessary in the second half.

Second half

The U.S. looked bit more dangerous to start, with Dempsey flashing a header wide and a few attacks resulting in blocked shots, but Venezuela’s counterattack remained dangerous. After an hour, the U.S. finally broke through, and it was none other than Hershey’s own Christian Pulisic with the tying goal. A good cut-back pass from Johnson found Pulisic at the top of the box. He faked the shot and cut onto his left, before cooly slotting home across his body at the far post through a thicket of legs.

While the U.S. tried to build on their goal, Venezuela worked hard to shut things down, with their keeper going down for injury treatment three times. After 20 minutes, the U.S. eventually forced a save out of that poor keeper, but it was a weak header from substitute Jordan Morris and didn’t trouble him.

The game petered out, with the U.S. huffing and puffing, but unable to find a winner.

US verdict

This was a mildly disappointing result. The first half saw the U.S. dominant for long stretches, but without threatening the Venezuela goal, and transition defense left much to be desired. The U.S. looked too comfortable, and it showed in the scoreline. While their was more urgency from the U.S. in the second half, Venezuela did a good job of holding the U.S. at arm’s length, and it took a good player finding a touch of class to get the goal the U.S. needed.

There were some bright spots. The fullbacks looked good. Yedlin seems like a new player after his seasoning in the English Championship with Newcastle. He and Johnson combined well down the right going forward, and Villafana on the left looked right at home. Pulisic showed yet again that he is the best U.S. player, and not simply because of the goal. Only he and Nagbe seemed able to break through the Veneuela lines with the ball at their feet, and had some of their teammates been in better sync with them, the U.S. might have had more shots on goal.

Final thoughts

While friendly results don’t matter, listening to Bruce Arena’s halftime interview told you all you needed to know about how happy he was about the U.S.’s play (not at all). The U.S. needs to use this game and subsequent training to be in better rhythm before hosting Trinidad and Tobago in Colorado on Thursday in World Cup Qualifying.

In other news, the U.S.’s preliminary roster for the Gold Cup was released at halftime. While Keegan Rosenberry’s down start to the season resulted in him missing out, both C.J. Sapong and Chris Pontius got nods, along with Bedoya. We’ll talk more about that closer to the tournament. For now, we wait for Thursday.


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    ….when the best player in all the land is but a teenager.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Would have been nice if Bedoya was available to the Union yesterday if he wasn’t going to be playing. And now the Union will lose Bedoya, Pontius, Sapong, and probably Blake for up to the entire month of July.
    MLS is a joke, isn’t it?

    • Jones, Epps, Simpson.

      Of course I would prefer to keep those 3 starters. But the replacements are two young guys I totally want to see more of, and a new transfer I totally want to see more of too.

      I wonder also if we lose all 3, if that’s when we make our next Homegrown signing to fill in the ranks.

    • We’re not going to lose Pontius or Sapong for the entire month of July. Neither one is going to make the final Gold Cup roster

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        I tend to agree with T-Bone.
        Both Bedoya and Blake will hurt, though, see recent evidence from Yankee Stadium’s high-school sized pitch.

      • Eh, CJ might have a decent shot since it is the Gold Cup and so more fringe-type players will get a look. Plus is there a better Altidore like-for-like on the 40-man other then him?

      • The Truth says:

        I don’t know about that, Sapong might make the squad. Bruce has certainly noticed his efforts this season (2 more goals than Jozy).

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