The United States men's national soccer team started their preparations for the upcoming Copa America Centenario with a routine 3-1 win over Puerto Rico in an international friendly on Sunday.
Tim Ream and Bobby Wood gave the visitors a deserved two-goal lead, but Luis Betancur pulled one back for Puerto Rico late in the first half.
The hosts started the second half on the front foot, but a goal by Paul Arriola in his debut killed their momentum. Both teams made a numbers of substitutions after the strike, and the match petered out.
As shared by Fox Soccer, DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks started for the Stars and Stripes:
FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer
USA lineup vs Puerto Rico: Guzan; Yedlin, Orozco, Brooks, Ream; Kitchen, Williams, Bedoya, Morales; Wood, Arriola. #USMNT #USAvPUR2016-5-22 15:35:08
Like international friendlies so often do, Sunday's clash started at a slow pace, with neither team seemingly interested in forcing the action. The U.S. enjoyed possession early, and the first chance fell to Yedlin, who tried his luck with an ambitious volley that was blocked.
The Stars and Stripes were far from dominant, however, and in midfield, Puerto Rico were in control. Chances were few for either side during the opening stages, and Bleacher Report's Joe Tansey was anything but impressed with the visitors:
Joe Tansey @JTansey90
The #USMNT are being outplayed by a team they should be beating by at least a goal already. Shocking, right? #USAvPUR2016-5-22 16:19:46
Michael Orozco was shaken up when he took a boot to the face from Betancur, which halted play momentarily, before Ream comically missed a cross and Alejandro Bedoya nearly found some space after a lovely through ball from Yedlin.
The visitors started growing more comfortable on the ball, and their efforts were rewarded after 20 minutes. Alfredo Morales had a shot parried by Matthew Sanchez, but the ball fell right to Ream, who scored his first goal for the national team.
Per the American Outlaws, he won't get to enjoy replays of his first tally, however:
The American Outlaws @AmericanOutlaws
First goal for @timream5 and no camera gets it for him. 🙈2016-5-22 16:22:58
The goal inspired the Americans, who pushed forward in search for a second. Yedlin was involved in nearly all of the action, sending a number of crosses into the box throughout the half.
The match was stopped for a short hydration break after 30 minutes, but the Stars and Stripes didn't let that spoil their momentum.
A controversial decision to play the advantage after two clear fouls by Alfredo Morales led to a quick break, and Arriola decided to play on even though a Puerto Rican player stayed down. The ball was worked to Wood, who calmly slotted home to make it 2-0.
Per Fox Sports' Rob Stone, that goal didn't evade the cameras:
Rob Stone @RobStoneONFOX
Exquisite camera work on the Bobby Wood goal. Yeah, we got it in EVERY replay too!2016-5-22 16:34:46
The two-goal advantage didn't last long, though. Orozco stepped out, which gave Betancourt space to fire an ambitious volley from long range, and the ball promptly flew into the top corner, with goalkeeper Brad Guzan too far off his line to do anything about it.
That was the final highlight of the first half, as the Americans entered the dressing room with a deserved lead.
Tim Howard, Matt Miazga and Emerson Hyndman were introduced at half-time, but the first chance fell to the hosts, as Manolo Sanchez fired a shot agonisingly wide of the post.
Puerto Rico kept pushing, mustering a handful of looks on goal but no real chances. Instead, the goal fell on the other side of the pitch. Arriola tapped home from close range after a superb run from Bedoya, who did the hard work.
Goal's Ives Galarcep thought Arriola's debut was impressive:
Ives Galarcep @SoccerByIves
GOAL USA! Paul Arriola scores to make it 3-1 #USMNT, a goal & assist in his national team debut. Not bad at all for the Club Tijuana player2016-5-22 17:15:58
More substitutions followed, with Julian Green and Eric Lichaj given the chance to impress, and the changes sucked the momentum out of the match. Both coaches were more focused on experimenting, and the result took a back seat.
The U.S. even switched to a back three, which gave Green more space with which to work, and he tested Sanchez with a stinging drive. The stopper also denied Lichaj as the visitors went looking for a fourth goal late. Their efforts were futile, however, as Puerto Rico dug in and survived the onslaught.
Green took to Twitter after the match to express his delight:
Julian Green @J_Green37
Happy faces after today’s win against Puerto Rico! Great job, team! ⚽🇺🇸👍🏾 @yedlinny @ussoccer #USMNT #jg37 https://t.co/cB0xo327LZ2016-5-22 18:49:08
U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann thanked his side's fans for traveling to support the team:
Jürgen Klinsmann @J_Klinsmann
Thanks so much to all our #USMNT fans coming all the way to Puerto Rico: https://t.co/xFUQGImRKz2016-5-22 21:10:47
The win provided a nice start to the United States' preparations for the upcoming Copa, though fans shouldn't read too much into the result. Both teams were more focused on trying things, and Puerto Rio aren't exactly world-beaters.