X

USMNT Beat Paraguay 1-0 in Friendly Match Behind Bobby Wood Goal

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2018

CARY, NC - MARCH 27:  Bobby Wood #7 of United States battles Bruno Valdez #5 and Gustavo Gomez #3 of Paraguay for the ball during their game at WakeMed Soccer Park on March 27, 2018 in Cary, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The United States defeated Paraguay 1-0 in an international friendly Tuesday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. 

Bobby Wood provided the only goal, scoring from the penalty spot in the 45th minute. Zack Steffen made a save on a Paraguay free kick right before the final whistle to preserve the clean sheet.

Neither the United States nor Paraguay qualified for the 2018 World Cup, so Tuesday's friendly was about laying the groundwork for each team's qualifying campaign for the 2022 finals.

That was evident by the composition of the 22-man squad interim U.S. coach Dave Sarachan selected for the match.

"This match once again represents an opportunity for some new faces," he said about the roster, per U.S. Soccer's official site. "The roster has an average age under 24, so for the most part this is a group of younger players that we feel have a future with the national team along with some familiar names."

Both NBC Sports' Kyle Martino and MLSSoccer.com's Matthew Doyle thought the new-look national team provided encouraging returns:

Kyle Martino @kylemartino

In a half where young/inexperienced US team look fluid, rhythmic & aggressive in transition, interesting it tends to break down at feet of one of the players with the most caps.

Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76

More about success & failure than we'd like to admit is simply engagement & commitment. #USMNT playing with both tonite, which isn't always the case during friendlies (and has been rarely the case since 2011) Credit to Sarachan for that, at the very least. Nobody's sleepwalking.

Prior to his goal, Wood was one of the few problems for the United States in the first half. The 25-year-old has struggled with Bundesliga club Hamburg this season, scoring once in 20 league appearances, and he hadn't scored since August.

Using Wood as a sole striker magnified his mistakes since he was all alone at the top of the United States' attack. The absence of a true central attacking midfielder made him even more isolated.

The opening goal resulted from a good run by Tyler Adams and an even better pass from a debuting Marky Delgado.

The Toronto FC man allowed Adams to run clear through on goal, leaving Paraguay goalkeeper Gatito Fernandez little choice but to foul the New York Red Bulls midfielder rather than give him an open shot on goal.

Adams caused problems for Paraguay all night, so it's little surprise the 19-year-old was a topic of discussion on social media:

Grant Wahl @GrantWahl

Tyler Adams isn’t going to be good someday. At 19, he is a very good player RIGHT NOW.

CJ Sapong @BigAfrika88

Go on young 👑 @tyler_adams14 #USAvPAR

Stars and Stripes FC @StarsStripesFC

Live look at everyone trying to hop on the Tyler Adams hype train https://t.co/MPcsB2NjfO

The United States continued to be the stronger side in the second half but couldn't create any genuine scoring opportunities. In addition to what was an inexperienced lineup, Sarachan appeared to prioritize defensive solidity over creativity with his tactics Tuesday night.

The U.S. coach's desire to win was evident by the fact he only used four substitutes, with no changes made until the 67th minute. Some will argue he should have allowed more players to get involved in what was ultimately a meaningless friendly.

Sarachan did find a window to get Paris Saint-Germain forward Timothy Weah on for his full United States men's national team debut. The 18-year-old figures to be a big part of the team's future, so it was good for him to get some playing time Tuesday, even it if was a brief cameo.

Nobody expects Sarachan—or his possible replacement—and U.S. Soccer to solve the national team and federation's myriad issues overnight. 

Tuesday was about laying the groundwork for 2022, and that's exactly what Sarachan achieved.

The USMNT won't be in action again until May 28, when it faces off with Bolivia for a friendly at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. 

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.