EletiofeCopa América: USMNT cruises to businesslike win over Bolivia...

Copa América: USMNT cruises to businesslike win over Bolivia on goals from Christian Pulisic, Folarin Balogun

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Henry Bushnell

ARLINGTON, Texas — In its first of two pre-tests at the 2024 Copa América, the U.S. men’s national team wasted no time. It knew that with every passing scoreless minute, fans would grow restless; it knew that with every toothless possession, Bolivian confidence would grow. So, in the third minute of the USMNT’s Copa América opener here at AT&T Stadium, Christian Pulisic, Captain America, took control.

He curled a beauty into the top corner, and set an emphatic tone.

He preempted and blasted away any and all American concern.

Pulisic’s early goal kickstarted the USMNT to a 2-0 win over Bolivia on Sunday — and to what it hopes will be a prosperous tournament.

In many ways, the USMNT had to beat Bolivia, and simply did what it was told. The performance was more satisfactory than scintillating, more businesslike than thrilling or convincing. At times, it was boring, even dull.

But it was sufficient. After first-half momentum seemed to have fizzled, Folarin Balogun doubled the lead, and put Bolivia to bed.

After halftime, “U-S-A” chants began to chorus around JerryWorld, the 80,000-seat home of the Dallas Cowboys. The wave rolled counter-clockwise, enlivening an atmosphere that many feared would be stale.

The 400 level was indeed mostly empty, but 47,873 fans filled the lower bowls of the colossal building. They nearly erupted when Ricardo Pepi latched onto a slew of second-half chances; somehow, none of his shots — some from close range, some struck well — found the back of the net.

Although they didn’t get a second-half goal, though, most of the fans seemed to appreciate the show.

They will also appreciate that this was something of an appetizer; and that the tests will only get tougher from here. Bolivia, arguably, is the worst team at this Copa América. Panama, a feisty CONCACAF foe, is next on Thursday in Atlanta.

Then comes Uruguay in Kansas City, and then a potential quarterfinal, likely against Colombia or Brazil. That is where this chapter of the USMNT story — and perhaps of Gregg Berhalter’s second cycle at the team’s helm — will be written.

The U.S. entered this tournament at a potential inflection point of the Berhalter era. Come mid-July, it could have signature wins and proof of concept; or it could have proof that pre-2022 progress has stagnated, and that the coach has to go.

Sunday, through that lens, was all risk and no reward. It was peril to be avoided rather than an opportunity to ascend. A win was the expectation, the demand. Anything less would’ve been a massive disappointment.

So, it was an expectation met. It was three points that the U.S. will take to Atlanta. And perhaps most importantly, as Berhalter said postgame, “it was never in doubt.”

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  • Final USMNT thoughts

    Well, that was… fine. Passable. Uninspiring at times, somewhat dynamic at others, sufficient in the end.

    It was the corollary of the U.S.-Jamaica game in March. On that night, and on many others, the U.S. has struggled to break down low blocks. On this night, Pulisic made that conversation moot less than three minutes in, and the U.S. cruised without really being challenged. Might the game have looked different if Pulisic hadn’t curled a beauty into the top corner? Who knows.

    The positive takeaways:

    • Pulisic is the guy. He’s in form. He loves the responsibility that the captain’s armband gives him. He is ready to drive this team as far as he can.

    • Folarin Balogun got his first goal in six U.S. games. Could it boost his confidence, which seemed to be in the basement for the game’s first 40 minutes? We’ll see.

    • Tyler Adams started and came away unscathed.

    The negatives?

    • Ricardo Pepi didn’t get his confidence-boosting goal, despite a flurry of chances.

    • The U.S. was somewhat sloppy and ragged in possession. A better team would’ve taken advantage.

    All in all, though, this is a game that we will forget. The next two, three or more will define the USMNT’s Copa América.

  • RESULT: USA 2-0 Bolivia

  • USMNT close to 3 points

    After a mostly quiet second half, the U.S. seems comfortable riding the 2-0 scoreline to the final whistle. But not Ricardo Pepi, who took another shot from 5 yards out and was denied by Bolivia’s Guillermo Viscarra. Then denied again after the deflection!

  • 86′ U.S. substitution

    Tim Weah comes off for Brenden Aaronson.

  • 79′ Pepi nearly gets on the board

    Ricardo Pepi fires off a shot on target, but is denied.

  • 74′ U.S. substitution

    Luca De La Torre comes on for Weston McKennie.

  • U.S.-Bolivia attendance: 47,873

    — Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) June 23, 2024

  • 74′ Substitution

    Bolivia’s Ramiro Vaca replaces Jesus Sagredo.

  • 68′ Substitution

    Carmelo Algaranaz replaces Bruno Miranda for Bolivia.

  • 65′ Substitution

    USMNT replaces Folarin Balogun with Ricardo Pepi and Gio Reyna with Johnny Cardoso.

  • 60′ Pulisic denied

  • Johnny coming on for Gio

    Berhalter shutting up shop

  • Tim Ream concern

    Ream appears to be struggling with something, though it’s unclear what.

    Matt Turner just tossed the ball out of bounds so that he Ream could figure it out. Ream dropped into a crouch. Athletic trainers never came to check on him, so it looks like he’ll continue. But we’ll see if that concern lingers, and we’ll see if Ream lasts 90 minutes.

  • 53′ Balogun nearly gets his second

  • 50′ Weah comes close

  • 49′ Yellow card

    Weston McKennie earns his first booking after a tough challenge.

  • Halftime substitution for the U.S.

    Yunus Musah enters for Tyler Adams.

    Adams is surely on some sort of minutes limit. Whether the pre-determined limit was 45, or whether it was more but Berhalter decided the game was in control, we don’t (yet) know.

  • 46′ Substitution

    Yunus Musah replaces Tyler Adams for the U.S. On the Bolivian side, Miguel Terceros comes in for Cesar Menacho.

  • HALFTIME: USA 2-0 Bolivia

    The USMNT heads into the half with a comfortable 2-0 lead after goals from Christian Pulisic and Folarin Balogun.

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