8/10 Turner keeps clean sheet; Pulisic, Balogun struggle


ST. LOUIS — The U.S. men’s national team recorded a 3-0 victory over Uzbekistan in an international friendly on Saturday.

Tim Weah got the U.S. off to a dream start, firing home in the fourth minute after good work from Weston McKennie. Folarin Balogun nearly doubled the U.S. advantage in the 16th minute, but could only put his header against the post.

The U.S. wasn’t able to build on their early dominance, as some sloppy play in midfield and defense created some good opportunities for the visitors. Eldor Shomurodov pounced on two mistakes late in the first half — one each from Tanner Tessmann and Tim Ream — but was denied on both occasions by Matt Turner.

The second half saw more of the same from the U.S., with lots of possession, but not much in the way of clear-cut chances. That is until substitute Ricardo Pepi finished off a series of hustle plays by Sergiño Dest and fellow sub Brenden Aaronson to make the game safe. Uzbekistan, with no more subs, went down a player after an injury to Khojakbar Alijonov in the last 10 minutes. Christian Pulisic then converted a penalty in stoppage time for the third U.S. goal.

Uzbekistan did have some chances through outside back Alijonov, but couldn’t get the vital touch to really threaten Turner in goal.

The U.S. will face Oman in St. Paul, Minn. in three days’ time.

Manager rating (scale of 1-10)

Gregg Berhalter, 5 — Berhalter’s first game back witnessed his team play much of the match in a familiar style. There was plenty of possession and some nifty approach work, but little in the way of quality opportunities, especially after Balogun hit the post.

Berhalter got good mileage out of his bench, especially through Aaronson and Pepi, and with Uzbekistan pushing forward, the game opened up to give the Americans some vital additional space. That said, this was a scoreline that flattered the home side to a degree, and with better finishing, Uzbekistan might have gotten more out of this match.

Granted, it’s only been five days of training since Berhalter came back, and on some of those days the team was at less than full strength, but the main takeaway will be how the U.S. couldn’t impose itself further after taking an early lead. Berhalter’s meeting to mend the relationship with Gio Reyna can’t happen soon enough.

Player ratings (0-10; 10 = best; 5 = average)

GK Matt Turner, 8 — Went long periods without having to touch the ball, but twice bailed the U.S. out with saves from Shomurodov.

DF Antonee Robinson, 6 — Did what he could to link up with Pulisic and later Weah, but needed to do better on those occasions when Khojiakbar Alijonov cut inside to strike at goal.

DF Tim Ream, 4 — The St. Louis native captained the side in his hometown, but reverted to his U.S. performances of yore, with long spells of solid play only to have some shocking giveaways.

DF Chris Richards, 7 — Solid in the back, and used his speed to good effect during some transition opportunities for Uzbekistan.

DF Sergiño Dest, 7 — Was sharp on the ball, though he did concede a needless free kick in the first half. His mazy run in the 73rd minute nearly resulted in a goal.

MF Weston McKennie 7 — McKennie remains an absolute force in the box, and did well to draw in four defenders and then find Weah for the U.S. goal.

MF Luca de la Torre, 6 — Unlucky to have to come off following a collision that left his nose bloodied. Was tidy on the ball, but lost a few duels in midfield, including one sequence that led to Alijonov hitting the bar in the 23rd minute.

MF Yunus Musah, 6 — Delivered some of his trademark runs with the ball, but faded a bit in the second half.

FW Christian Pulisic, 5 — Was plenty aggressive in the attacking third, but struggled to beat opponents one-on-one. Just not a lot of end product on this day, and his set piece deliveries were sub-par. No complaints about his penalty though.

FW Folarin Balogun 5 — Nearly got on the scoreboard, only to hit the post with his 16th minute header. Still, he cut a frustrated figure, as his teammates struggled to get him the ball, though he showed some nifty footwork around the box. Taken off after 45 minutes, which was the pregame plan.

FW Tim Weah, 7 — Took his goal well, and shook loose a few times down the wing. Just needed a bit accuracy with his crossing.

Substitutes (players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

MF Tanner Tessmann, 3 — Really struggled to get up to speed after he came in for de la Torre, and his play didn’t improve after halftime.

FW Ricardo Pepi, 7 — Saw about the same amount of the ball as Balogun did, but when he got his chance, he finished with authority.

MF Brenden Aaronson, 6 — Brought his trademark energy, and his layoff set up Pepi for the second U.S. goal.

DF Mark McKenzie, 6 — Stepped to the ball with confidence, and was efficient with his passing.

MF Malik Tillman, NR — He threaded the needle to find Pulisic late, and won a penalty in second half stoppage time.

DF Kristoffer Lund, NR — Native of Denmark makes his U.S. debut.