The United States Men's National Team closed out its Copa America prep with a resounding 4-0 victory over Bolivia.
The U.S. came out of the gate aggressively with Jurgen Klinsmann deploying a 4-3-3. Despite the USMNT dominating the opening few minutes, it didn't create many chances. While Bolivia struggled initially, it began to find its form with a good spell of possession from the 10th to 20th minutes.
Soon after Bolivia gained controlled of the match, however, Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring in the 27th minute. Alejandro Bedoya played a ball over the top of the Bolivian defense and Zardes was able to slot the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra.
There were numerous fouls in the opening 45, but Jhasmani Campos earned the only yellow card of the first half, after two bad challenges in quick succession.
After Zardes' goal, the USMNT was in the driver's seat and doubled its lead in the 37th minute. After noticing Bolivia was taking a long time to get organized to defend a free-kick, Michael Bradley split the defense with a driven ball to Alejandro Bedoya. From the right side of the box, Bedoya played a low driven cross to John Brooks who scored with ease.
Bolivia had one of its best opportunities towards the end of the first half, but failed to put the ball on target. After a quick counter attack caught the U.S. off guard, a low driven cross rolled across the face of the goal before falling to midfielder Carmelo Algarañaz. Algarañaz blasted his opportunity over the bar from a tough angle.
Both teams made several changes at halftime. The USMNT brought on Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin for Matt Besler and Michael Orozco. For La Verde, Jhasmani Campos was replaced by Raul Castro, Bruno Miranda came on for Carmelo Algarañaz, and Pedro Azogue entered the match for Fernando Saucedo.
Gyasi Zardes doubled his tally with a goal in the 52nd minute. Michael Bradley played an excellent 30 yard long ball to Bobby Wood on the left side of box. Wood controlled the ball with his chest and played it across the face of goal to a sliding Gyasi Zardes.
Shortly after the goal, Bolivia brought on forward Rodrigo Ramallo for midfielder Alejandro Meleán. In the 63rd minute, Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic replaced Alejandro Bedoya and Gyasi Zardes.
Bolivia looked certain to score with a great chance in the 67th minute. Bruno Miranda exposed the U.S. defense with a ball to an unmarked Rodrigo Ramallo. As Brad Guzan rushed off his line, Ramallo had a bad first touch and fired a weak shot right at Guzan.
Seventeen year old Christian Pulisic scored his first USMNT goal in the 69th minute. Fellow substitute Darlington Nagbe played a give and go with Jermaine Jones at the top of the box and centered the ball to a wide open Pulisic who confidently slotted home.
Jurgen Klinsmann used his final two substitutions in the 73rd minute bringing on Graham Zusi and Chris Wondolowski for Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey.
Bolivia made a change one minute later with Martin Smedberg-Dalence coming off for Edward Zenteno.
While the USMNT played very well, expectations should be tempered as Bolivia is currently ranked 79th in the world and is one of the weakest teams in South America.
The final seventeen minutes of the match were rather uneventful as the U.S. continued to dominate possession, but didn't create many dangerous chances.
Klinsmann will be pleased with his team's performance as it enters the Copa America riding a four game winning streak.
Zardes and Bedoya Make Claims for Spots in the Starting XI
As the USMNT began preparations for the Copa America Centenario, many wondered what Jurgen Klinsmann's starting XI would look like. Gyasi Zardes and Alejandro Bedoya were two players who were on the fringes of the starting XI.
With their performances tonight Zardes and Bedoya both demonstrated why they deserve to start. Zardes showed off his blistering pace with several excellent runs and two well taken goals. He can stretch defenses with his speed and brings a different dimension to the attack.
Bedoya was a creative force and was lethal in the final third from his attacking midfield spot, providing two assists.
Despite their strong play against Bolivia, Zardes and Bedoya both clearly have several flaws. Zardes' first touch still needs a lot of work and at times he struggles to finish chances that a forward should score.
Bedoya's dribbling isn't great and he sometimes fades from games. Despite these players' limitations, they should be starters in the Copa America.
Dempsey May Not be a Starter Much Longer
I fully expect Clint Dempsey to be in the starting XI for the duration of the Copa America. This, however, doesn't mean he deserves to start. Dempsey was invisible against Ecuador and Bolivia.
He struggled to get on the ball in the final third and had zero goals, zero assists, and a minimal amount of shots. Dempsey is still a talented goal scorer and brings an important veteran presence, but has been in bad form.
Zardes, Pulisic, Wood, and even Wondolowksi are pushing to overtake Dempsey. Dempsey will need to rediscover his form if he hopes to continue starting for the U.S.
Disappointing Crowd in KC
The USMNT dominated this match and there were few if any negatives about the team's performance. However one noticeable off the field issue was the attendance at Children's Mercy Park.
While the fans did their best to create a good atmosphere, the stadium was noticeably empty. Sporting Kansas City has excellent attendance so it was somewhat surprising to see such a sparse crowd on a Saturday night.
Ticket prices may have been an issue, as national team tickets are usually quite expensive. Whatever the reason(s) for the poor attendance, U.S. Soccer needs to find a way to ensure that all home games are well attended.
The U.S. players deserve a large crowd for every match and USSF should examine making ticket prices more affordable.