SANDY, Utah — In a game that lacked rhythm and a consistent attack early on, Christian Pulisic made the biggest impact in the second half to give the US national team a 1-1 draw with Venezuela at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.
Pulisic found the equalizer for the US in the 61st minute. The US had been building a consistent attack from the later stages of the first half and Pulisic’s fifth international goal leveled the match and ultimately saved an up-and-down performance for the hosts.
“At times we played well, the final product wasn’t very good,” USMNT head coach Bruce Arena said after the game, although he also said about Pulisic’s performance, “he played very well, there’s no question about that.”
With two vital World Cup qualifiers coming up in the next week, Arena promised some experimentation in this tune-up game. Admittedly, there were growing pains in the first half, as positioning was at times off and the needed rhythm and momentum weren’t present going forward.
“It was our first time all playing together,” US forward Bobby Wood said. “In the second half, we just understood each other a little bit more and felt a little more comfortable.”
Pulisic said that was more of a mental aspect of the game that could have been improved, but once the second half started that was no longer a problem.
“We started slow. As the game progressed we felt better and better and as we got our legs, we really picked it up in the second half,” Pulisic said.
Pulisic’s strike came off a pass from Fabian Johnson at the top of the box. Arena said he thought the Borussia Dortmund midfielder could have had another in the first half when he missed over the crossbar, but chances were limited, as the US only managed two shots on target on the night. Despite that, finding a result when there were few good looks on goal could be vital preparation before Thursday’s qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago (8 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN).
The proof will be in the pudding, but Arena ultimately sounded upbeat about his side’s prospects.
“Come Thursday we’re going to find out, but I’m optimistic,” Arena said.