EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — The United States men’s national team didn’t end up with the result it wanted Tuesday night, but there were plenty of positives to build on from the 1-1 draw with Peru, especially the developments in the final 45 minutes.
A slight tactical change by interim manager Dave Sarachan allowed the USMNT attack to play with more fluidity, with two forwards, including Josh Sargent, leading the way.
By taking a more proactive approach to the game, the USMNT scored four minutes into the second half by way of Sargent, who finished off a Kellyn Acosta free kick.
The goal was the second in five appearances for Sargent, who continues to impress at the club level with German club Werder Bremen, where he is on the verge of breaking into the first team.
“We have a lot of guys trying to fight for a spot and it’s only my fifth cap for the team,” Sargent said. “It’s going to take time to try and get better as a group, we know we have things to work on and we just have to continue to work together to improve.”
Nineteen-year-old Jonathan Amon, who was one of three players to earn their first senior team appearance on Tuesday, helped created the free kick with his combination play alongside Reggie Cannon.
Amon produced one of the standout performances of the night, even though he was a little frenetic at times and might have been too eager to anticipate a pass in his direction.
“(Amon) showed some moments that give you hope and showed you moments that make you realize he’s 19,” Sarachan said. “The speed of play got him on a few occasions but the moments that came where he had to take off and be creative, that was impressive and I think I’d love for this young kid to take away a lot in that regard.”
Amon, Sargent and Kellyn Acosta were the three top performers for the USMNT, with Acosta booming forward when he could while holding next to Wil Trapp in front of the back four.
Speaking of the back four, they produced a mixed bag of results, as it took a little while for Cannon, Aaron Long, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Ben Sweat to come together as a unit.
The first half wasn’t kind to the USMNT defense, as Peru stretched out the field and caught Cannon and Sweat up the field on a few occasions. Once the issues were sorted out, things started to come together in front of Brad Guzan.
“I think there were some up and downs in the first half,” Sweat said. “You have a bunch of new guys together in a new system and I think we had some careless mistakes, myself included, in the first half. We stuck together. We kept it 0-0.”
For the most part, the USMNT rebounded in the second half defensively, as Peru created few attacks against Cannon and through the middle.
“I think coming out in the first half in our formation, it wasn’t as effective as the second half,” Cannon said. “The 4-4-2 in the second really helped our pressure and getting the ball. The first half we were chasing the ball around a lot. Me personally, I think the first half my head was spinning but I settled down as the game went on.”
However, a defensive lapse by substitute DeAndre Yedlin cost the USMNT a victory, but even before the concession of the equalizer, goalkeeper Brad Guzan felt the team was on the verge of giving up a goal.
“We’ve got young players,” Guzan said. “Peru is a very good team and especially in the second half they raised their game and we just barely did enough to hold on.”
Guzan’s goalkeeper battle
Guzan was back in net replacing the injured Zack Steffen, and moving forward he’ll be part of the competition for the starting goalkeeper spot, a challenge he’s used to and relishes.
“The thing with being a goalkeeper is only one guy is going to play,” Guzan said. “It never changes. That’s always what it is in terms of the position and competition for getting on the field. I’ve had for nine years in England. I’ve had it with Timmy on a daily basis.
“If you’re not having competition for places, not just at goalkeeper, anywhere on the field, it’s probably not great for the team so you need to have guys pushing each other and getting better.”