Gregg Berhalter faced his toughest test to date since taking over as the USMNT head coach. He wasn’t able to set a new USMNT record with his fourth consecutive win to start his tenure, but his team played hard and stood toe-to-toe with the Copa America winners, finishing in a 1-1 draw against Chile at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
Christian Pulisic staked the Yanks to a 1-0 lead but Chile answered a few minutes later and neither team could find a second. Chile holds the edge in the all-time series (5-3-3) after the draw and Berhalter “falls” to 3-0-1 as the USMNT coach, albeit against a good South American side.
Berhalter made seven changes from last week’s lineup in Orlando against Ecuador — some out of necessity (Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie out) and some not. Starters who also were in the XI last week included Paul Arriola, Gyasi Zardes, Pulisic, and Tim Ream.
It didn’t take long for the U.S. to open the scoring. A long ball forward from Ethan Horvath was taken down beautifully by Zardes, who tuned and played a perfect ball for Pulisic to run onto and chip goalkeeper Gabriel Arias to make it 1-0. Pulisic became the youngest American to reach double figures in goals, as he nabbed his 10th at age 20 years, 189 days, eclipsing Jozy Altidore’s record by 148 days.
Oscar Opazo equalized just five minutes later. The U.S. defending had a few nervy moments and was finally undone when a blocked shot bounced out to Opazo on the left and he slotted his shot inside the back post to tie the score at 1-1. It had been 279 minutes of play before the U.S. finally conceded a goal under Berhalter.
DeAndre Yedlin tried to pull it right back with a shot just a few feet wide in the 11th minute. A minute later, Zardes again gave Pulisic an excellent first-touch ball. The Borussia Dortmund star was in alone but took too heavy of a touch, which allowed the goalkeeper to come off his line and smother any attempt on goal.
In the 17th, Michael Bradley sent a gorgeous ball down the right to send Corey Baird down the flank. Baird fired in a cross with a lot of sauce on it and slightly behind Pulisic, who couldn’t control it.
Chile had a decent opportunity in the 25th when Diego Valdes found himself in space above the penalty area but he fizzed his shot over the bar.
The U.S. nearly got in 2-on-1 in the 30th minute but this time Arriola took the heavy touch and the defense was able to recover and prevent a scoring chance. Two minutes later, Arriola sent a cross through the six for Zardes but it was just out of the striker’s reach and Chile was able to knock it out for a corner.
Much of the remaining time in the first half was spent in the U.S. end, with the Yanks giving the ball away cheaply. Ream got away with an awful back pass when a Chilean attacker took too heavy touch in front of Horvath and knocked it behind for a goal kick in the 34th.
Pulisic had to leave the game in the 35th minute with a lower leg injury, making way for Sebastian Lletget as U.S. fans everywhere clenched their entire bodies. ESPN reported it as a quad injury and said he was removed for precautionary reasons.
Nicolas Castillo fired a shot right at Horvath in the 40th as Chile continued to look dangerous in the late stages of the first half. A minute later, the Yanks survived a bad defensive end giveaway by Zardes when a curling shot went wide of the far post.
The teams went into the break knotted up at 1-1.
Neither team fashioned too many clear chances in the second period. The U.S. handled the Chile press better in the second half, particularly after Berhalter pulled off Corey Baird and inserted Daniel Lovitz to give the back line a three-man/five-man look depending on which team had possession.
Valdes had an early chance in the second half but it was blocked at the top of the area. Matt Miazga blocked a similar opportunity from Castillo in the 54th minute. A minute after that, the U.S. nearly got a gift goal. A deflected ball fell to Lletget at the top of the area and he went down after a heavy collision. Zardes ran onto the loose ball but fired over the bar from inside the box on the best U.S. chance of the second half.
ahhhhHHHHHhhhhHHHH pic.twitter.com/wgpHFU63eg— The American Outlaws (@AmericanOutlaws) March 27, 2019
That was the last good chance for either side. The U.S. defended well and limited Chile’s forays up the field but the Yanks also couldn’t fashion any decent counter attacks. There was an opportunity with just under 20 minutes remaining for a give-and-go but Zardes stopped his run as he didn’t anticipate the return from Lletget.
In the end, Chile had more opportunities and more of the possession — and a lot fewer mistakes — but the teams left the field with the same number of goals. The important talking point now will be the health of Pulisic and McKennie.