Home US Christian Pulisic dazzles as USA cruise to dominant 2-0 win over Bolivia in Copa America opener… with Folarin Balogun also on the scoresheet for hosts

Christian Pulisic dazzles as USA cruise to dominant 2-0 win over Bolivia in Copa America opener… with Folarin Balogun also on the scoresheet for hosts

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Christian Pulisic was at his best when the United States defeated Bolivia on Sunday night.

The United States began their Copa América journey loaded with high expectations of early dominance of the group stage, knowing they would need victory in their first two matches to secure any hope of winning Group C.

In this first match, Bolivia had little to offer in terms of quality and the Americans needed three points or more to further lift spirits and improve their chances of taking first place in the group.

Coach Gregg Berhalter’s men did just that, finding the net early thanks to a burst from Christian Pulisic and a precision shot from Folarin Balogun as the USMNT cruised to a victory over La Verde that should set them up for future success in this tournament.

While the three points are a good sign, a win of only 2-0 may make some members of the team feel like they have missed out on some opportunities. The Americans attacked often, but only found two goals against the weakest team in the Copa América, according to FIFA rankings.

But three points is what was expected from the United States and three points is what they got. The USMNT played its most complete offensive football in a long time against an opponent that couldn’t defend itself. At a time when they needed a boost, the Americans delivered and will try to ride this wave to greater success in the upcoming matches.

Christian Pulisic was at his best when the United States defeated Bolivia on Sunday night.

USMNT captain Pulisic (10) opened the scoring in a comfortable inaugural victory in the Copa América.

USMNT captain Pulisic (10) opened the scoring in a comfortable inaugural victory in the Copa América.

Dallas has enjoyed plenty of American soccer in recent years, including the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals and finals in March.

Perhaps that’s why so few turned out to watch FIFA’s 11th-best team take on a Bolivian team ranked 84th in the world: only 47,873 made the trip to Arlington, Texas, to feel comfortable in the shade and air conditioning at AT&T Stadium.

Those fans began to get their money’s worth within seconds of kickoff, when the Americans jumped off the front foot, launching a pair of crosses before half a minute had elapsed.

The first goal of the game came just after three minutes. A short pass from the corner played by Christian Pulisic was returned to him and the American captain got the green light to convert a curling opportunity from the top of his own area. His shot hit the crossbar and he went into the net to give the USMNT the lead. The USMNT winger ran to his sideline, celebrated with Berhalter and pointed to fans in the crowd.

Even when the Americans didn’t score, the attack at the start of the first half flowed freely. Fans rose to their feet in anticipation as the trio of Pulisic, Balogun and Timothy Weah connected for several passes before Weah took a shot that was parried away by goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra. Five minutes later, Antonee ‘Jedi’ Robinson found Balogun again, but the Monaco striker’s shot was saved for a corner.

From the start, the midfield pressure of Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and surprise starter Tyler Adams was relentless on the trio of Bolivians in the same position, with the Americans winning their battles and generally preventing any La Verde advances. .

Folarin Balogun added the USA's second goal of the night as they got underway at home.

Folarin Balogun added the USA’s second goal of the night as they got underway at home.

Balogun scored his first goal since a friendly against Ghana in October 2023

Balogun scored his first goal since a friendly against Ghana in October 2023

But it was Pulisic who stole the show with an inspired display to derail the hosts.

But it was Pulisic who stole the show with an inspired display to derail the hosts.

The crowd roared in disapproval at what can only be called CONMEBOL antics when Lionel Justiniano unnecessarily challenged Reyna. The USMNT faced a group of Bolivian players and a brief fight ensued, resulting in a yellow card for Justiniano. Two minutes later, Reyna went down again and was given another card, this time to Bolivia captain Luis Haquin.

Ultimately, the Americans’ play became tiring and disengaged as the half wore on. There seemed to be an air of not desperation, but expectation of finding a second goal. Frustration and lack of communication led to turnovers. They needed a goal, and urgently.

He arrived for the United States at the edge of halftime. Pulisic pushed through the middle and then found Balogun on his left side. Balogun scored with a sublime left-footed shot from him. It was a key goal not only for this match, but also for himself, as the converted Englishman attempts to further establish himself as the best forward option for Berhalter’s team.

The Americans attempted to increase their tally in the 50th minute when Weah’s low cross narrowly missed Balogun’s foot and raced to the byline. Luck was not on Balogun’s side for the second time, as a goal he thought he had scored in the 53rd minute was called for offside.

It was in this second half that Bolivia produced its most threatening chances, but none that really worried goalkeeper Matt Turner. He didn’t need to try as hard as he did in the 1-1 draw against Brazil, because La Verde never proved dangerous in the build-up.

Gregg Berhalter is delighted with his team's first victory, although it could have been even more comfortable

Gregg Berhalter is delighted with his team’s first victory, although it could have been even more comfortable

The Americans produced their most powerful attack in this second half, but were unable to capitalize on any opportunities. Pulisic tried to double his luck in the 60th minute, but was denied by an excellent save from Viscarra by the American captain. Chants of ‘USA, US-A’ erupted as fans sat on the edge, begging for another goal.

Balogun and Reyna made way for Ricardo Pepi and Johnny Cardoso respectively. Pepi was possibly the most affected player in the match, despite only playing 25 minutes. When the United States needed a third goal, the Texan’s first shot went wide. Viscarra then saved three shots in a row as he screamed at the sky in frustration.

The final whistle sounded when the United States had finished the job, but not to the extent expected. His next test will be against Panama in Atlanta.

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