ST. LOUIS (AP) — Gregg Berhalter’s second term as U.S. coach began with a quick start, 80 sluggish minutes, two late goals and a 3-0 exhibition victory over Uzbekistan.
“We’re a good side but we can’t just stroll into games and expect to win,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said after the match Saturday. “If we really want to get to where we want to go, we need to have better nights than we had tonight.”
Tim Weah put the U.S. ahead in the fourth minute off a sharp pass from new Juventus teammate Weston McKennie, Ricardo Pepi doubled the lead just into second-half stoppage time and Christian Pulisic converted a penalty kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
“I think we use this game as a learning tool,” Berhalter said. “We can improve and we need to improve and we will.”
Berhalter first was hired after the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and led the Americans to the second round of last year’s tournament, where they lost to the Netherlands 3-1. He was replaced by interim coaches while the U.S. Soccer Federation investigated a domestic violence accusation brought to its attention by the Reyna family, then was rehired.
“At the anthem, you reflect on it a little bit, that you’re back,” Berhalter said. “And then it’s back to work and then you’re on the sidelines and you’re coaching, trying to help the team win a game.”
The 11th-ranked U.S. plays No. 73 Oman on Tuesday at St. Paul, Minnesota — Turner will head back to Britain on Sunday for the birth of his second child.
Weah put the U.S. ahead against the 74th-ranked Uzbeks with his fifth goal in 32 international appearances. McKennie stuck out a leg to acrobatically control a cross from Antonee Robinson, twisted while dribbling to avoid four defenders and dished wide to Weah. A son of former FIFA Player of the Year and current Liberia President George Weah, Tim Weah beat goalkeeper Utkir Yusupov inside the far post with an angled right-foot shot from about 15 yards.
Weah has scored against a nation from each continent, also getting goals against Wales, Bolivia, Morocco and Jamaica. Weah joined McKennie at Juventus this season and they became the first club teammates to combine on a U.S. goal since Carlos Bocanegra fed Cint Dempsey against Barbados in 2008.
“One of those games where we just have to knock it out, make sure we win, take the positives and the negatives,” Weah said.
Turner blocked Eldor Shomurodov’s point-blank shot from 8 yards in the first minute of first-half stoppage time after the Uzbek captain stripped the ball from Tim Ream, who captained the Americans in his first match at CityPark, his hometown’s year-old soccer stadium.
“I think we would have liked to put on a better performance, but to come away with a win, three goals, a clean sheet,” Ream said, “I’ve always dreamed of having a stadium here.”
Both late goals came after Uzbekistan switched from a five-man back line to four and then was short a man because of an injury. Pepi entered at the start of the second half and scored just into stoppage time with a right-foot shot off a pass from Brenden Aaronson, his eighth goal in 17 appearances.
Pulsiic, making his 50th start, got his 26th goal in 17 appearances after Malik Tillman was fouled by Umarbek Eshmurodov.
“We lacked the speeding up of the attack once we broke through that front five,” Berhalter said. “Our press-after-loss defensive transition needs to get better. We gave them too many opportunities to get behind us.”
Notes: Midfielder Luca de la Torre left in the 35th minute after breaking his nose. … Kristoffer Lund, a 21-year-old left back who was born in Denmark, made his U.S. debut when he entered in the 81st.
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