The pain of not being in Russia this summer will not fade for some time to come. Yet a wet-behind-the-ears US national team squad produced green shoots of renewal at Talen Energy Stadium on Monday evening, thrashing a similarly inexperienced Bolivia side 3-0.
LAFC center back Walker Zimmerman opened the scoring with a thumping header off a corner-kick delivery from Joe Corona. After halftime, bright young attackers Josh Sargent – who cheekily intercepted an underhit pass from Bolivian goalkeeper Carlos Lampe to poach the home team's second – and Tim Weah bagged their first senior international goals to blow the game wide open.
Dave Sarachan's young XI turned out in the 4-1-4-1 formation that has become a staple of his tenure as interim head coach, and it helped them dominate possession in the first half and knot together a bevy of pretty passing moves. D.C. United attacker Bruno Miranda came off the bench for Bolivia after the break, but neither he nor his La Verde teammates could muster a shot on target, compared to the eight produced by their hosts.
The match provided USMNT debuts for a raft of Stars & Stripes newcomers, among them Sargent, Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono, Manchester United prospect and New York Red Bulls academy product Matthew Olosunde, ex-Sporting KC defender Erik Palmer-Brown and Yanks abroad Keaton Parks and Antonee Robinson.
- THE BIG PICTURE: USMNT observers frustrated by Sarachan's heretofore incremental approach to the youth movement should not only be pleased to see how many kids were entrusted with key roles on Monday, but also how bravely and calmly they performed when given those opportunities.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Weah's goal, a close-range finish after Robinson's strong run-and-cross down the left flank, offered the prettiest sequence of the three goals and underlined the USMNT's commitment to not only beating their opponents, but doing so with style and swagger.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: He didn't find the net, but Weston McKennie did nearly everything else required for this victory, patrolling the midfield with authority and laying a foundation for his attacking teammates to express themselves.
- US: Saturday, June 2 at Ireland (3 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMás, UDN)
- Bolivia: Thursday, June 7 vs. Korea Republic (at Innsbruck, Austria)