Wood struggles for sharpness but scores lone goal in U.S. win
The United States men's national team turned the page on the next generation with a 1-0 friendly win over Paraguay at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina on Tuesday night. A young team put in a strong performance against a physical South American side, with several players making good cases to be central to the future of the program.
The central midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Marky Delgado and Wil Trapp was excellent. Working well as a unit, the group slowed down Paraguay through the middle of the field. The balance of play tilted in the Americans' direction through the first hour of the game on the backs of the central midfield work, the press and smart passing.
The center-back pairing of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga was also a bright spot, perhaps giving a glimpse of the future in that area of the field for the United States.
Despite the solid work in the middle of the field for the U.S., a lack of creativity was glaringly evident. Without Christian Pulisic in the lineup, the Americans struggled to create clear chances. A reliance on low-efficiency crosses marked most of the night on the attacking end. Full-backs Jorge Villafana and DeAndre Yedlin pushed up the field to limited effect and the home side never found the combinations necessary to break down Paraguay's defense.
Manager rating out of 10
4.5 -- A win is a win, especially for a program that needs a boost of confidence, but interim manager Dave Sarachan's decisions left a lot to be desired. Playing Bobby Wood as a lone striker considering the Hamburg striker's poor form and flagging confidence was questionable tactically. With a squad full of young players begging for a chance to show what they could do, Sarachan waited until the 67th minute to make his first substitution and only used four of a possible six. Instead of coaching like someone who the freedom to experiment, Sarachan managed like a man who cared more about winning than pushing the new generation forward for the benefit of the program.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Zack Steffen, 6.5 -- Hardly tested thanks to a misfiring Paraguay attack. Commanded his box, did not make any obvious mistakes with distribution.
DF DeAndre Yedlin, 5 -- Not effective enough going forward, but was fine on the defensive end. Seemed out of sorts getting in the attacking in partnership with Darlington Nagbe.
DF Cameron Carter-Vickers, 7 -- Extremely solid night at the back. A late (undeserved) yellow card soured what was nearly a perfect night for the 20-year-old.
DF Matt Miazga, 6.5 -- Made a mistake in possession that turned into a Paraguayan chance, but was otherwise competent in partnership with Carter-Vickers. Blocked two shots to help keep the clean sheet.
DF Jorge Villafana, 6.5 -- Active in the first half in concert with Kenny Saief. Hit several mediocre crosses when he did get forward. Defensively sound.
MF Wil Trapp, 8 -- Played his position to a tee. Expertly adjusted to Paraguay's pressure and clogged the middle as the lone defensive shield. Led the team with 10 recoveries.
MF Kenny Saief, 6 -- Picked up his play in the second half after a less-than-stellar opening 45 minute. Showed his skill on the ball, but struggled to make his touches count in the attacking third of the field.
MF Tyler Adams, 8.5 -- Set up the lone U.S. goal with an excellent run out of midfield that won a penalty. Played all over the park, connecting passes and breaking up Paraguayan play.
MF Marky Delgado, 7.5 -- Played the pass that set up Adams to win a penalty. Struggled to play forward prior to that moment, but was solid on both side of the ball for most of the evening.
MF Darlington Nagbe, 6.5 -- Dribbled the Americans out of pressure and moved the ball well on the right side of the midfield. Provided one bright attacking moment in the first half, but was otherwise limited in the final third.
FW Bobby Wood, 4.5 -- Scored the penalty that provided the margin of victory. Lacked a sharp touch and made poor decisions with the ball. Failed to get a shot off during the run of play.
MF Rubio Rubin, 5.5 -- Provided width and energy in about 25 minutes but never connected on a meaningful move.
FW Andrija Novakovich, NR -- Had a shot saved on a late one-v-one that would have capped a momentous occasion on his international debut.
MF Tim Weah, NR -- Looked bright in a few minutes as a late substitute. Had one moment of obvious nerves, but flashed the talent that makes him a potential star of the future.
MF Cristian Roldan, NR -- Just a brief injury-time appearance for the Seattle Sounders man.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.