USA-Paraguay: Wood goal rewards encouraging U.S. display

The USA controlled play for long stretches but garnered only a Bobby Wood penalty kick that was enough to down Paraguay, 1-0, in a friendly Tuesday in Cary, N.C.

USA-Paraguay: Player Ratings

Head coach Dave Sarachan’s first win as interim head coach came from a spirited display that featured solid displays by the majority of the players he selected, which included three debutants. The U.S. didn’t create many clears scoring opportunities but consistent pressure and cohesive defending enabled the U.S. to blunt Paraguay’s attack, which included Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron.

Tyler Adams punctuated an excellent game by laying off a ball to Marky Delgado deep in the U.S. half and then racing nearly 70 yards to take the long return pass at goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez, whose challenge clipped Adams and drew a caution along with the PK. Wood rolled it into the net as Fernandez lunged the wrong way.

1. Defense held up well under periods of moderate pressure.

A low-key friendly is not the forum from which to draw definitive conclusions, yet the deployment of a back four screened by Wil Trapp snuffed out most of what Paraguay sent into the attacking third and also provided impetus up the flanks from outside backs Jorge Villafana and DeAndre Yedlin.

Villafana got forward numerous times on the first half while also supplying support for left midfielder Kenny Saief, who along with Adams and Wood played the most prominent attacking roles. Their crosses consistently put the Paraguayan defense under pressure and seldom were they caught far enough upfield for Paraguay to counter into those spaces.

In the final minutes, Villafana won a battle for the ball and drew a foul. Yedlin played a scrappy game and got into several scrapes in the second half. He was one of two American players to be cautioned.

The centerback pairing of Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers jammed up the passing lanes and closed down the few openings Paraguay created. Miazga contributed a vital block in each half -- one of them when isolated against Almiron one-v-one -- and aside from an unwarranted caution when Rodrigo Rojas ran into his back, Carter-Vickers usually won his duels.

In the final seconds, keeper Zack Steffen got a piece of a dangerous free kick that produced a brief scramble and a desperate U.S. clearance to preserve the victory.
2. Led by Adams, midfield triangle took the game to Paraguay.

Trapp’s confidence and poise as the midfield anchor empowered Adams and Delgado to spray the ball around and also join in combination play with outside mids Saief and Darlington Nagbe. Saief was especially effective veering inside to leave space for Villafana yet like each member of the midfield quintet he didn’t hesitate to take on opponents with a dribble or quick touch- and-run.

Nagbe wowed the crowd a few times by dinking and slipping the ball out of dicey situations, and had at least two opportunities to shoot that he passed up trying to find a teammate. Delgado showed every bit of the vision and acumen displayed regularly for Toronto FC.

Adams constantly found cracks in the opposing defense but worked hard on the other end as well; his touch quelled a threatening Paraguayan thrust up the middle late in the game. Trapp captained the team and aside from a late Paraguayan push held firm in the middle by winning balls and playing crisp passes.
3. Wood responds to drought by running his socks off.

He’s been struggling for Hamburg and hasn’t scored a Bundesliga goal since August, so of course Wood showed up sharp and hungry. His game is rooted in effort and energy and rarely did he let the Paraguayan defenders relax when the ball was in play.

Before running out of gas and being substituted, Wood worked relentlessly as the lone forward to pressure Paraguay’s attempts to play the ball out of the back. He narrowly missed linking up with Saief and Nagbe several times to find shots that the U.S. buildup play had created. He was rewarded when he took the penalty kick after Adams was fouled.

Sarachan has about two months to evaluate players before the U.S. regroups to play three games against Bolivia, Ireland and France. Several players raised their stock in this game, and Wood showed again why he is not likely to be dislodged anytime soon yet still needs to get back his club game.

1 comment about "USA-Paraguay: Wood goal rewards encouraging U.S. display".
  1. beautiful game, March 28, 2018 at 11:37 a.m.

    I thought MLS referee Marrufo was on the pitch. Wasn't very pleased with Weah getting the last 5 minutes of the game. IMHO, Saief, Miazga and Adams showed promise. Playing into pressure and execution continue to be a problem.

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