The United States men’s national team kicked off their preparations for the World Cup in a positive fashion as they blanked Morocco on Wednesday night at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati.
With many of the 23 spots on the roster still open and only a limited time to prepare for the tournament in Qatar, this was the time for some of the players on the bubble to make an impression before the FIFA deadline.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter went with his trusted 4-3-3 formation with a few changes from their final World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. Reggie Cannon and Aaron Long got the nod in the back line in the place of the injured pair of Sergino Dest and Miles Robinson respectively. In the midfield, Brenden Aaronson slotted in Weston McKennie, who had just made his return from injury.
One of the usual things a fan could expect of this team is playing a reactive way to get things going. However, they bucked that trend as they were more proactive.
The red, white, and blue opened the scoring in the 26th minute when Walker Zimmerman sent the ball over the top for Christian Pulisic, who brought it down with the most delicate of touches. He then did well to hold the ball up before passing it on to a streaking Aaronson to punch home.
Timothy Weah doubled the U.S. lead six minutes later when the Moroccan defense left him wide open to have a crack at goal from distance. His shot did not disappoint as his powerful shot went through the hands of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
The start of the second half would see a few substitutions. Joe Scally and Haji Wright would make their first appearances for the senior team, and it would a memorable for the latter.
The referee would point to the spot for a penalty in the 60th minute as he judged that Pulisic was knocked down in the area by Achraf Hakimi. The U.S. captain then gave Wright the ball to take the spot-kick as he just got his shot past the outstretched hand of Bounou.
Another notable substitution would be made for the U.S. in the 65th minute when Malik Tillman made his first appearance for the team after completing his one-time switch from Germany.
The game was in the bag at this point, but controversy would rear its ugly head minutes later when the referee pointed to the spot for another penalty, this time in Morocco’s favor. Scally was accused of bringing down Souflane Rahimi in the area, but replays showed he made no contact.
Selim Amallah stepped up to take the spot-kick, but to quote Rasheed Wallace, “ball don’t lie”, as the shot came crashing off the bar.
A good win for the U.S., but there is still a lot of work ahead as they look to put together the right team for their journey to the Middle East.
The U.S. will look to sink their teeth into Uruguay when they face the South Americans on Sunday.