The United States found the back of the net twice in each half en route to a comprehensive 4-0 win over Bolivia. Gyasi Zardes scored twice, finishing off feeds from Alejandro Bedoya in the first half and Bobby Wood in the second half as he rebounded from a mostly bad first half against Ecuador.
When Zardes wasn't scoring, it was John Brooks finding himself all alone in the box to sidefoot home a beauty and some guy named Christian Pulisic getting his first international goal. Maybe he's good at soccer, I don't know...
The USMNT now heads into their Copa America opener on Friday against Colombia riding a three game winning streak and shutting out two CONEMBOL opponents. No, at this point I don't think Bolivia is good at soccer but you can only play and beat the teams that are in front of you and the US has done that in the past week.
So what were the big takeaways from tonight's game?
1. Michael Bradley as a #6 makes all the difference.
There are many things we can debate about Jurgen Klinsmann's constantly changing and mostly non-sensical lineups, however, when Bradley's playing a holding midfield role the USMNT is just better at soccer.
In the first half against Ecuador, Bradley playing next to Jones as two "#8" center midfielders went rather badly. Now, there were other factors involved related to the offensive personnel in front of Bradley in the first half against Ecuador. But since he's moved back to a holding role the US went from being mostly bland on offense to being pretty darn good. Yes, Bolivia isn't that good and the US should've had at least another goal vs. Ecuador, but the point remains that Bradley is at his best when he gets to dictate things from deep in the midfield.
Case in point, Bradley's through ball to Bedoya on a set piece set up the USA's second goal is nothing short of brilliant as was his long ball that helped set up the US' third. With Bradley marshaling the midfield, it gives Jones the opportunity to be Jermaine Jones, which is to mostly cause havoc and create turnovers like what led to the USA's fourth (yes MB was subbed off by then, but still).
2. Nagbe and Pulisic should be starters...but they'll ruin teams off the bench too.
I'm not sold on exactly who should be in the starting lineup ahead of Bradley. Certainly Alejandro Bedoya has made a case at either central or right mid, Jones is hard to replace in the line up, Zardes scored twice today but is still not a winger, Bobby Wood is your best hold up guy and Clint Dempsey is still Deuce.
So even if Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic aren't going to start games, they'll still finish them by doing stuff like this:
That's pretty soccer. And the US is going to see stuff like that for, hopefully, a very long time. Pulisic broke then NY Red Bull and current New England Revolution striker Juan Agudelo's American record for youngest goal scorer when Juan tallied a winner in a friendly against South Africa in 2010.
So even if there isn't an ideal place for Nagbe or Pulisic in the starting lineup, coming off the bench with their creativity and skill sets against a tired team is still going to have a major impact.
3. Okay, let's talk about the fullback situation...
So the USA replaced TImmy Chandler on the roster due to injury, but his replacement Edgar Castillo hadn't joined up with the national team yet. The answer to a shortage of fullbacks was to deploy Matt Besler on the left with Michael Orozco on the right and then sub in Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin at halftime.
Okay, this makes no sense, but not for the reason you're thinking. Why not start Fabian and Yedlin so they get time with the first team guys up front for a whole half? Why not sub in Besler and Orozco at halftime?
In case you're wondering, no, I don't think Besler on the left side is that insane. He's a smart defender and a professional, so he went about doing his job, albeit an unfamiliar one, and honestly he did pretty well.
Okay, so maybe Besler isn't providing Chris Tierney like service from the left, but seriously? That's not bad. Orozco is at this point just a safety net for Klinsmann and nothing more than utility defender and not a terrible one at that. Yes, Bolivia's decision to basically not attack all night gave Besler the opportunity to stay higher up field, catching him out of position badly on a bad Jones turnover once though the US was able to recover.
Deploying Besler and Orozco as fullbacks in a competitive situation, particularly for the start of a game, would likely be mean bad things for the US. They were able to get away with it today against a team that didn't care for attacking, a luxury today in a friendly, not so in Copa America next week.