US ‘selfless leader’ Pulisic inspires victory over Bolivia

US ‘selfless leader’ Pulisic inspires victory over Bolivia

ARLINGTON, Texas — United States men’s national soccer team coach Gregg Berhalter praised the leadership of captain Christian Pulisic following his one-goal, one-assist performance in the 2- 0 against Bolivia on Sunday to kick off the 2024 Copa América campaign.

“He’s a selfless leader,” Berhalter told reporters after the game at AT&T Stadium. “He goes out and competes and works really hard, and that helps the team. And then you add in the fact that he’s highly skilled and can play on the offensive end, it’s a great combination.”

“For me it was an outstanding performance tonight,” added Berhalter, who said Pulisic won the coach’s man-of-the-match award.

Pulisic opened the scoring three minutes later, burying a shot after playing a short corner to Tim Weah and receiving the ball near the edge of the area. Pulisic ran to the sidelines and looked for set-piece specialist coach Gianni Vio in the stands, eventually pointing at him as he celebrated.

“It’s the Copa América, it’s a big tournament,” Pulisic said. “I feel like I’m always really excited after scoring, but it’s a big moment, it’s a major tournament.”

Pulisic then grabbed an assist just before halftime, collecting the ball and turning in central midfield before finding Folarin Balogun for the left-footed finish.

Tyler Adams got his first USMNT start since the Concacaf Nations League final in March and played 45 minutes, which Berhalter said was always the plan even though Adams requested to play longer.

“I was like, ‘Man, we’ve been going this route,’” Berhalter said with a smile.

“But of course he wants to stay on the field, and that’s Tyler. You see how much he means to the team; you see his attitude and his intensity. He’s a guy we want on the field, but we just have to be careful The plan was 45 minutes from departure, and we stuck to the plan.

Adams said he felt more comfortable coming out of the game with the team in the lead, but that “obviously I’m looking forward to playing.”

The Americans were the big favorites heading into the match. Bolivia sit second from bottom in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, with the worst goal difference and just one win in six matches.

Bolivia offered little going forward, failing to seriously test American goalkeeper Matt Tuner, while the American team had several chances to extend their lead in the second half.

“We will always look at creating chances as a marker of performance, and I think we created enough chances today,” Berhalter said. “And most of the time, those opportunities are going to come through – and today they didn’t, and that’s great.

“I think we’re happy with the result. The match was never in doubt and I think it’s a good starting point to build on throughout this tournament.”

The USMNT next faces Panama on Thursday in Atlanta before finishing group play against Uruguay on July 1.

“For us, it’s just about analyzing and improving,” Berhalter said. “I talked about one of our goals throughout this tournament was to continue to try to improve. I like the performance of an opening match against a tough opponent. We are in a good position.”