The U.S. men's national team drew to Venezuela on Saturday, 1-1. But the World Cup qualifying tune-up match wasn't about the result; it was about the player performances so coach Bruce Arena could refine his starting XI for when the USMNT faces Trinidad & Tobago in World Cup qualifying on Thursday (7:50 p.m. ET on FS1).
The best player of the match was Christian Pulisic, which we dug into further right here. But who else stood out? These were the three other stars of the match:
Jeffrey SwingerJeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
All you need to do is watch the clips of the two saves he made in the first half. That second save in the 34th minute to deny Rubert Quijada was pretty spectacular. It's particularly good to see Howard step into goal just before a pair of crucial World Cup qualifiers and perform well. There are some pretty serious questions about the goalkeeper pool behind him, but if Howard can maintain his top form and stay healthy, then that's all the USMNT needs.
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Coming into this friendly, the question was whether Arena would continue to use Cameron as a center back, where he typically played under coach Jurgen Klinsmann, or whether he'd play him in the midfield, where Cameron has played for Stoke most of this year. It looks like Arena thought better of breaking up the John Brooks-Geoff Cameron center back pairing, at least while he's still figuring out what he should do for next weeks World Cup qualifiers, and Cameron in particular looked very good on the back line. He made some key clearances and recoveries, and he even did well pushing up the field with the ball and wading into the attack.
Kelley L CoxKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The question of who the USMNT's left back will be going forward is all but settled. Villafana put in another good performance on Saturday. He did well pinning Venezuela's attackers back and offered an outlet by racing up the flanks in the attack. While not everyone had great games, Villafana looked pretty comfortable throughout – he looked steady and aware of his positioning in defense and he showed little fear in venturing into Venezuela's end. He was also part of the sequence that led to the equalizer, including a crucial interception to give the Americans possession.