United States
USMNT's easy win over Uzbekistan doesn't hide issues that must be addressed
United States

USMNT's easy win over Uzbekistan doesn't hide issues that must be addressed

Updated Sep. 9, 2023 9:31 p.m. ET

Tim Weah scored in the fourth minute, and Ricardo Pepi and Christian Pulisic padded that lead in second-half stoppage time as the U.S. Men's National Team beat Asian Football Confederation representative Uzbekistan 3-0 Saturday in a friendly in St. Louis.

Here are three quick thoughts on the No. 11 Americans' victory over FIFA's 74th-ranked team, plus a post-match reaction from coach Gregg Berhalter, who was back on the U.S. sideline for the first time since the 2022 World Cup.

Play of the game

Weah's shot was a worthy game-winner, such was the ferocity and placement of his unstoppable shot past visiting keeper Utkir Yusupov. But the architect of the strike was midfielder Weston McKennie, Weah's club teammate at Italian titan Juventus.


Fans at City Park had barely settled into their seats when McKennie corralled a difficult cross by Pulisic, danced through and spun off three defenders, them put the ball on a tee for Weah to put his laces through:

It was a sublime goal. And given how early it came, it seemed at the time that the hosts might be able to run up the score against an overmatched foe. That feeling didn't last long — more on that below —  even if the second and third goals finally arrived at the very end.

"I really liked the mindset in the last 10 minutes of the game," Berhalter said. The guys still wanted to push. It wasn't about holding on to the one nothing was about getting aggressive."

That aggression paid off when Brenden Aaronson set up fellow sub Pepi, before Pulisic capped the scoring from the penalty spot.

Turning point

Rather than ride the momentum of Weah's opener, the U.S. let Uzbekistan back into the game. The Americans were sloppy in possession, too.

Late in the first half, U.S. keeper Matt Turner was forced to make a pair of key saves following two borderline amateurish giveaways in the middle of the field.

The first was by Tanner Tessman, who came on in central midfield after starter Luca de la Torre had to be substituted with a broken nose. Tim Ream, the steady 35-year-old Premier League veteran who was chosen to captain the Americans in his hometown, uncharacteristically committed the second:

On both occasions, Turner stopped star Uzbek striker Eldor Shomurodov. The 28-year-old Cagliari forward is a fine player. He's his country's captain and all-time top scorer. But with all due respect, the best strikers in the world are burying at least one of those gift-wrapped opportunities. 

Berhalter talked the day before the match about the USMNT's goal for 2026 being to "change American soccer forever," an aim he admitted would require being able to beat elite opponents, such as Argentina or France.

Those sorts of teams punish mistakes ruthlessly.

This 3-0 win looks nice, but the lopsided result flatters a U.S. squad that must be far, far sharper in the future.

"I think we use this game as a learning tool," Berhalter said. "How Uzbekistan competes, how they go in for everything, how they leave their bodies in [tackles] — it shows us that we can improve, and we need to improve. And we will.

"But I think that it's a good baseline," he added. "This is what international competition from other regions looks like."

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Key stat 

Weah's goal was his fifth for the U.S. All five have come against a team from a different confederation.

The 23-year-old's first came in 2018 against Bolivia (South America). His second was at Jamaica (CONCACAF) in 2021. His third and fourth arrived last year, versus Morocco (Africa) in a friendly and, of course, against Wales (UEFA) in the USMNT's opening game of the 2022 World Cup. 

It's a remarkable statistic given that FIFA divides the planet into just six regions. The only one Weah is missing is Oceania. Here's hoping U.S. Soccer can line up a friendly with New Zealand soon.  

What's next for the USMNT?

Berhalter and his players won't have much time to dwell on either the good or bad after this one. 

The USMNT is back in action on Tuesday when they'll welcome Oman, another AFC rep, to sparking Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota (kickoff at 8:30 p.m. ET). 

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports who has covered United States men's and women's national teams at FIFA World Cups on five continents. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.


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