CARY, North Carolina — A United States men’s national team with an average age of just 24 looked, if nothing else, mature Tuesday night against Paraguay. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen and central defenders Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga were in control from the start and helped their team see out a narrow 1-0 victory.
The USMNT’s first chance of the match came in the 16th minute, set up by an impressive spell of play and a cross by Darlington Nagbe. His ball deflected into the path of Kenny Saief, who put a shot on target from 12 yards, but it was cleared off the line.
Paraguay looked capable of hitting the Americans on the break, but rarely turned their attacks into shots. Their best chance of the half came from a set piece, where Federico Santander hit a header straight at Steffen.
In the 43rd minute, the USMNT found its breakthrough through a fast counter trigged by a perfect long ball by Marky Delgado. He weighted it perfectly for Tyler Adams, who sprinted past the Paraguay defense before trying to round Gatito Fernandez. The referee thought the Paraguayan keeper clipped Adams — though replays were inconclusive — and gave a penalty. Wood converted from the spot, giving the United States a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
Paraguay defender Rodrigo Rojas was handed a yellow card in the 55th minute, but he’s lucky he wasn’t sent off. Referee Kimbell Ward decided to be forgiving and let Rojas stay on the pitch after this nasty tackle on Delgado.
Paraguay was unlucky not to score in the 75th minute. Junior Alonso delivered a pinpoint cross to the far post, meeting the head of a leaping Hernan Perez, but his header sailed just inches wide.
Cameron Carter-Vickers was shown a questionable yellow card in the 81st minute for shouldering down Federico Santander, and the ensuing free kick was a 15-second scramble. Santander’s effort clipped the wall and both teams battled for a ball that ping-ponged around before Jorge Villafaña hoofed it clear.
Perhaps the biggest reaction of the night — even bigger than the goal — came when Tim Weah came on for his debut. The crowd stood up for every subsequent pass in his direction too, and he won the Americans a free kick in the 90th minute. Unfortunately for the USMNT, Darlington Nagbe couldn’t make it count. Still, the Americans were able to hold onto the win, the first for interim head coach Dave Sarachan.
United States: Steffen; Villafaña, Carter-Vickers, Miazga, Yedlin, Trapp, Saief (Rubin 67’), Adams, Delgado (Weah 86’), Nagbe (Roldan 90’), Wood (Novakovic 77’)
Goals: Wood (penalty 45’)
Paraguay: Fernandez; Alonso, Gomez, Balbuena, Valdez, Rojas (Gonzalez 83’), Riveros (Ortiz 66’), Almiron, Romero (Dominguez 81’), Camacho (Perez 55’), Santander