EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- United States caretaker manager Dave Sarachan expressed disappointment over this team's 1-1 draw with Peru, but also acknowledged that his youthful side competed well against La Blanquirroja.
Chances were scarce for both sides in the first half, though it was Peru that had the vast majority of possession. But a sharper U.S. team emerged after half-time, and Josh Sargent put the home side ahead in the 49th minute when his deflected effort from Kellyn Acosta's free kick snuck past Jose Carvallo in the Peru goal.
Peru piled on the pressure, and after Andy Polo hit the bar in the 75th minute, Edison Flores latched on to Andy Polo's low centering feed in the 86th minute to blast home at the far post.
"We feel disappointed that it ended in a tie," Sarachan said post-match. "We realize they have chances but when you're 1-0 up that late in the game, you want to close it out. We allowed a player to get on the back post, didn't do great there, they tied it.
"But in the big picture of things we had three players who earned their first caps tonight. We had a lot of young guys, some new guys. You've always got to keep in mind that we played a team that's been together a long time in Peru and we've been together for four or five days here.
"So I thought the response from the guys, competing wise, was excellent. Coming away with a draw from a very strong Peru team is nothing to sink your heads down for. Keep your heads high is what we told them; a good night for this young group."
Sarachan could feel good about an improved defensive performance from a backline that included two debutantes in Reggie Cannon and Aaron Long, as well as Ben Sweat making his first start. Cameron Carter-Vickers, 20, counted as the old head in the group with five caps. But overall the group stood strong, and for much of the night made the plays it had to make.
"It's always a question mark when you have some inexperienced players working together for the first time but you hope that when the curtain raises, they get tuned in and don't get too nervous on the occasion," Sarachan said.
"I thought there were some moments of indecision and some nerves but I think as the game went on, it got better. As I keep repeating, this is a group that hasn't played together for a long time. I thought throughout the rest of the game, that was good."
Sargent: Coach Sarachan came up with set-piece play
U.S. forward Josh Sargent breaks down his opening goal, crediting interim head coach Dave Sarachan with hatching the plan for the set piece at training.
But this was also a night where the U.S. struggled to keep the ball, managing just 31.7 percent possession according to ESPN Stats & Information. It ended up costing the U.S. in the end as Peru launched wave after wave of attacks.
"The ability to start to string a few passes together just to give yourself a breather and to keep possession and build with numbers, I didn't think the balance of that was great in the first half," he said.
"It was better in the second, we talked about it during half-time.
"When you're protecting a lead and the other team's bringing numbers and you're backed up and you're clearing a ball, it's difficult to keep hold of it. I think in the last play that led to the Peru goal, we had an opportunity to keep the ball out of pressure but we lost it. Give credit to Peru, they turned up the volume on us and did what good teams do."
Sarachan admitted the night was a mixed bag for young attackers like Jonathan Amon.
"[Amon] showed some moments that give you hope and showed you moments that make you realize he's ," he said.
"The speed of play got him on a few occasions but the moments that came where he had to take off and be creative, that was impressive and I think I'd love for this young kid to take away a lot in that regard."
The night proved more productive for Sargent, who in addition to getting his goal helped set up a couple of other opportunities for the U.S.
"The kid's moving in a good direction," said Sarachan about Sargent. "As a lone striker in the first half, he didn't have a lot of the play but the moments that came to him, I thought he did pretty well.
"He did some clever movements in terms of keeping possession. He's a strong kid. I thought on the night he had a good night. Getting the goal was the cherry on the sundae."
Tim Weah, who earned his seventh cap on the night, also earned positive reviews from Sarachan.
"I think [Weah] is growing," he said. "He's got a lot to learn still but he's getting used to the speed of play at this level and that's been a real plus."