USA beats Uzbekistan 3-0 in Berhalter's return as coach

The United States men's national soccer team stuttered to a 3-0 win over Uzbekistan in an international friendly in St. Louis on Saturday that marked Gregg Berhalter's first game back as coach.

The goals came early and late. Tim Weah put the U.S. in front in the fourth minute before substitute Ricardo Pepi and AC Milan star Christian Pulisic, from the penalty spot, scored in second-half stoppage time to ensure the win.

It was a scoreline that arguably flattered the U.S. though, as for most of the contest it struggled to make its superior talent count against its 74th-ranked opponents from Asia.

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Berhalter was back in charge after his contract expired following the World Cup at the end of 2022 amid a U.S. Soccer investigation into a 1992 domestic violence incident involving him and his now-wife Rosalind that was brought to light by the family of midfielder Gio Reyna.

For the next six months, the national team was managed on an interim basis by Anthony Hudson and later by current assistant B.J. Callaghan, who led it to victory at the 2023 Concacaf Nations League. After conducting a search for the next manager, U.S. Soccer settled on Berhalter in June.

Reyna is not involved in this camp as he continues his recovery from an injury suffered in the Nations League final. But there was a bright start for the Americans in front of a less-than-sold-out crowd at CityPark stadium.

Weston McKennie showed both skill and strength to take the ball down, hold off defenders and lay it off to his right for new Juventus teammate Weah, who finished with a first-time shot into the far corner of the net.

The goal meant Weah has now scored against a nation from each continent, after getting goals versus Wales, Bolivia, Morocco and Jamaica.

Tim Weah celebrates after putting the U.S. ahead against Uzbekistan.
Tim Weah celebrates after putting the U.S. ahead against Uzbekistan.
Dilip Vishwanat/USSF/Getty Images

Berhalter's side should have doubled its advantage just over 10 minutes later, but striker Folarin Balogun could only head against the foot of the post from close range after being found by McKennie.

But as the half wore on, the U.S. pressure and possession wavered as sloppy turnovers crept in, and Uzbekistan grew into the contest.

Khojiakbar Alidzhanov nearly stunned the St. Louis crowd when sending a left-footed shot from distance against Matt Turner's crossbar.

Tanner Tessmann, a 35th-minute substitute after Luca de la Torre suffered a broken nose in a clash of heads, produced a careless giveaway with one of his first involvements. The Venezia midfielder passed the ball back straight into the path of forward Eldor Shomurodov, who ran at the U.S. defense and forced a low save form Turner.

There was an even bigger let-off for the American hosts minutes later. This time, Tim Ream, captaining his country in his hometown, was carelessly robbed by Shomurodov to allow a clean run at goal. But Turner came to the rescue to allow the U.S. to retain its advantage into halftime.

Balogun, who is still getting up to speed following his transfer to French club Monaco, was replaced at the interval by Ricardo Pepi, but Uzbekistan's chances continued to arrive.

Husniddin Aliqulov and Khojiakbar Alijonov both went close in the first seven minutes of the second period, with the U.S. struggling to regain control of the contest.

The Americans steadied the ship as the half wore on but still struggled to create clear-cut chances, until Pepi was found by Brenden Aaronson and fired a fierce shot from the top of the box that Uzbekistan's goalkeeper got a glove to but failed to keep out.

After another substitute, Malik Tillman, was fouled in the box, Pulisic then added further sheen to the scoreline when converting a penalty to net his 26th national team goal in his 50th start.

The Americans will be back in action on Tuesday in St. Paul, Minnesota, against another Asian opponent, Oman.