Neither the U.S. men's national team nor Paraguay qualified for the 2018 World Cup, and they continued preparations to move forward and into the future with a chippy friendly, won 1-0 by the Americans at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., on Tuesday night.
Bobby Wood scored the lone goal for a new-look USA at the end of the first half, converting a penalty kick that was won by Tyler Adams. Toronto FC's Marky Delgado supplied the defense-splitting ball for Adams, and Wood did the rest from the spot. Zack Steffen played the full game in goal, earning the clean sheet.
The last time the two nations played was in the Copa America Centenario group stage, with the USA winning 1-0 on a Clint Dempsey goal to advance to the knockout rounds. The sides were considerably different this time around, with a number of U.S. players seeking the first caps.
The U.S. controlled the possession in the opening few minutes, but Paraguay nearly struck first on the counter. It came through Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron, who took on Matt Miazga 1-v-1 only to have his 20-yard attempt blocked by the on-loan Chelsea center back in the fifth minute.
The Americans kept pressuring and it nearly paid off in the 16th minute. A cross from Jorge Villafaña was eventually taken by Darlington Nagbe on the right channel, where he cross back into the center of the box. It fell in the area of both Kenny Saief and Wood, with the former opting for the shot, when the latter probably had the better angle. It wound up being cleared off the line, with Paraguay escaping the threat.
Paraguay tested Steffen for the first time in the 27th minute off a long free kick, but Federico Santander's header was hit right at the Columbus Crew backstop, and he made the catch with ease.
The USA got on the board just before halftime. Delgado played a perfect, splitting through ball for a streaking Adams, and while he probably could have done better on the breakaway, he was taken out by a sliding Roberto Fernandez for a penalty. Bobby Wood converted on the ensuing PK, giving the USA a 1-0 lead just before halftime.
Tempers flared in the 55th minute, when Delgado was subjected to a brutal tackle, as players squared up and Miazga, more than others, got in the center of it to defend his teammate.
Paraguay nearly equalized in the 75th minute, when Junior Alonso sent in a cross from the left to the far post. Hernan Perez leaped over Villafaña to head it back across goal, but it went wide of the far post and out of play to safety.
The latter stages of the game were when Sarachan went deeper into his bench, despite having the option to use six substitutes throughout the game, with Andrija Novakovich and Tim Weah making their senior team debuts.
Cristian Roldan entered in stoppage time for a brief cameo as well.
The USA's next match takes place May 28 against Bolivia at the Philadelphia Union's Talen Energy Stadium before a two-game trip to Europe to face Ireland and World Cup-bound France in June.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
And here were the rosters for both nations:
GOALKEEPERS: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC)
DEFENDERS: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Ipswich Town), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Vitesse), Shaq Moore (Levante), Erik Palmer-Brown (Kortrijk), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
MIDFIELDERS: Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC), Kekuta Manneh (Pachuca), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United FC), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)
FORWARDS: Andrija Novakovich (Telstar), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
GOALKEEPERS: Roberto Fernandez (Botafogo), Alfredo Aguilar (Olimpia)
DEFENDERS: Junior Alonso (Lille), Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians), Luis de la Cruz (Guarani), Gustavo Gomez (AC Milan), Juan Patiño (Olimpia), Bruno Valdez (Club America)
MIDFIELDERS: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United FC), Nestor Camacho (Olimpia), Cecilio Dominguez (Club America), Derlis Gonzalez (Dinamo Kiev), Richard Ortiz (Olimpia), Hernan Perez (Deportivo Alaves), Cristian Riveros (Libertad), Juan Rodrigo Rojas (Cerro Porteño), Oscar Romero (Shanghai Shenhua), Richard Sanchez (Olimpia)
FORWARDS: Roberto Ovelar (Millonarios), Angel Romero (Corinthians), Federico Santander (FC Copenhagen)