The U.S men's national team was closer to full strength as it wrapped up its pre-Gold Cup slate of matches vs. Venezuela in Cincinnati on Sunday, but it was no closer to finding success.
Coming off a surprising 1-0 loss to Jamaica with a fringe squad, the USA conceded three times in the first half against La Vinotinto and fell by a 3-0 scoreline in front of almost 24,000 at Nippert Stadium. More players were available for Gregg Berhalter against a side that just fell to Mexico 3-1 on Wednesday night, even though Christian Pulisic was not yet match-ready for the U.S. after a late arrival into camp, while Tyler Adams hasn't yet joined the squad and Michael Bradley was held out as he recovers from an injury, but Jozy Altidore and Weston McKennie were available for selection.
Berhalter returned to his more familiar tactics for the match after experimenting vs. Jamaica, with the team reverting to a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 and McKennie getting the start in the midfield. A new wrinkle included the introduction of Tyler Boyd, the winger who recently completed his FIFA one-time switch from New Zealand to the USA.
None of it seemed to matter against Venezuela. The Copa America-bound visitors had a half-chance in the third minute off a free kick, when Premier League striker Salomon Rondon flicked a header toward goal off a free kick, but it was cleared before goalkeeper Zack Steffen had to be called into action.
The USA forced Venezuela into the game's first save on a similar chance, as Boyd's curling free kick found McKennie in the center of the box. The Schalke midfielder directed his header on frame, but Wuilker Farinez made the clean catch on the diving stop.
Venezuela responded with a close call from Jefferson Savarino on a blast from 18 yards, before going ahead on an absolute debacle in the back. With Venezuela showing a high press, Steffen turned it over after a poor ball out of the back. Rondon wound up with a clear look at a vacated goal after a setup from Jhon Murillo, and he finished to make it 1-0 in the 16th minute.
Venezuela doubled its lead 14 minutes later. Off a throw-in, Savarino wound up with a good look from the edge of the box. It beat Steffen and hit the post, but the Real Salt Lake forward followed his chance and put home the rebound, making it 2-0.
The U.S. nearly pulled one back moments later, with Farinez robbing McKennie again on a low shot to the corner and then making the save off a header on the ensuing corner kick.
Venezuela turned around and added to its lead right after. As the U.S. tried to press, Venezuela broke it with ease, and Rondon was found streaking through the center. He beat Aaron Long 1-v-1 and then rifled a shot by Steffen, making it 3-0 in the 36th minute and setting Venezuela's all-time goal record (24) in the process.
The U.S. made a couple of changes at halftime, with Walker Zimmerman coming on in defense for Aaron Long and Altidore on for Gyasi Zardes, making his first appearance for the U.S. since the fateful World Cup qualifier in October 2017 against Trinidad & Tobago.
Venezuela countered with a change of its own in the 61st minute, bringing reigning MLS MVP Josef Martinez on for Tomas Rincon, who had assisted on Rondon's second goal.
The U.S. looked to have two golden chances to pull a goal back in the 66th and 68th minutes. First, Jordan Morris, on as a sub, ripped a shot just wide of the post.
Two minutes later, right back Nick Lima got forward and curled in a dangerous ball. Substitute Duane Holmes whiffed on it by the near post, though, and Paul Arriola's wayward touch at the backpost put it out for a goal kick, despite him being faced with a gaping net.
The U.S. should've scored again in the 78th minute. Altidore flicked on a corner kick toward the back post, but club teammates Morris and Cristian Roldan collided when both could have scored, allowing the ball to trickle harmlessly out of play.
Farinez was forced into another save moments later off a proper chance, as Roldan's looping cross found a streaking Arriola in the center of the box. The D.C. United winger's volley was stopped by the goalkeeper, though, keeping it 3-0 as the match entered its final 10 minutes.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
The USA, which is out to defend its Gold Cup title, will play Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and Panama in group play, with matches in St. Paul, Minn.; Cleveland, Ohio; and Kansas City, Kan.