Five takeaways from USA's win in Puerto Rico

It was an ugly game, but the U.S. national team's friendly win over Puerto Rico accomplished what Jurgen Klinsmann wanted.

If Jurgen Klinsmann had a checklist of goals for the U.S. national team's friendly against Puerto Rico, he was probably able to cross off most of what he was hoping for after the 3-1 victory Sunday.

Stay healthy and avoid having any Copa America roster players (or any players for that matter) getting injured on the suspect playing surface in Bayamon? Check.

Win the game by multiple goals in order to start building a little momentum ahead of Copa America? Check.

Have Bobby Wood score a goal and play well as he marches toward a seemingly inevitable starting role this summer? Check.

Have a new face like Paul Arriola make the most of the opportunity and give Klinsmann something to think about for his post-Copa America plans? Check.

For an ugly friendly that should really have been a closed-door scrimmage, the win in Puerto Rico managed to serve a purpose, even if the U.S. as a team played about as sloppy a match as you would expect from a group that only had a handful of days together. Throw in what had to be the mixed emotions for some players who took the field knowing there will be no Copa America for them, and you can see how this U.S. team wound up actually being outplayed at times by its underdog opponent.

Klinsmann didn't help matters, trotting out an odd (even by Klinsmann standards) lineup featuring three defensive-midfield types anchoring three-fourths of a diamond midfield. It would have made more sense to play young (soon-to-be former) Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman in one of the wide roles in the diamond, but perhaps Klinsmann felt obligated to give Alfredo Morales and Danny Williams starting nods after leaving them off the Copa America roster.

Overall, there were no "this is why this player shouldn't have been left off the Copa America roster" performances, but there were some promising efforts of varying degrees. There will be much more to chew on when the U.S. faces Ecuador on Wednesday, with the full contingent of Copa America players facing a tough opponent.

Here are some takeaways from Sunday's U.S. win in Puerto Rico:


Puerto Rico isn't exactly a barometer for what will work in Copa America, but Wood's goal was impressive and he still moved like a player playing with serious confidence. With his next club destination already decided (he has transferred to Bundesliga side Hamburg) Wood can focus solely on Copa America.

Sunday provided a reminder of the speed threat he gives Klinsmann up top, and with the injured Jozy Altidore out of the picture, it does seem as though Klinsmann is ready to scrap any traditional target forward-reliant system and look to build around, and capitalize on, Wood's form. Whether it will be Gyasi Zardes or Clint Dempsey (or Chris WondolowskI) playing next to him remains to be seen, but Wood is still looking up for the increased role that is looming for him.


Club Tijuana midfielder-forward Paul Arriola recorded a goal and an assist in his national team debut, and while that alone merits plaudits, the stat line alone isn't why he came away from Sunday's friendly having helped his stock the most.

Arriola is an underrated attacker, boasting good speed, technical quality and a work rate that helps put him in dangerous spots often. He is coming off a breakthrough season at Club Tijuana, where he finally became a regular starter after multiple years as a bench option.

The confidence garnered from that is clear to see, and while he won't be on the Copa America roster, Arriola is certainly someone who will merit another look from Klinsmann when World Cup qualifying rolls back around — especially if Arriola can remain a starter in Liga MX next season.


Normally you wouldn't put too much weight on how a defender fares against a team like Puerto Rico, but considering the fact some other U.S. defenders had their struggles Sunday, it was Yedlin who looked the steadiest.

His defensive improvement during his past season at Sunderland is well documented, and Sunday's performance at right back offers support for the notion that Klinsmann is ready to make him the starter there, with Fabian Johnson a safe bet to play left back.


Again, you have to take this friendly with a grain of salt, but the sight of John Brooks leaving enough space for Luis Betancur's beautiful goal for Puerto Rico had to be at least a little unsettling, especially since Brooks has had his share of disappointing outings for the U.S.

Brooks is set for a battle with Matt Besler to secure the starting left center back spot (unless Klinsmann decides to go with a right-footed option like Steve Birnbaum), and Klinsmann will give Brooks plenty of opportunity to show he can be for the U.S. what he has shown to be for Hertha Berlin: a composed defender and excellent distributor. The jury is still out.


The most head-scratching member of the U.S. Copa America roster did little Sunday to make Klinsmann's decision look like a strong one. Michael Orozco started at center back against Puerto Rico and while he didn't commit any blunders, to say he looked the part would be a stretch. He could have provided some more pressure on the Puerto Rico goal and really didn't make his presence felt.

It was interesting to see him play in central defense, because the popular belief has been that he was coming in as right back cover. Perhaps his start at center back suggests we could see someone like Steve Birnbaum at right back in a pinch rather than Orozco. Given his lack of playing time at Club Tijuana, Orozco really shouldn't be an option anywhere along the back line at the Copa America, but his latest start suggests Klinsmann still has high hopes for him — at least higher hopes than most.

It should be noted that Eric Lichaj looked solid in his second-half appearance. He has long been a player deserving of a national team look, and what he showed in his short appearance Sunday suggests he merits more looks, and adds just a little fuel to the belief he would have been a better Copa America choice than Orozco.