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Disappointing Americans fall 3-0 to Venezuela in final Gold Cup tune-up match

This was not the way the U.S. hoped to enter the tournament.

Soccer: International Friendly Soccer-Venezuela at USA Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The United States Men’s National Team hoped Sunday would be a bounce-back game. In the team’s final tune-up match before the Gold Cup, the American looked to rebound from a surprising 1-0 loss to Jamaica on Wednesday against Venezuela in Cincinnati. But it was not to be, with a far from first team Red, White and Blue again looking out of sorts and falling 3-0 in front of 23,955 fans at Nippert Stadium.

Head coach Gregg Berhalter again went with players he trusts, starting Columbus Crew SC’s Zack Steffen in goal, Wil Trapp in the midfield and Gyasi Zardes at forward, all of which played for him during his time in charge of the Black & Gold.

It was a positive start for the Americans, who had two good looks to open the scoring in the first 10 minutes. Midfielder Weston McKennie had his headed effort saved by Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez after just seven minutes and Tyler Boyd’s dangerous low cross just missed its target three minutes later.

After being on the front foot early, the Red, White and Blue began the unraveling in the 16th minute. A pass back to Steffen was pressured by midfielder Jhon Murillo and poorly cleared right to Yangel Herrera. The midfielder fed Murillo who laid the ball off to forward Salomón Roldon for the finish and the early lead.

The U.S. regrouped but were unable to build much in the attack over the next 15 minutes. It was in the 30th minute that Venezuela struck again, this time due to poor defending by the Americans.

From a throw-in, the ball was flicked into space in the middle of the field. Midfielder Jefferson Savarino jumped on the loose ball with time and space, dribbled into the penalty box and curled a shot that hit the back post. The rebound fell back to the Real Salt Lake attacker who tucked it into the net, beating a recovering Steffen with ease.

The USMNT nearly halved the deficit four minutes after conceding the second goal, with McKennie again on the end of the chance. After a cross from the right side went just over the head of Zardes and was cleared to the top of the box, the 20 year old fired a one-touch shot on target but Faríñez was again there to make the stop.

Venezuela found a third goal before the end of the first half, once again through Rondon. With no pressure on the ball, the visitors were able to possess in the midfield before playing a long ball for the forward. Rondon went one on one with Aaron Long before firing a left-footed shot through the defender’s legs and by Steffen for the goal.

Berhalter opened the second half with two substitutions, looking to spark his team. Zardes came out of the game for Jozy Altidore and Walker Zimmerman replaced Long.

Just before the 70th minute, the U.S. had two good chances to find a goal. The initial opportunity came on the first touches of second-half substitute Jordan Morris, who took his spaced a curled a shot from the top of the penalty box just wide. A minute later, a cross missed Duane Holmes but found Paul Arriola at the back post. The D.C. United midfielder could not get his effort on target, however, and the Americans’ frustrations continued.

With 10 minutes to play, the U.S. had arguably its best chance of the second half. A cross into the penalty box was over Altidore but on the mark for an on-rushing Arriola. The midfielder put this effort on frame but a kick save from Faríñez again kept the ball out of the net.

The U.S. begins Gold Cup play on June 18 when the Americans face Guyana at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota.