US team upsets Northern Ireland

A goal in the first half from Gio Reyna and a penalty kick score in the second from Christian Pulisic helped lift the U.S. Men’s National Team to a solid 2-1 victory against Northern Ireland at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.

For the 18-year-old Reyna, the goal marked his second in four career senior international matches while Pulisic became the 13th MNT player to reach 15 career goals. The goal was Pulisic’s first for the USMNT since 2019. 

The win – which extends the USA’s unbeaten streak to nine (8-0-1) – was the USA’s first against a European opponent on the road since June 10, 2015, when the Americans defeated defending World Cup champion Germany. It also snapped an 11-game away winless streak dating back to a victory against Cuba on Oct. 7, 2016.

Playing with three center backs and two wing backs for the first time since 2019, the U.S nearly opened the scoring within minutes when Pulisic played left wing back Antonee Robinson into the penalty box. Robinson whipped in a cross that skidded across the goalmouth just out of the reach of two U.S. attacking players.

In a match that was at times physical, Northern Ireland caused the USA a few nervy moments on set pieces, but the defense was up to the task and prevented any clear attempts on frame.

The U.S. broke through after 30 minutes when Reyna took a pass from defender Tim Ream and ripped a shot from 24 yards out almost exactly in the middle of the field. The shot took a big deflection off a Northern Irish defender and plowed into the net past wrong-footed goalkeeper Conor Hazard.

After Northern Ireland forced a diving save from USA goalkeeper Zack Steffen, Reyna and newcomer Jordan Siebatcheu – making his first start for the USMNT – nearly combined for a goal. Reyna did well to bring down a long ball with his chest, setting up Siebatcheu’s first-time shot from 18. However Northern Ireland defender Daniel Ballard’s last second lunge blocked the blast.

The U.S. took greater control of the match in the second half with Pulisic in particular very active all over the field. The USA captain was rewarded near the hour mark when he was tripped in the area and converted the penalty kick for his first goal with the USMNT since October 11, 2019 against Cuba. His 15 goals now ties him with National Soccer Hall of Famer Cobi Jones for 12th all-time.

USA second half substitute Daryl Dike was unlucky not to extend the lead as the thundering forward was twice denied by Hazard with Pulisic the catalyst on each occasion. On the first chance, he played a seeing-eye through ball between lines to spring Dike, who close-range shot was kick-saved at the last moment by the Northern Irish goalkeeper. Pulisic then found Luca de la Torre in the middle, who helped off a defender, advanced forward with speed, and slipped a ball to Dike into the penalty area. His low shot at the near post again forced Hazard to again make a great save. Dike also barely missed on a flicked header that flew inches outside the right post.

Northern Ireland cut into the lead late in the match with a well-taken goal from Niall McGinn as his powerful strike from a sharp angle flew over U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen, but the USA did well to close out the match to win its third game of the year.

The USMNT will next take on No. 16-ranked Switzerland on May 30 in St. Gallen. The match will be shown live on the ESPN and Univision networks from kybunpark with the kickoff still time to be finalized.

That match will serve as a final tune up for three significant competitions, starting with the Concacaf Nations League Final Four where the USMNT will face Honduras in one semifinal while Mexico and Costa Rica will square off in the other. The winners compete for the inaugural Nations League title. The matches are scheduled for the FIFA window in the first week of June, with the venues and times still to be determined.

The following month, the U.S. will compete in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup in search of its seventh Confederation title, followed by the start of Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying in September.