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Copa América: Pulisic guides the triumphant debut of the U.S. against a shaky Bolivia and Uruguay tramples Panama

Americans and Uruguayans fight for first place in Group C.

Copa América: Pulisic guía el debut triunfal de EEUU ante una frágil Bolivia y Uruguay pisa fuerte ante Panamá

Edit de los partidos de Estados Unidos y Uruguay por la Copa América 2024. (AFP)

This Sunday Christian Pulisic, with an early goal and an assist, commanded the 2-0 victory of the host United States against Bolivia as both teams made their debut in the Copa América 2024.

Pulisic scored in the 3rd minute of this match that opened Group C, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with a beautiful right-footed shot from the edge of the penalty zone.

Then, in the 44th minute, the AC Milan forward passed to his teammate Folarin Balogun who scored and further widened the gap.

"He is a leader. He goes out on the field and simply competes and works very hard and that helps the team and then we add the fact that he is a very skilled player (...). It is a great combination," the U.S. coach, Gregg Berhalter, said in a press conference. "Tonight he had an exceptional performance."

A veteran of the Copa América Centenario in 2016, in which the United States reached the semifinals on home turf, Pulisic continues to climb the ranks on the list of all-time scorers for the national team.

The Rossonero outside forward has reached 30 goals internationally, which equals Brian McBride and is only behind Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, with 57 each, Jozy Altidore, with 42, and Eric Wynalda, with 34.

"If you are not close to him, he is a player who makes a difference," said Bolivia's coach, Brazilian Antonio Carlos Zago.

Meanwhile, this Sunday in Miami, the favorite of this group, Marcelo Bielsa's Uruguay, faced Panama in the second hour, beating them 3-1 with a great goal from Maximiliano Araujo at minute 16 of the first half, another from Darwin Núñez in the twilight of the match and a header from Matías Viña moments before the final whistle.

For Panama, during practically the very last play, right-back Michael Amir Murillo (Olympique de Marseille) scored with a left-footed shot into the top corner.

Although Uruguay was the great dominator of the match, its lack of forcefulness caused Panama to increase their confidence, gain momentum in the match and make the Uruguayans suffer with several near goals in the second half that could have meant a re-distribution of points. In the end, the 3-1 score seemed like a very severe punishment for a brave Panamanian team. They paid dearly for the difference in ranking compared to Uruguay, one of the tournament's prime candidates to win.

An American monologue

It didn't take long for the United States to get back on track at the home of the five-time Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys in front of nearly 48,000 spectators.

"Captain America" Pulisic, created momentum for the home team against a Bolivian team unable to score even a single point in the three previous Copa América tournaments: 2016, 2019 and 2021. They now have 13 consecutive defeats.

The 25-year-old striker's magnificent shot was touched by goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra, a great figure in the match, but the whipping power of the ball caused it to end up in the back of the net.

The wall of five men in defense and three midfielders that Bolivia had put in place collapsed too early.

"He cut off our legs," Zago acknowledged.

The match became a monologue for the home team, with good opportunities from Tim Weah and Gio Reyna, while Bolivia fell into a dangerous loop, filling up with yellow cards with warnings for Leonel Justiniano, Gabriel Villamil and Luis Haquín.

Already at the end of the first half, Gregg Berhalter's team was rewarded for its control of the match: Pulisic opened the game for Balogun and he made a left-footed crosskick to make it 2-0.

Balogun, a player for Monaco in the French Ligue 1, was the center forward chosen by Berhalter for the debut, relegating Joshua Sargent and Ricardo Pepi to the bench. He responded to the confidence instilled in him by his coach's decision.