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USA, Venezuela play to 1-1 draw; Pulisic continues to impress

RSL’s Savarino made a 20-minute appearance as the U.S. and Venezuela played to a draw.

Soccer: International Friendly Men's Soccer-Venezuela at USA Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Exhibitions are a funny thing. On one hand, you find yourself really caring about the result — and on the other, rationalizing a draw isn’t too hard. And so it was that the U.S. and Venezuela, knotted from the 61st minute, provided plenty of excitement and grief on both sides in a 1-1 draw.

It started, of course, with the U.S. conceding inside the first half — something of a pattern at Rio Tinto Stadium, it would seem.

A 29th minute goal from Venezuela shocked the U.S. defense, with Venezuela defender Jose Manuel Velázquez earning the opener from a corner after John Brooks lost his mark — but it didn’t help when Clint Dempsey failed to clear the first cross from danger.

And you’d never guess who scored the equalizer for the United States. Or maybe you would, given it was Christian Pulisic, continuing his spell of excellent performances for the Yanks and scored his fifth international goal. Pulisic danced on the edge of the box after receiving a Fabian Johnson cross, and his shot across the goal left nothing in doubt about the youngster’s ability to influence a game.

The 33rd minute saw Venezuela slicing away at the U.S., with Tim Howard getting his hand to a shot to leave Venezuela with just a corner instead of a second goal. Then, from the ensuing corner, more chaos in the box ensued — with Howard getting to a low shot for an even better save.

Shouts for a penalty were summarily waved off in the 14th minute after Clint Dempsey went to ground in the box. The creativity of Fabian Johnson was fully on display leading up to that, although he may have been better off turning and shooting near the top of the box after beating Venezuelan’s defense.

Clint Dempsey had an excellent opportunity in the 49th minute, but his header from a Jorge Villafana cross went just wide of Venezuelan goalkeeper José Contrera’s post. Not long after, Christian Santos nearly put Venezuela up 2-0 with a curling shot to the upper corner of the far post, but it lifted just over the intersection of corner and bar, keeping the U.S. in touching distance of an equalizer.

U.S. fans held their collective breath in the 50th minute, when Brooks went down clutching the back of his leg after contesting a header around the midfield stripe — especially given his importance to the team with World Cup Qualifiers looming. He continued in the match, however, and no immediate replacement was called for. He was later substituted for FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges.

The last 20 minutes of the match featured Real Salt Lake’s newest signing, Jefferson Savarino, one of the few bright spots from RSL’s run of miserable form. He’s a fringe-but-promising Venezuelan national team player. His first act? Beat U.S. left back Jorge Villafana with the ball and swing in a very promising cross, although the ensuing shot was placed tamely into Tim Howard’s hands.

Seattle’s Jordan Morris nearly carved out an 80th minute equalizer as several young Americans coalesced into strong attacking play, but Contreras bounded out to block the shot.

Attendance: 17,315


USA: 1-Tim Howard, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 6-John Brooks, 8-Clint Dempsey, 9-Bobby Wood, 10-Christian Pulisic, 15-Darlington Nagbe, 17-Jorge Villafaña, 20-Geoff Cameron, 23-Fabian Johnson

Substitutes: 22-Nick Rimando, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 13-Dax McCarty, 14-Tim Ream, 16-Kellyn Acosta, 18-Jordan Morris, 19-Graham Zusi, 21-Matt Hedges

Head coach: Bruce Arena

VEN: 1-José Contreras; 3-Mikel Villanueva, 4-Rubert Quijada, 5-Francisco Flores, 6-José Manuel Velázquez, 9-Salomón Rondón (capt.), 11-Darwin Machís, 14-Júnior Moreno, 15-Jhon Murillo, 17-Pablo Camacho, 19-Christian Santos

Subs: 12-Alain Baroja, 2-Jefre Vargas, 7-Edder Farías, 10-Jefferson Savarino, 13-Francisco La Mantía, 16-Aristóteles Romero, 18-Yordan Osorio, 20-José Luis Marrufo, 23-Andrés Ponce

Head coach: Marcos Mathias