US routs Costa Rica 4-0 to finish 4-game, 11-day stretch

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Daryl Dike, Kendall Waston

United States Daryl Dike, left, battle with Costa Rica’s Kendall Waston, right, for the ball in the first half during an international friendly soccer match Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SANDY, Utah (AP) — The United States finished a grueling stretch of four games in 11 days over 5,400 miles that resulted in three wins, including the CONCACAF Nations League trophy. Twenty-four players saw action, and eight scored.

Prep time for the Europe-based players is over. Next up is the start of World Cup qualifying in September.

“The depth of this team will really come in handy,” Brenden Aaronson said after scoring in the eighth minute Wednesday night to start a 4-0 exhibition rout of Costa Rica. “I think it’s it’s going really well so far. And I think we showed that today.”

Daryl Dike and Reggie Cannon added their first international goals and Gio Reyna converted a penalty kick in the 77th, three minutes after entering.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter changed nine starters from the lineup he used to beat Mexico 3-2 in extra time on Sunday to win the first CONCACAF Nations League.

Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent didn’t play at all.

Defender Mark McKenzie, the target of racial abuse on the Internet after a poor first half Sunday, was the only player to start for the fourth straight game and had a stronger effort.

“I came of out of the Mexico game being extremely proud of Mark and the way he handled himself,” Berhalter said. “He didn’t need to play another minute today and I still would have been proud of him.”

This schedule was designed to mimic pandemic-delated World Cup qualifying, where the U.S. opens with three matches from Sept. 2-8, a window FIFA designed for two.

“What I realized is that it’s going to take a group to get this done. It’s not going to take 11 starters,” Berhalter said. “We think we have a young, talented group. And to gain that CONCACAF experience was massive. And when we turn around and we go into World Cup qualifying, we’ll have a good idea of what that’s going to be like and what the three-game rhythm’s going to be like.”

Reyna was the only multiple goal scorer over the four games, which began with a 2-1 friendly loss at Switzerland on May 30 and was followed by last Thursday’s 1-0 win over Honduras in the Nations League semifinal. Pulisic, McKennie, Jordan Siebatcheu and Sebastian Lletget also scored.

“I think there’s guys that will be able to go three games and 90 minutes, but it’s not going to be many, especially given the way we want to play and the way we want to press,” Berhalter said.

Europe-based players will go on brief vacations and then skip next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup to report for preseason ahead of 2021-22 club seasons.

The 20th-ranked U.S. improved 11-1-1 in its last 13 matches and won its 10th consecutive game against a regional opponent since a 2019 Nations League loss to Canada, matching the American high set in 2013. The U.S. beat its top three regional rivals within a week.

Ethan Horvath was rarely tested and got the shutout on his 26th birthday after taking over when Zack Steffen sustained a bone bruise in his left knee during the second half on Sunday.

The 50th-ranked Ticos are winless in 11 games since 2019, with six losses and five draws that included a pair of penalty-kicks defeats.

The U.S. team, wearing rainbow numbers on white jerseys for LGBTQ Pride month, dominated and went ahead after Lletget passed to Antonee Robinson on the left flank, and he crossed for Dike. Francisco Calvo knocked the ball away, but it bounced into the path of Aaronson, whose right-footed shot from 8 yards beat goalkeeper Leonel Moreira for his third goal in seven international appearances.

Dike, six days past his 21st birthday and making his third international appearance, scored in the 42nd minute. McKenzie fed a through pass from just short of the midfield stripe, and Dike ran onto the ball and scored from 14 yards.

A crowd of 19,007 was unusual for Dike, who has played most of his pro career in empty stadiums or in front of limited crowds.

“It was incredible to have fans,” Dike said. “It’s something that you’ve always kind of looked forward to as a young kid to be able to play in front of thousands and thousands of fans.”

Cannon picked up an errant sideways clearance attempt by Yeltsin Tejeda in the 52nd minute, dribbled in, cut around Joseph Mora and scored with a left-footed shot from 14 yards.

Reyna was awarded the penalty when he was knocked over by Keysher Fuller. The 18-year-old, a son of former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna, became the youngest American to convert a penalty kick with his fourth international goal.

Notes: Siebatcheu entered in the 74th minute and appeared to hurt his right knee in an aerial challenge, forcing the U.S. to finish a man short.

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