Pulisic scores, assists on Balogun goal to lead U.S. over Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America opener

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Christian Pulisic spread his arms wide with a big smile, then wanted to find the coach in the stands who drew up the fastest goal for the U.S. against a South American team.

Plenty of emotion against an overmatched opponent, in a tournament the Americans call their biggest test ahead of co-hosting the 2026 World Cup.

Pulisic scored in the third minute and assisted on Folarin Balogun's goal in the 44th as the United States cruised past Bolivia 2-0 in their Copa America opener on Sunday night.

"I feel like I'm always pretty excited after I score," Pulisic said. "This is a big moment. It's a major tournament."

Pulisic joined Clint Dempsey as the only U.S. players with a goal and an assist in a Copa America match and reached 30 goals in 69 international appearances, the fewest among Americans.

"We came out flying with a lot of intensity. Obviously, that early goal helped us a lot," Pulisic said. "All around, a pretty dominant performance. I think we could have put it away and had more goals there."

Among six invited guests to South America's championship, the U.S. is expected to advance from Group C to the quarterfinals along with Uruguay.

"It's a start that's massive for us. Build the confidence," American defender Antonee Robinson said. "If we were being picky, we could have been a lot more clinical. We could have put another two, three goals away."

Bolivia lost its 13th straight Copa America match dating to 2015 and has one win in its last 31.

"I'm not happy because I think we can deliver more. We had a match against an opponent that had a better physical performance," Bolivia coach Antônio Carlos Zago said through a translator. "Minute three there was a goal, and it was downstream from there."

The 11th-ranked U.S. plays Panama on Thursday at Atlanta and closes the group against Uruguay on July 1 at Kansas City, Missouri. No. 84 Bolivia meets Uruguay on Thursday at East Rutherford, New Jersey, then plays Panama on July 1 at Orlando, Florida.

A crowd of 47,873 attended the match under the retractable roof at 80,000-seat AT&T Stadium, which will host a World Cup semifinal in 2026. It was 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside (36 Celsius) the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys at kickoff but air-conditioned inside.

Playing a day before his 30th birthday, goalkeeper Matt Turner had three saves in his 25th international shutout. The U.S. improved to 6-0 at AT&T as the Americans opened their fifth Copa America appearance, the first since reaching the semifinals as host in 2016.

The U.S. had 18 touches inside the attacking penalty area in the first half to Bolivia's none.

"I'm happy with the performance," U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. "A lot of guys got their first Copa America game, first Copa America win, first Copa America shutout. And we're in a good position."

Pulisic put the U.S. ahead 2:23 in, the fastest American goal in 34 competitive matches against South American opponents. He played a short corner kick to Tim Weah and ran toward the penalty area. Weah returned the ball to Pulisic, who took a touch and from just inside the area curled a right-foot shot off the outstretched fingertips of goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra and into the far upper corner.

As he approached the bench, Pulisic wanted to slow down the celebration and have someone help him find Gianni Vio, hired as U.S. set piece coach after the Americans' restarts were largely ineffective during the previous World Cup cycle. Mission accomplished, Pulisic pointed with both arms into the stands.

"He set up our set-piece play," Pulisic said. "He told me before, if I get in that situation, basically shoot to the back post. So I just wanted to give him some credit."

Balogun doubled the lead when he received a pass from Pulisic, took several touches and threaded a low, left-foot shot along the ground, past defender Jesús Sagredo and inside Viscarra's far post for his fourth goal in 13 appearances.

Balogun put the ball in the net again in the 53rd off a pass from Weah, but Weah was whistled for offside when he received the ball from Weston McKennie in the buildup, a decision confirmed in a video review.

Midfielder Tyler Adams, regaining fitness after a back injury, played the first half in his first start for club or country since March 30. Adams and Bologun were inserted into the starting lineup in place of Yunus Musah and Ricardo Pepi in the two changes from the lineup for the 1-1 exhibition draw against Brazil on June 12. Musah replaced Adams at the start of the second half and Pepi entered in the 65th.

Viscarra pushed Pepi's 79th-minute shot over the crossbar, then stopped Pepi in the 90th on a point-blank initial attempt and another off the rebound.


AP Copa America coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/copa-america


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