Pulisic shines as USA thump Morocco in friendly

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Cincinnati (AFP) – Chelsea star Christian Pulisic played a starring role as the United launched their final preparations for the World Cup with a convincing 3-0 win in a friendly against fellow qualifiers Morocco on Wednesday.

Pulisic created a goal for new Leeds signing Brenden Aaronson and won a penalty converted by debutant Haji Wright as the United secured a first-ever victory over Morocco at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati.

Lille striker Timothy Weah scored the other American goal in a torrid outing for Morocco, who also missed a dubious second-half penalty when Selim Amallah hit the crossbar.

USA manager Gregg Berhalter had demanded an aggressive performance, and the hosts delivered a brilliant opener, striker Jesus Ferreira forcing a save from Moroccan Sevilla keeper Yassine Bounou after just three minutes.

Bounou was pushed into action again in the eighth minute, saving Weah in the bottom right corner.

Morocco, who will face Belgium, Canada and Croatia in the first round of the World Cup, should have taken the lead in the 12th minute when Watford left-back Adam Masina exposed the American defense to see his shot parried by new Arsenal keeper Matt. Turner.

Tarik Tissoudali jumps on the raise but his effort is blocked by Aaron Long for a corner.

Morocco continued to look dangerous on the counterattack, and another smooth move saw Masina advancing down the left flank and moving inside for Adel Taarabt.

The Benfica midfielder skillfully faked Belgian forward Tissoudali, but his efforts didn’t faze Turner.

The American breakthrough came in the 26th minute with a goal scored by Pulisic.

A hopeful long ball from defender Walker Zimmerman sent Pulisic clear and the Chelsea striker controlled superbly, danced away from Samy Mmae and Romain Seiss before clashing with Aaronson who buried a low finish in the net empty.

The United States doubled their score six minutes later with an individual strike from Weah. The France-based striker was given too much space on the edge of the Moroccan box and fired a firm shot into the hands of Bounou, who should have done better.

The United States could have made it 3-0 at half-time, when Aaronson sent a pass to Ferreira whose shot was saved by Bounou.

Berhalter sounded the halftime changes with Wright replacing Ferreira, Cameron Carter-Vickers replacing Zimmerman and Joe Scally replacing Antonee Robinson.

USA effectively sealed the victory midway through the half when Pulisic cleverly fired a clumsy foul from Achraf Hakimi for a clear penalty.

The USA skipper could have added to his tally of international goals but instead handed kicking duties to former youth international team-mate and debutant Wright, who duly scored the finish.

There was still time for drama at the other end when Scally was harshly judged for fouling Soufiane Rahimi.

But Amallah planted his penalty against the bar.

The United States’ preparation for the World Cup continues on Sunday with a friendly match against Uruguay in Kansas City.

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