Tyler Boyd scored twice as the United States started its Gold Cup campaign with a 4-0 win over Guyana at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday night.
U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter made three changes from the lineup that started a 3-0 loss to Venezuela on June 9, the last of 18 exhibitions for the Americans since the October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended a streak of seven World Cup appearances. He inserted Michael Bradley as captain for the first time in his tenure, Christian Pulisic into the midfield and Walker Zimmerman in central defence, removing Wil Trapp, Christian Roldan and Matt Miazga.
Guyana frustrated the U.S. in the opening 30 minutes, but the Americans found a way through just before the half-hour mark when Paul Arriola picked up a pass from Weston McKinnie and blasted a shot past Akel Clarke to make it 1-0.
"We knew we had to get started on the right foot and after breaking the ice, we were able to break them down," Arriola said.
"The most important thing was to win with confidence and clarity and I think we did that today. It's a great start for us but it's just one game."
Gyasi Zardes had a golden chance to double the lead right before half-time but inexplicably whiffed on the doorstep after Arriola had headed the ball back across the goal to him.
The U.S. got off to the perfect start in the second half when Boyd cut inside to his left foot in the 51st minute and hit a nice low line drive past Clarke to double the lead.
Boyd's 52nd minute-goal, his first for the U.S. national team, marked the 1,000th in program history in match No. 700.=
Zardes was credited for the third goal in somewhat bizarre fashion as a headed clearance from the Guyana defense bounced hard off the Columbus Crew forward's forehead and went into the back of the net.
Such was the manner of the result that Berhalter could afford to joke about the fortuitous manner of Zardes' goal.
"It was a great reaction from him. It was a really good reaction. You see strikers, they can just sell things like that," Berhalter joked after the match.
"It's funny, the two goals that he's scored so far for us, since I've been around, have been very interesting goals. But I talked to him after in the locker room, and he said, 'I'll take it,' and I don't blame him. I'd take that also.
"Again, Gyasi is a tremendous worker, a guy who you know exactly what you're going to get from in the game. I'm really proud of him and how he performed."
Boyd then scored another excellent goal, this time courtesy of a slight deflection, this time cutting onto his right foot firing home from just outside the area to make it 4-0 in favor of the U.S.
The victory was the biggest yet for Berhalter, who was hired in December after the United States failed to make last year's World Cup.
"The first game of a tournament is always a little bit nervy," he said.
"I remember back in the day in youth soccer tournaments, the first game it's always a little bit nervy, and we expected a lot of the same. We told the guys to enjoy the experience, it's competition time. And I felt that we slowly got out of the nerves and started playing.
"I think we got stronger as the match went. I liked how we kept going.
"We, for the most part, stayed organized. That was the focus, not getting too stretched even though the scoreline was what it was. We wanted to stay compact and keep moving. Overall, I think it was a good start to the tournament."
If there was one concern from the match, it was the sight of midfielder McKennie hobbling off in the 74th minute with what looked like a hamstring injury. But Berhalter indicated he didn't think the injury as serious.
"Weston should be okay" he said. "It seemed like it was a little bit of a cramp, so we think he's alright."
Next up for Berhalter's side, which is atop Group D on goal differential, is a much-anticipated match against Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday, while Guyana will face Panama on the same day.