SANDY, Utah (AP) _ Adjusting to altitude and blending in players returning from injuries produced an uneven game for the United States.
Christian Pulisic scored early in the second half, defender John Brooks limped off with a hip injury and the Americans played a 1-1 exhibition tie against Venezuela on Saturday night, a warmup for a pair of World Cup qualifiers next week.
Jose Manuel Velazquez put Venezuela ahead in the 29th minute, but the 18-year-old Pulisic tied it in the 61st with his fifth goal in 15 international appearances.
“It’s a perfect having a game at this time,’’ U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. “Maybe it’s a little quick and all, but I think it’s perfect. We needed to get a game in and get to know each other a little bit, get adjusted to the environmental conditions.’’
The U.S. plays Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday at Commerce City, Colorado, then is at Mexico three days later. Rio Tinto Stadium is about 4,500 feet above sea level, preparation for matches in Colorado (about 5,200 feet) and Azteca Stadium (7,820 feet).
The U.S. is fourth in the final round of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean with four points, ahead of Honduras on goal difference. Mexico leads with 10, followed by Costa Rica with seven and Panama with five. Trinidad is last with three.
The top three nations qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia, and the No. 4 nation advances to a playoff against Asia’s fifth-place team.
The U.S. started close to a first-choice lineup, missing only forward Jozy Altidore, who reported late to training camp because of his brother’s wedding. The center back pairing of Brooks and Geoff Cameron, starting together in central defense for the first time since October, was not sharp.
Brooks, who missed a March 28 qualifier because of a sinus infection, hobbled off in the 51st minute with a bruised right hip and was replaced six minutes later by Matt Hedges.
Velazquez scored his third international goal after Junior Moreno’s corner kick was headed by Pulisic only for the ball to stay in the penalty area. Clint Dempsey headed the ball again in another clearance attempt, but it went wide to Moreno.
Moreno headed the ball back into the penalty area to Velazquez, who moved between Brooks and Fabian Johnson, stuck out his right foot at the top of the 6-yard box and poked the ball past goalkeeper Tim Howard.
“Obviously, we’re not happy with giving the goal away from the set piece,’’ U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “That’s something we’ve got to continue to work on and really clean up because that’s a few games in a row now where we’ve not done a good enough job in that regard.’’
Venezuela nearly doubled the lead five minutes later. Moreno sent a corner kick across the penalty area and Rubert Quijada had an open diving header at the 6. Howard dived to push the ball off a post, and the ball bounced across the goalmouth, where it was cleared by Bradley.
The U.S. did not have a shot on goal in the first half.
“Venezuela played very well,’’ Arena said. “They had a game plan that I think we may see on Thursday, as well. Dropped off, defended spaces well, pressured the ball and countered caught us on a set piece. We were very poor on a couple of set pieces tonight.’’
Pulisic tied the score after taking a pass from Johnson at the top of the penalty area. He took two touches with his right foot to create space from Christian Santos and beat goalkeeper Jose Contreras with a 16-yard left-footed shot.
The U.S. had rainbow numbers on its red jerseys as part of an initiative with You Can Play Project, which promotes equality without regard for sexual orientation and / or gender identity. The jerseys will be auctioned online for charity.
DeAndre Yedlin was at right back and Jorge Villafana at left back. Bradley was in defensive midfield and Pulisic in central midfield, flanked by Johnson on the right and Darlington Nagbe on the left. Dempsey and Bobby Wood headed the attack.
Yedlin, Johnson and Wood missed both March qualifiers because of injuries.
The U.S. had rainbow numbers on its red jerseys as part of an initiative with You Can Play Project, which promotes equality without regard for sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The jerseys will be auctioned online for charity.
Venezuela is last in South American qualifying with six points in 14 games and has been eliminated. About two hours after the end of the friendly, the U.S. and Venezuela met in the quarterfinals of the Under-20 World Cup at Jeonju, South Korea.