ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gregg Berhalter's second term as U.S. coach began by proving the 11th-ranked Americans can beat No. 73 Oman and No. 74 Uzbekistan in exhibitions.
Folarin Balogun scored in the 13th minute, Brenden Aaronson converted a free kick in the 60th and Ricardo Pepi got a goal in the 79th to lead the United States over Oman 4-0 Tuesday night, three days after a 3-0 win over the Uzbeks.
Khalid Al-Braiki added an own goal in the 81st when he deflected in a cross by defender Kevin Paredes, who had entered two minutes earlier in his U.S. debut.
“These type of teams, Oman and Uzbekistan, are teams that we could have in a group in the World Cup and those are the teams that you ultimately sometimes have to watch out for,” midfielder Weston McKennie said. “With other teams, you can kind of get a feeling, OK, Germany we know how they're going to come out."
Next up for the Americans are exhibitions against 15th-ranked Germany on Oct. 14 at East Hartford, Connecticut, and three days later against No. 60 Ghana in Nashville, Tennessee.
“We just want to win games and put it away, not beat people 1-0, want to convincingly win,” McKennie said.
Berhalter was hired after the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and led the Americans to the second round of last year’s tournament, where they lost to the Netherlands 3-1. He was replaced by interim coaches while the U.S. Soccer Federation investigated a domestic violence accusation brought to its attention by the Reyna family, then was rehired.
The 11th-ranked U.S. has an automatic berth for 2026 as a co-host of the 48-nation tournament. Oman and Uzbekistan have never qualified for soccer's top tournament.
Tim Weah started the move toward Balogun's goal with a cross that bounced all the way across the field. McKennie picked up the ball, turned and beat Abdullah Fawaz, then crossed back to Weah on the far side of the penalty area. Weah laid off the ball to Sergiño Dest, who one-timed a shot that goalkeeper Ibrahim Al Mukhaini parried. Balogun knocked in the ball with his left foot from just outside the 6-yard box for his second international goal.
Aaronson, who had replaced Christian Pulisic at the start of the second half, earned the free kick when he was shoved by Ahmed Al Khamisi. Aaronson put his kick through the wall and past Al Mukhaini on a hop from 27 yards. It was Aaronson's eighth goal in 34 international appearances.
Pepi scored his ninth international goal, his sixth in six games this year, from just inside the penalty area after settling a DeJuan Jones cross.
Benjamin Cremaschi, an 18-year Inter Miami midfielder, entered in the 71st minute and was followed by Paredes, a 20-year Wolfsburg defender. There have been 59 debuts under Berhalter.
The game time temperature was about 58 degrees, up from 5 degrees for the February 2022 World Cup qualifier against Honduras.
The U.S. made four changes from Saturday. Ethan Horvath started in goal in place of Nottingham Forest teammate Matt Turner, Kristoffer Lund at left back for Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson in central defense for Tim Ream and Malik Tillman in midfield for Luca de la Torre.
Horvath played his first international match since June 2022.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer