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Pulisic shines as US sink Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America

ARLINGTON — Christian Pulisic scored one goal and set up another as the US launched their Copa America campaign with a clinical 2-0 Group C victory over Bolivia on Sunday.

US captain Pulisic curled in a superb early goal before teeing up a second for striker Folarin Balogun just before half-time at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

That two-goal salvo was enough to secure a vital three points for US coach Gregg Berhalter’s side, who also face in-form Uruguay and regional rivals Panama in the group stage.

“We came out flying with a lot of intensity,” Pulisic said afterwards. “Obviously an early goal helped us a lot, but all around a pretty dominant performance.

“We could have scored a few more to put it away, but all in all a really good start to the tournament. We should build some confidence from this; the games are going to get harder from here so we’ve got to be ready.”

Berhalter had warned his team against complacency against a Bolivia side who had won only one match in nine previous editions of the Copa America since 1999.

Pulisic was clearly in no mood to let the South Americans improve that record of futility, firing the hosts into the lead after only three minutes.

Receiving the ball from a corner on the left, the American captain darted towards the edge of the area and whipped a rasping shot goalward.

Bolivia goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra got a hand to it but could not stop the ball from flying into the roof of the net.

Yet, despite that early breakthrough, the US struggled to convert their dominance of possession into chances thereafter and were frustrated by a combative Bolivian team that saw three players booked in the first 31 minutes.

Leonel Justiniano, Gabriel Villamil, and Luis Haquin were all shown yellow cards by Italian referee Maurizio Mariani in an indisciplined start by Bolivia.

The US doubled their lead in the 44th minute and once again Pulisic was heavily involved.

Picking up the ball near halfway, the AC Milan forward accelerated towards the Bolivia penalty area and squared to Balogun, who took a touch to drag defender Jesus Sagredo wide before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.

The superior movement of the US forward line continued to cause problems for Bolivia after the restart.

Balogun just failed to get a toe on a low shot by Tim Weah in the 50th minute and had the ball in the net moments later but was adjudged marginally offside.

Pulisic then drew a fine save from Viscarra in the 60th minute after weaving into the penalty area and unleashing a ferocious shot.

Substitute Ricardo Pepi should have made it 3-0 in the 65th minute moments after coming on for Gio Reyna, but saw his shot from an Antonee Robinson cross roll wide.

Pepi was then denied a goal in the 90th minute after a desperate double save by Viscarra.

The US play Panama in their second match of the tournament on Thursday. — AFP