Match Report: Gyasi Zardes shines as the U.S. Men’s National Team defeat Peru, 2-1

WASHINGTON – The US national team welcomed Peru to a raucous RFK Stadium on Friday evening for a match that felt a bit different than a typical mid-summer friendly.

With slightly elevated stakes ahead of the crucial CONCACAF Cup clash with Mexico on Oct. 10, the US got just the positive performance they were looking for, riding a second-half Jozy Altidore brace to overcome a slow start in a 2-1 victory over La Blanquirroja in front of 28,896 almost evenly divided fans.

The victory was a small measure of redemption from their disappointing Gold Cup campaign earlier this summer that saw them fall to Jamaica in the semifinals and to Panama in the third-place game.

Peru looked a bit overwhelmed from the get go, and the US got their first decent look inside of five minutes when LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes streaked down the left flank, swiveled and fired in a dangerous ball that Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese did well to parry away. Several moments later, Daniel Chavez gave Peru their opening chance, but Zardes’ Galaxy teammate Omar Gonzalez did well to body him off the ball on a breakaway.

Chavez wouldn’t have to wait long to get the better of Gonzalez, however. Against the run of play, the forward collected the ball 25 yards from goal, sped across the top of the area and struck a low effort that deflected off Gonzalez, popping up and over a diving Brad Guzan, who was caught off his line. The 20th-minute goal was Chavez’s first ever internationally.

New England Revolution midfielder Jermaine Jones very nearly tied the match a quarter of an hour later, galloping into space and letting it rip from 20 yards, but his driven effort was just barely pushed over the bar by Gallese.

In the aftermath, the US missed their best chance of the half when DeAndre Yedlin nodded a ball toward Altidore near the penalty spot. He headed it toward defender John Brooks at the top of the six-yard box, but the Hertha Berlin defender did poorly with the service, launching it over the crossbar.

US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made a trio of adjustments at the half, inserting Mix Diskerud, Ventura Alvarado and Geoff Cameron into the fray. Still, it would take a bit of good fortune to get them back in the swing of things.

In the 59th minute, Cameron found Altidore in the box with a well-placed, 35-yard throw in. Peru defender Carlos Zambrano, initially beaten on the play, appeared to bring Altidore down in the box, and referee Francisco Chacon immediately pointed to the spot. 

Altidore stepped up to take the ensuing penalty kick, sending it to Gallese’s left, but the Peruvian ‘keeper guessed correctly and blocked the initial effort. The rebound, however, bounced directly back to Altidore, who volleyed it home for the equalizer.

The goal galvanized the Americans.

Just moments after Peru nearly reclaimed the lead on a close-range effort by second-half sub Renato Tapia, Yedlin, Zardes and Altidore combined for the US’ second. Zardes’ cross from the near sideline caromed off a Peruvian defender and rolled into the path of Altidore, who confidently hammered it home from eight yards out.

Peru got a handful of chances to pull level again, but none posed any particular danger to Guzan, who overcame his early nerves to put in a very solid second half.

Up next for the USMNT is one final tune-up before their clash with El Tri, a date with global powerhouse Brazil at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Tuesday evening.