Gio Reyna scored on a deflected shot in the first half, Christian Pulisic converted a penalty kick in the second and the United States beat Northern Ireland 2-1 in an exhibition at Belfast on Sunday for the Americans’ first win at a European opponent since 2015.
Reyna received a pass from Tim Ream and took four touches with no pressure. His right-footed shot from 24 yards deflected off a leg of Ciaron Brown and over goalkeeper Conor Hazard in the 30th minute for his second international goal.
Pulisic, captaining the U.S. for the fourth time, made it 2-0 when he slid the ball to the left of Hazard in the 59th minute for his 15th international goal. Playing just his second match for the Americans since October 2019, Pulisic had taken a pass from Reyna and was tripped by Daniel Ballard.
Niall McGinn scored his sixth international goal in the 88th with a sharply angled volley after getting past Antonee Robinson, who was hobbling after hurting his left leg on a sliding tackle by Alistair McCann.
The 22nd-ranked Americans, preparing for a Nations League semifinal against Honduras in June and the start of World Cup qualifying in September, have eight wins and a draw in their last nine matches, and they’ve outscored opponents 25-4 in winning five consecutive friendlies. They had not won at a European opponent since a 4-3 friendly victory at the Netherlands in June 2015.
Next up is a May 30 exhibition at Switzerland, followed by the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal at home against Honduras on June 3. But the focus is the start of World Cup qualifying on Sept. 2, most likely at Trinidad and Tobago, where an October 2017 loss prevented the Americans from going to the 2018 World Cup.
Midfielder Yusuf Musah became tied to the United States by making his fourth international appearance. Under a new FIFA rule, players under 21 may switch national association only if they play three or fewer matches under the age of 21.
Musah, an 18-year-old with Valencia, debuted for the U.S. on Nov. 12 at Wales, then played four days later against Panama and last Thursday against Jamaica. He had played for England’s youth national teams and also was eligible to play for Italy and Ghana.
FIFA’s previous rule would not have tied Musah to the U.S. until he played in a competitive match, such as a World Cup qualifier, the CONCACAF Gold Cup or the CONCACAF Nations League.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter made four changes to his starting lineup for the friendly in Belfast, inserting Tim Ream and Matt Miazga as part of a three-man central defence with Aaron Long. Robinson started at left wing and Sergiño Dest shifted from left back to right wing as Berhalter went for the first time to a 3-4-3 formation.
Jordan Siebatcheu got his first start after making his debut in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Jamaica at Wiener Neustadt, Austria, starting at forward.
Defender Bryan Reynolds replaced Dest at the start of the second half, the 65th player to debut since the loss at Trinidad and the 44th since Berhalter became coach.
Daryl Dike entered in the 62nd minute and was denied when Ciaron Brown deflected his shot and then was saved by Hazard and put in a header wide.
No. 45 Northern Ireland made 10 changes from the lineup that started Thursday’s 2-0 loss to Italy in a World Cup qualifier, keeping only Corry Evans. It is looking to a qualifier against Bulgaria on Wednesday.
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The Associated Press