Gregg Berhalter starts 3-0 as US Soccer beats Ecuador on fluke goal

Gregg Berhalter became only the second U.S. men’s national soccer team head coach to win his first three games when Gyasi Zardes scored a bizarre goal that deflected off a defender, looped over goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez and ricocheted in off the crossbar in the 81st minute for a 1-0 exhibition win over Ecuador on Thursday night in Orlando.

Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, 20-year-olds who have become regulars in the German Bundesliga, started together for the first time as Berhalter had the full American player pool available. The U.S., still recovering from its failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup, showed some of the fluidity and offensive spark Berhalter sought but also was exposed for defensive gaps that stronger opponents would exploit.

Berhalter matched Bob Bradley as the only U.S. coaches to start 3-0. The U.S. plays South American champion Chile on Tuesday in Houston.

• The stars of last year’s World Cup had to dig deep as European Championship qualifying began Thursday.

World Cup finalist Croatia nearly dropped points against Azerbaijan, only to be saved by a fine curling shot from Andrej Kramaric for a 2-1 win. Belgium needed two goals from Eden Hazard to defeat Russia 3-1.

The Netherlands, which failed to qualify for the past two major tournaments, beat Belarus 4-0.

ELSEWHERE

Dahmen, Straka share Valspar lead

Joel Dahmen took advantage of gentle, morning conditions on a tough Copperhead course for a 5-under-par 66 and a share of the lead with Austrian-born Sepp Straka in the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship at Palm Harbor, Fla.

Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world, had a 69.

Defending champion Paul Casey opened with a 70, and Jon Rahm made his Innisbrook debut at 71. But even the easier morning conditions didn’t help Masters champion Patrick Reed, who had a 77, or Jason Day at 74.

• Celine Boutier closed with a 4-foot birdie putt for an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the LPGA Tour’s Founders Cup in Phoenix.

• Marcus Fraser and Nacho Elvira each shot 7-under 65s to share the first-round lead of the European Tour’s Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Figure skating: Defending champion Nathan Chen upstaged two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu with a program that featured a triple axel, a quad lutz, and a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination to lead the short program at the world championships in Saitama, Japan.

• The International Skating Union says there is “no evidence” that American Mariah Bell intentionally harmed South Korean rival Lim Eun-soo in an alleged incident during a warm-up on the opening day of the world championships.

Tennis: Three-time tournament champion Venus Williams won her opening match at the new site of the Miami Open by beating Dalila Jakupovic 7-5, 6-3. Williams won the tournament in 1998, 1999 and 2001 when it was played on Key Biscayne.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Gregg-Berhalter-starts-3-0-as-US-Soccer-beats-13707722.php.

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