Everton were beaten 4-0 by Minnesota United in the final match of their US tour as boss Frank Lampard gave game time to 23 members of his Blues squad.
Adrian Heath’s Minnesota – who had won four of their past five league games – are in the thick of their MLS campaign and their extra sharpness was evident as they netted three times in the opening half.
Everton were contesting their second pre-season game of the summer and Lampard’s players will unquestionably benefit from minutes under their belts at Allianz Field as they build towards a Premier League opener against Chelsea at Goodison Park on 6 August.
The Blues return to friendly action at Blackpool on Sunday, before hosting Dynamo Kiev in the UK’s first ‘Match For Peace’ on Friday 29 July.
The Minnesota clash was played at a brisk pace from the outset and an excellent Everton move three minutes in almost resulted in the game’s opening goal.
After good work from Alex Iwobi, the ball was eventually laid into the path of Anthony Gordon on the right flank. He fired in a terrific cross that was inches away from finding Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the centre and then Iwobi at the back post, with the Nigerian having continued his run into the box.
Calvert-Lewin had an excellent chance to open the scoring on the quarter-hour after benefitting from some superb pressing from Abdoulaye Doucoure to pick up a loose ball on the edge of the box. He shot at goal but his effort was just too close to Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, who made a comfortable stop.
Chances were coming thick and fast, and the home side were soon given a golden opportunity to forge ahead. The dangerous Emanuel Reynoso’s cross hit Tom Davies’ hand in the penalty box and – while there looked like no intent from the Everton midfielder – the referee pointed to the spot. Reynoso stepped up and coolly slotted home from 12 yards.
Everton attempted to produce an instant response and a wonderful lofted ball from James Tarkowski took out the home team’s entire backline and looked to have put Gordon through on goal – the attacker was unable to take the pass into his stride, though, and keeper St. Clair collected.
Everton were making all the running at this stage, but it was Minnesota who would double their advantage. Kemar Lawrence drilled a devilish low cross into the Everton penalty box, Michael Keane attempted to cut it out but inadvertently deflected into his own goal.
Demarai Gray almost halved the deficit when his sizzling drive from 25 yards whistled fractions past the post, but home side netted again when Luis Amarilla bundled in from close range after Pickford saved superbly from Bongokuhle Hlongwane.
Both sides made wholesale changes at half-time – only Gray and Gordon remained on for Everton while Minnesota swapped their entire starting XI.
Everton started the second half at breakneck speed, with Gordon seeing a goalbound shot superbly blocked and substitute Salomon Rondon unable to make the required connection when presented with a shooting chance on the edge of the box.
The game was almost exclusively being played in the Minnesota half, but the home side threatened again when Justin McMaster headed against the crossbar from a corner delivery.
Gray again came close for the Toffees with a swerving effort but Everton were unable to sustain their consistent pressure as the game gradually lost some of its ebb and flow.
Everton did create two chances in as many minutes when the lively Stanley Mills – who again impressed following a positive display against Arsenal in Baltimore on Saturday – saw a shot deflected away by a Minnesota defender, before Dele was unable to convert from close range following a fizzing Holgate centre.
Minnesota then added a fourth goal with just over 10 minutes to go when Abu Danladi finished from six yards.
Everton first half: Pickford, Patterson, Tarkowski, Keane, Mykolenko, Gordon, Doucoure, Davies, Iwobi, Gray, Calvert-Lewin.
Everton second half: Crellin, Holgate, Godfrey, Mina, Nkounkou, Warrington (Price 71’), Gbamin, Dele, Gordon (Dobbin 64’), Gray (Mills 64’), Rondon.