MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, was painted green Friday night as the US Men’s National Team were defeated 3-0 in a friendly match by their fierce rival, Mexico. The game would be the first meeting between the two sides since Mexico defeated the USA 1-0 in this July’s Gold Cup Final.
The match started off very much a cautious back-and-forth affair, reminiscent of early stages in a boxing match. Both sides sized each other up and made on-the-fly adjustments, but did not throw any punches. After the first ten minutes, the winds shifted in Mexico’s favor and never thought about changing directions throughout the remainder of the contest.
Beginning with a devastating nutmeg through Sergiño Dest, who was making his U.S. senior team debut, and continuing with a floated cross to the center of the box, Jesús Manuel Corona picked out Javier “Chicharito” Hernández perfectly. Lunging forward as if carried by a flock of birds, he brilliantly timed his header to give Mexico the 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.
The USA were their own worst enemies on a night where Mexico were pressing high and hungry for the attack. Persistent to play the ball out of the back through goalkeeper Zack Steffen, they made a number of turnovers in their side of the pitch that led to very dangerous defending situations.
The second half was a direct reflection of the first. USA struggled to maintain a rhythm, with staggered possession, and Mexico continued to be in attack mode. Again, playing out of the back would finally prove costly in the 78th minute. Steffen’s pass was too close to Hector Herrera, who passed to Érick Gutiérrez. What was left was a 1v1 with Steffen and Gutiérrez had no problem sliding it past him, doubling the Mexico lead to 2-0.
The dagger came in the 82nd minute when Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, who had just been subbed into the game minutes prior, sprinted past an off balanced Alfredo Morales. Finding Uriel Antuna streaking down the right flank, Antuna was able to mimic Mexico’s previous goal and rolled it past a helpless Zack Steffen to make it 3-0.
There were some opportunities for the USA to cut into the Mexico lead. Alfredo Morales saw his 80th minute shot bounce off the post. Jordan Morris was able earn a penalty kick in the 88th minute. Josh Sargent, who many people were surprised was not in the starting XI, took the kick but Jonathan Orozco read it perfectly and made a diving save low to his left.
Despite being shutout, U.S. manager Greg Burkhalter took away some positives from his team’s performance.
"From my perspective I'm happier about this game than the Gold Cup final," he said. "In the Gold Cup final, I felt like all we did was play the ball long. That was our only solution. Now, at least we're trying to play the way we envision."
The defeat was the USMNT’s worst since the 5-0 rout in the 2009 Gold Cup Final, which was also against Mexico. Next up for the U.S. during this international break, they will travel to St. Louis for a clash with Uruguay on September 10th.