EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – These are the games circled on the calendar, but the United States men's national team fell short of rising to the occasion. Two months after the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final where the U.S. lost to Mexico by a single goal, Gregg Berhalter’s team dropped an international friendly at MetLife Stadium by a final of three goals to nil.
What a pro-Mexico crowd of 47,960 saw on the temporary grass pitch was a U.S. side that insisted on building from the back, and an El Tri side that punished them for their growing pains.
Mexico showed flair and great ability with the ball, getting scoring started in the 20th minute. Jesus Manuel Corona megged Sergino Dest, who was making his national team debut, and crossed to a wide-open Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who headed the ball into the open net.
In the second half, Mexico pounced on a U.S. team that continually struggled to build from the back. Zack Steffen tried to pass out of pressure in the 78th minute but missed his intended target, allowing second half substitute Erick Gutierrez the easiest of finishes. Mexico then scored a third goal four minutes later, when Hirving Lozano ripped apart the defense and gave Uriel Antuna a gorgeous pass to convert.
On the front foot, Mexico made quick one-touch passes that spun the U.S.’s heads around. Defensively, Tata Martino made sure two to three defenders were all over Christian Pulisic, as the team took away passing lanes and tried to paint the Chelsea winger into a corner.
While the result wasn’t in favor of the U.S. men’s national team, Gregg Berhalter wanted to see belief from his players, to see them go toe to toe with Mexico. Early in the match, the U.S. did just that.
Dest was able to get a shot off in the 14th minute that challenged Jonathan Orozco, and that led to a good diving save. During that time, the U.S. found channels to attack the net, mainly through Pulisic. While they had some promising attacks, none of them materialized into goals.
At the end of the 90 minutes, Mexico took advantage of a U.S. team that wasn’t ready to play how its coach wanted. The statistics may show that both sides were even or close to it, but Mexico took its chances better.
There could have been a lot of head-dropping done, but the U.S. team took the loss as a learning experience. The kids will get better, they will soon start rolling out wins, and there will be future match-ups against Mexico during World Cup qualifying. For now, the growing pains are going to hurt, and they may hurt for a good while.