Mexico plays USMNT off the pitch in 3-0 friendly loss

Sep 6, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Mexico defender Jorge Sanchez (21) and United States midfielder Christian Pulisic (10) battle for a ball during the first half of an international friendly soccer match at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
Christian Pulisic (10) and the United States couldn't do much against Jorge Sanchez and Mexico on Friday at MetLife Stadium. (Reuters/USA Today)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — So much for revenge.

Two months after losing to Mexico on a late goal in July’s Gold Cup final, the United States men’s national team was played off the field in Friday’s friendly match against El Tri, losing 3-0 on goals by Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Erick Gutierrez and Uriel Antuna, with U.S. forward Josh Sargent failing to convert a late penalty.

Here are three thoughts on the Americans’ worst loss to their chief rival in more than a decade:

Sloppy U.S. thoroughly humiliated by El Tri

The lineup U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter trotted out at MetLife Stadium had an average age of 24 years and 150 days — the national team’s youngest starting 11 in 13 matches this calendar year. But it’s hard to pin this loss on youth.

The Americans were careless with the ball and disconnected positionally all night, besides being utterly unable to play through Mexico’s relentless pressure. They found themselves pinned in their own end of the field for most of the evening. The wet and windy conditions certainly didn’t help. Then again, that didn’t seem to bother Mexico.

The U.S. still didn’t have any answers and, as was the case at the Gold Cup earlier this summer, they could not pass their way out of trouble from the back—a staple of Berhalter’s style of play and worrying trend nine months into his tenure at the helm.

It could’ve been even worse

The U.S. was lucky to trail only by Chicharito’s 21st-minute header, which was set up beautifully by winger Jesus “Tecatito” Corona:

Corona missed a golden opportunity to double the advantage for the so-called visitors — as expected, the crowd at the Meadowlands was heavily pro-Mexican — and while the U.S. was able to weather the storm for the most part, they looked decidedly toothless the other way.

Lone striker Gyasi Zardes was stranded on an island up top, managing just six touches on the ball over the opening 45 minutes, only one of them inside Mexico’s half. The Americans’ offense came almost exclusively through Christian Pulisic-led counterattacks, the Chelsea attacker’s speed and trickery the only thing keeping El Tri’s back line honest. Still, the end product just wasn’t there.

The Americans were ultimately punished for their consistency sloppy passing out of the back. Mexico substitute Gutierrez pounced on yet another errant ball from goalkeeper Zack Steffen and easily slotted home from point-blank range in the 78th minute:

It didn’t take Mexico long to add its third on another defensive tire fire, with young star Hirving “Chucky” Lozano breezing past Alfredo Morales and running free before finding Antuna in alone:

It appeared that the Americans would pull one back after sub Jordan Morris was chopped down in the penalty area. But this was not the hosts’ night, as Sargent’s effort from the spot was parried away by Orozco to preserve the clean sheet and add to the United States misery.

Christian Pulisic was the lone bright spot for USMNT

While most of his teammates struggled to produce anything of substance on this night, Pulisic looked dangerous every time he got on the ball. The 20-year-old was his side’s best player, dancing past Mexican defenders with ease even as he double-teamed.

The support wasn’t there, though, and at times Pulisic seemed to be trying to do everything by himself. That allowed Mexico to key on the U.S. headliner, and they had no problem snuffing out the threat by hacking Pulisic down in the open field on multiple occasions. Pulisic grew visibly frustrated as the game wore on.

The U.S. won’t have Pulisic for Tuesday’s friendly match against Uruguay, as the first-year Blues player will head back to London to prepare for Chelsea’s Sept. 14 Premier League match against Wolverhampton. That will obviously force the U.S. to look elsewhere for an offensive spark.

After that, it will be up to Berhalter to figure out how to better support his best player so that his unique abilities translate into goals and assists.

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