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The U.S. men’s national team made a second-half goal by 19-year-old Tyler Adams stand up, beating 10-man Mexico on Tuesday night in Nashville.
Both nations fielded young, inexperienced lineups. Mexico had the better of the play in the first half against a strangely lethargic USMNT, but the momentum changed for good when El Tri’s Angel Zaldivar was red-carded for fouling U.S. captain Wil Trapp in the 67th minute. Adams’ strike came five minutes later off a pass from Antonee Robinson.
Here are three quick thoughts on the match:
1. Tyler Adams steals the show
Interim coach Dave Sarachan made six changes to the lineup that lost 2-0 to Brazil on Friday in New Jersey, but he probably didn’t even consider sitting Adams. That’s how integral the New Yorker has become to the national team in recent months.
That said, few would have predicted that the defensive midfielder would be the one to score Tuesday’s winner. Adams has just two goals in 48 appearances with the Red Bulls since he broke into the first team in early 2017. But his 71st-minute strike was hugely important to a team trying to build confidence. “I thought it was a really well orchestrated goal and a good finish,” Sarachan said.
He was a bright spot long before the goal, however. Adams was everywhere defensively, and his range allowed him to cut out several dangerous balls. And he was one of the players who seemed to be playing with an edge prior to Matt Miazga’s second half face-off with El Tri sensation Diego Lainez, which lit a fuse under both teams moments before Zaldivar was sent off.
“He’s a winner, this kid,” Sarachan said post-match of Adams. “I’ve been really pleased in terms of his growth with the ball in tight spots. We know that he can run and cover ground and win tackles and compete, but at the next level now, can you do the next part which is have a presence with the ball and pick your spots? It just keeps getting better I think he’s showing that he’s emerging as a guy that everyone starting to look up to little bit.”
2. Diego Lainez is legit
As much has been made about Adams and rest of the American youngsters, for most of the match El Tri’s Lainez looked like the best player on the field. He was definitely the most dangerous. The 18-year-old Club America forward dazzled from the start, keeping the U.S. defenders off balance every time he got the ball.
He tortured Trapp and veteran defender Eric Lichaj, a natural right-footer who was deployed at left back, in particular, forcing Sarachan to sub Lichaj in favor of Robinson just 10 minutes into the second half. And in going nose-to-nose with the much taller Miazga, who in turn made a show of mocking Lainez’s height, he instantly inserted himself into the lore of this historically heated rivalry. It will be fun to watch those two battle for many years to come.
3. Weston McKennie’s injury the only disappointment for the U.S.
Normally, a win for the Americans against Mexico on September 11 would go down as an excellent night. In most ways, it still was.
“For all the reasons you can imagine playing here against Mexico on 9/11, it was important night on many fronts,” Sarachan said. “This was a group that wasn’t going to lose tonight.”
But the sight of McKennie being pulled from the match just 40 minutes in with a non-contact injury makes thev victory somewhat bittersweet.
Like Adams, McKennie has been a mainstay of this young U.S. squad since the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and the two have developed some real chemistry since they debuted in the same match last November. The Texan has also established himself as starter and locker room leader. And while it would be irresponsible to speculate on the severity of McKennie’s ailment, it almost doesn’t matter.
Getting hurt in a friendly is the pits for any player. His club team, Champions League-bound Schalke, won’t be happy. And if McKennie has to miss even one German Bundesliga match, Schalke’s depth means he’ll be forced to fight his way back into the lineup, which could impact his readiness for next month’s international games against Colombia and Peru, at the least. Hopefully the 20-year-old makes a speedy recovery.
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