USMNT puts young talent to test in 2-1 loss to Serbia – Trending News

USMNT puts young talent to test in 2-1 loss to Serbia

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In its first game since the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the United States men’s national team squandered Brandon Vazquez’s first half goal, giving up the lead and then losing 2-1 Wednesday in a friendly against Serbia in Los Angeles. 

Here are three quick thoughts on the match. 

A disappointing result, if not performance, for the U.S.

Starting the hugely consequential 2026 World Cup cycle with a defeat isn’t ideal, to be sure. Even with most of the U.S. regulars busy with their European clubs and therefore not available for this match or Saturday’s exhibition against Colombia, the U.S. had the more experienced squad, was playing at home, and were better than the visitors for most of the night. Neither Serbian goal should’ve happened; both came following silly, preventable mistakes by the Americans.

Still, the hosts’ actual play wasn’t at all bad — especially considering that interim head coach Anthony Hudson started just one of the five men on his roster who were part of the American roster at Qatar 2022. Seven uncapped players were in Hudson’s lineup, the most for the USMNT since 1988, and several of them stood out. (More on that below.)

“Overall I was really pleased with the performance,” Hudson said. “I loved the fact that players were really driving to get forward and attack.”

The Americans will have a chance to redeem themselves almost right away, with the Cafeteros up next in nearby Carson, California in just three days.

Cowell, Slonina, Vazquez, Zendejas impress

Vazquez had 19 goals in 35 MLS games (including playoffs) last season. That made the 24-year-old the top scoring American in the league, eking out Jesús Ferreira by a single strike. But unlike Ferreira, World Cup coach Gregg Berhalter didn’t take Vazquez to Qatar or even summon him for a look before the tournament — a questionable decision then and even more now with the benefit of hindsight.

Appearing in his first international match on Wednesday, it took Vazquez fewer than 30 minutes to notch his first international goal. It was a beauty, too. Off a cross from fellow debutant Julian Gressel, the imposing target forward deftly snapped his header into the far corner.

“It was an outstanding header,” Hudson said. “I’m really, really pleased for Brandon because he’s obviously had to be patient.”

The U.S. is in desperate need of reliable finishers between now and the next World Cup, which will be co-hosted by the U.S. along with North American neighbors Canada and Mexico. Other candidates will surely emerge over the next three and a half years. With a superbly taken goal in the first game of the new cycle, Vazquez has already started to make his case.

He wasn’t the only American who impressed Wednesday. Chelsea prospect Gaga Slonina made several key stops in goal and also became the youngest U.S. keeper ever, breaking Tony Meola’s 35-year-old record. Club América standout Alex Zendejas was as good as advertised. And winger Cade Cowell was probably the most dangerous U.S. attacker of all, beating Serbian backstop Djordje Petrovic — but not the post — twice in the second half. 

“He deserved a goal,” Hudson said of Cowell. “Tonight was another step forward for him.” 

The focus returns to the field

There’s always a low-key feeling to the USMNT’s annual January camp, what with most of the player pool unavailable. This particular year-opening get-together is different in that it came on the heels of a full-blown scandal involving Berhalter and the parents of one of the program’s brightest prospects, Gio Reyna. On the eve of Wednesday’s contest, Hudson admitted that the saga had weighed on the players, particularly the five members of this squad who helped the U.S. reach the round of 16 at the World Cup.

It was only thing anyone has wanted to talk about for weeks. The match against Serbia finally returned the conversation to soccer. There’s still no full-time coach, of course, with Berhalter’s possible return contingent on the outcome of an independent investigation into the matter. But for the first time since it exploded into public view, the Berhalter-Reyna fiasco thankfully seemed mostly secondary on Wednesday. Despite the year opening loss, the focus was back where it belongs.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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