In the U.S. men’s national team’s first friendly since failing to qualify for the World Cup, Weston McKennie scored on his debut as the U.S. tied a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal 1-1 in Leiria, Portugal, on Tuesday.
McKennie, a 19-year-old midfielder who has emerged as a starter this season for Schalke in the German Bundesliga, put the U.S. ahead 1-0 in the 21st minute. But U.S. goalkeeper Ethan Horvath committed one of the worst howlers you’ll ever see to gift Portugal an equalizer 10 minutes later.
It marked the last game of 2017 for the U.S. men, who will convene for a camp in January that will culminate with a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
Several U.S. youngsters showed promise
McKennie’s goal was one of several positive moments for the young midfielder, who covered a lot of ground and showed he could be the No. 8 solution for the U.S. as it rebuilds.
Other encouraging performances by young players came from Matt Miazga (22), who was solid for 90 minutes in the central defense; Tyler Adams (18), who got a start at right midfield in a 4-1-4-1 and put himself in the right place on several occasions; Cameron Carter-Vickers (19), who played a strong second 45 at center back; and Lynden Gooch (21), who came on in the second half and delivered some dangerous crosses. It was just a friendly after the lowest moment in U.S. Soccer history, obviously, but there are some things to build on here.
Horvath has to shake this one off
Yikes. Horvath’s howler, in which he let Vitornio Antunes’s speculative shot go right through the wickets, will end up on all sorts of lowlight shows and be seen by some to symbolize the USMNT’s disaster of a year in 2017.
To make matters worse, Horvath nearly gave Portugal another goal a few minutes later with a brutal passing giveaway, and he came out at halftime in a pre-planned switch for Bill Hamid in the second half.
For a guy who recently lost his starting job at Belgium’s Club Brugge, the 22-year-old Horvath will have to do a gut check as his national team career moves forward. The good news is his night to forget took place in a meaningless friendly, not in, say, a World Cup qualifier.
Give Dave Sarachan some credit
The acting U.S. coach, who had been Bruce Arena’s assistant, may never be in this position again, but one month after the crushing blow in Trinidad and Tobago, Sarachan moved ahead and got a decent performance out of a young U.S. group to get the long rebuilding process started. The gut punch of missing out on Russia 2018 won’t be forgotten anytime soon, and this game won’t last long in anyone’s memory, but these performances by McKennie and Adams and Miazga will be a pebble on what this team hopes will be a pile of experience gained over the next five years that leads to the Qatar World Cup in November 2022. Sarachan and his players did their jobs this week. That’s all you can ask for right now as U.S. Soccer tries to recover.