Two months after meeting in the Gold Cup final, not much has changed between the U.S. men's national team and Mexico.
El Tri followed a 1-0 triumph in the Gold Cup final with a 3-0 rout of the U.S. Friday night, riding goals from Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Erick Gutierrez and Uriel Antuna to a one-sided friendly win at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The U.S. had a chance to score late, but Josh Sargent's penalty kick was saved by Jonathan Orozco, emblematic of the way the night went for the Americans.
Mexico managed to win the Gold Cup with a weakened squad, with a number of high-profile, Europe-based stars either left behind by manager Tata Martino or missing out due to injury. The likes of Hirving Lozano, Chicharito, Hector Herrera, Jesus "Tecatito" Corona and Miguel Layun joined Raul Jimenez, Andres Guardado and others on Friday to form a more daunting side, though, one that showed no signs of slipping in Concacaf's power structure.
Trying to break through is an in-flux USA, with Gregg Berhalter working in some new faces and looking to further the group's progress since he took over as coach less than a year ago. Christian Pulisic led the side, while 18-year-old dual-national Sergiño Dest got the call at left back after impressing at Ajax on the right side and drawing interest from the Dutch federation.
Pulisic and Dest were among the starters tabbed by Berhalter, though Sargent was left on the bench again in favor of Gyasi Zardes. Elsewhere of note in the U.S. lineup was the absence of John Brooks, who picked up a minor groin injury in training and was unavailable for the night.
With Dest getting the start on the left, Mexico went right at him, with Jorge Sanchez bombing forward down the Mexican right-hand side. He appeared to get in behind to turn the corner and cross, but Aaron Long came over to help to cut out the danger in the second minute.
Three minutes later, Sanchez was at it again, getting to the end line and trying to pick out Chicharito's near-post run. It got played out for a corner, off which Mexico was able to send a pair of dangerous crosses into the box, though both of them were ultimately cleared.
The U.S. actually put the first shot on frame, but Orozco had no problem smothering Weston McKennie's long, low shot from distance. Orozco was called into more challenging action in the 14th minute, when Dest fired a long-range blast on goal, only for Orozco to acrobatically keep it out.
Mexico went ahead in the 21st minute, finding success down the right flank after knocking on the door multiple times. Tecatito did the heavy lifting, abusing Dest by nutmegging the makeshift left back and serving in a pinpoint cross for Chicharito. Mexico's all-time leading scorer delivered with a header to make it 1-0 on the 52nd goal of his international career.
The U.S. nearly was able to equalize eight minutes later off a Mexico blunder in the back. Diego Reyes tried to head the ball back from near midfield to Orozco in goal, but he hardly put any power behind his header, and Pulisic was able to run onto it and go toward goal. Orozco was already well off his line, and his sliding challenge did just enough to disrupt the break and prevent the U.S. from capitalizing.
Mexico blew a chance to capitalize on a U.S. blunder three minutes later. With the U.S. trying to play out of the back as Mexico pressed, Carlos Rodriguez won the ball off McKennie and sprayed it wide right to an open Tecatito. He overhit his left-footed shot, putting his clear chance over the frame and his head in his hands as a result, as the game stayed at 1-0.
The match devolved into a more physical affair at the end of the first half, and that carried over into the start of the second. Alfredo Morales took exception to something Sanchez did at the midfield line, and he was confronted by Hector Herrera, with the two pushing each other before cooler heads ultimately prevailed.
Mexico nearly doubled its advantage again through Tecatito in the 59th minute, with Mexico breaking forward on the counter before the Porto winger found himself with a clean look from a right-sided angle, only to fire it wide of the far post.
Both sides went to their benches as the match hit the 70-minute mark. Berhalter brought Sargent on for Zardes, much to the delight of the U.S. fans in attendance. Martino countered by bringing on Lozano, and within seconds, the new Napoli signing made an impact, slicing through the U.S. defense and putting a low, powerful shot just wide of the right post.
Any hope of the U.S. clawing its way to a draw went by the wayside in the 78th minute. Steffen was put under pressure by a backpass, and his attempt to play it out of his own box was futile at best. Erick Gutierrez, just on as a substitute, pounced on the giveaway and rolled a simple finish into the vacated net to make it 2-0 Mexico.
The U.S. nearly pulled one back off a set piece, with the ball finding Morales in the center of the box. The Fortuna Dusseldorf midfielder opted for the side volley and beat Orozco, but hit his chance off the post.
Mexico wound up padding its lead instead. Uriel Antuna, recently in off the bench, took a pass from Lozano down the right channel and beat Steffen with a low shot to make it 3-0 in the 83rd minute.
The U.S. could've had a consolation goal late after Jordan Morris was fouled by Reyes inside the Mexico box. Sargent was tabbed to take the penalty, and he had his spot kick denied by Orozco, who went to his right to preserve the clean sheet.
Next up for the U.S. is a friendly Tuesday night in St. Louis against Uruguay, while Mexico heads to San Antonio to face Lionel Messi-less Argentina, also on Tuesday.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Here were the full rosters for both nations:
GOALKEEPERS: Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Düsseldorf)
DEFENDERS: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Sergiño Dest (Ajax), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact) Tim Ream (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
MIDFIELDERS: Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
FORWARDS: Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)
GOALKEEPERS: Rodolfo Cota (Club León), Hugo Gonzalez (Necaxa), Guillermo Ochoa (Club America), Jonathan Orozco (Santos Laguna)
DEFENDER: Néstor Araujo (Celta Vigo), Jesús Gallardo (Monterrey), Miguel Layún (Monterrey), Héctor Moreno (Al-Gharafa), César Montes (Monterrey), Fernando Navarro (Club León), Diego Reyes (Tigres UANL), Luis Rodríguez (Tigres UANL), Carlos Salcedo (Tigres UANL), Jorge Sánchez (Club America)
MIDFIELDERS: Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Uriel Antuna (LA Galaxy), Edson Álvarez (Club América), Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Marco Fabián (Philadelphia Union), Andrés Guardado (Real Betis), Érick Gutiérrez (PSV Eindhoven), Hector Herrera (Atlético Madrid), Luis Montes (Club León), Orbelín Pineda (Cruz Azul), Rodolfo Pizarro (Monterrey), Carlos Rodriguez (Monterrey)
FORWARDS: Jesús Manuel Corona (Porto), Javier Hernández (Sevilla), Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Hirving Lozano (Napoli), Alexis Vega (Guadalajara)