Matt Miazga didn’t endear himself to many in Mexico during the USMNT’s 1-0 win against El Tri in Nashville on Tuesday.
During the second half of the victory the Chelsea and U.S. men’s national team center back mocked Diego Lainez’s height visibly in a heated exchange which angered many.
What did the center back, currently on loan at Ligue 1 club Nantes, have to say about the incident?
“We talked a little smack. It’s part of the game. It’s mental warfare,” Miazga told reporters. “We got in their heads. They got a red card right after it. It took a toll and we won the game.”
Angel Zaldivar, the man who was sent off shortly after Miazga making fun of Lainez, seemed to have a few words directed his way by Miazga on his way off the pitch too.
“You see what their values are. They don’t know how to win,” Zaldivar said. “They poked fun, tried to play a dirty game that honestly we don’t think is how you should play. That’s their game.”
A lot of USMNT fans do not seem to have a problem with Miazga’s actions and put it down to being part of the game.
Lainez certainly did as he said he “wasn’t offended by Miazga” and that “football players are different sizes and have different skill sets.”
But is there more to this here?
Despite having an average age of 23 years and five days, the USMNT were actually more experienced than their Mexican counterparts on Tuesday and Miazga seemed to be trying to rattle their cages. The U.S. didn’t play well in the first half with Lainez in particular a bright spot for El Tri as he skipped past Wil Trapp effortlessly in one incident to set up a golden chance for the visitors.
Miazga’s actions were gamesmanship and it had the desired impact. That is a sign that this young U.S. team are growing up fast, as they’ve had to under Dave Sarachan’s guidance over the past few months with more huge friendlies on the horizon.
Were Miazga’s actions classless? Let’s keep things into context. He was trying to put one of Mexico’s brightest young talents off his game anyway he could. The New York Red Bulls product probably wouldn’t do that kind of thing to a stranger on the street (one hopes) and this kind of things happen in the heat of the moment of a rivalry battle. He was just targeting Lainez, a small, skilful player who was a headache for the USMNT on Tuesday.
As Lainez himself said: “It’s football.”