The United States men’s national team closed out its 2018 with almost as many questions as it closed out 2017, losing 1-0 on a stoppage time goal in Belgium.
Actually, there may be more questions after the result, as goalkeeper Ethan Horvath made a statement between the sticks with more than a half-dozen saves in place of injured Zack Steffen.
Italy scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time, a terrific team goal completed by two tremendous touches from scorer Matteo Politano.
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The first half-hour was marked by significant Italian possession, and most notable for some dogged interventions from alert USMNT goalkeeper Horvath.
The Club Brugge man played well in Belgium, stopping Leonardo Bonucci point-blank on the Italians’ best chance of the first half.
Horvath was busy again in the 44th minute, reacting quickly to an untouched Marco Verratti free kick.
Fortunately for the U.S., there were few ideas on display from Roberto Mancini’s men.
Verratti headed over the goal within the first 10 minutes of the second half, but the Americans had a chance for an unlikely opener with a 56th minute free kick. Nothing.
Horvath was back in the spotlight with an in-tight leg save after Walker Zimmerman put off a driving Kevin Lasagna in the 59th after Bonucci sent him over the top of the defense.
A Kellyn Acosta free kick found Zimmerman at the back post, but Salvatore Sirigu was there for his first save of the afternoon.
Hoffenheim’s Vincenzo Grifo forced Horvath into a flying save in the 70th minute, and Mancini’s men couldn’t do anything with the ensuing corner. He’d then stymy another 1v1 chance on the left side in the 72nd.
Lasagna probably should’ve given Italy a winner in the final 10 minutes, but he smashed the ball over the bar.
Substitute Romain Gall forced a corner kick out of a diving Sirigu in the 90th minute, but the youngster’s corner didn’t clear Italy’s line.
Verratti and substitute Moise Keane played Politano on goal, with Sebastian Lletget leaving Politano after the Inter man started the play and Aaron Long unable to switch in time.