The day began with bad news, with star center back John Brooks unable to play with a groin issue, and it just kept coming once the ball went into play.
Once Mexico weathered the first 15 minutes from the hosts, they were essentially home free. A mistake-riddled sequence put Mexico up top, and it never got better.
And let’s get this out of the way: Mexico is miles ahead of the United States at this stage. El Tri is in a Golden Generation, and most of that generation is in its prime. The USMNT is young, and its depth has been exposed by injuries to John Brooks and Tyler Adams.
Savvy El Tri punishes sensationally poor marking for opener
Javier Hernandez entered Friday’s friendly with 51 international goals, more than anyone in Mexican national team history.
He also entered the United States’ 18 like it was a serene national park.
Jesus “Tecatito” Corona absolutely cooked 18-year-old Sergino Dest, playing at his unfavored left back slot, with a nutmeg and the young back wasn’t wise enough to foul the Mexican attacker.
Aaron Long is slow to react to the move and Wil Trapp doesn’t mark any of the three players available to him.
Weston McKennie is most at fault here, as the center midfielder is pushed so far up the field that right winger Tyler Boyd is the one racing back in futility as Chicharito plants a header past Steffen.
Pulisic impresses (despite a little bit of pressing too hard)
The United States’ clear No. 1 player was hounded by Mexican markers all game and was still the most dangerous weapon on the field for Gregg Berhalter’s men.
He needs help. Pulisic pressed too hard at times, trying to take the game himself aside from a few bright moments. There was a good combination play with Weston McKennie in the mix.
Early on, Pulisic combined with Sergino Dest on the left in a sensational way, as both players mesh well with smooth ball skills, excellent flair, and exceptional soccer IQ going forward (They were both absolutely worked by Tecatito in the build up to the goal).
Pulisic doesn’t even turn 21 until Sept. 18, so it’s inspiring to see that his motor and engine are both well-equipped to match his more cosmetically appealing skills.
Two-thirds of midfield trio fails Berhalter
Tactically, Gregg Berhalter’s idea of playing a three-man industrious midfield against Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, and crew made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, only one of his players delivered the goods for more than a few moments.
As covered above, Trapp and McKennie failed the team in sensational fashion on Corona’s opener, but it was much more than that. While McKennie had a couple of nice moments combining with Pulisic and Morales, but wasn’t close to what we see most weeks at Schalke (and many times in his a U.S. shirt).
I’m not going to pile on Trapp, but if ever there was a three-man midfield to make him perform well, it was alongside two mile-eaters in McKennie and Morales (though we just covered the former’s off night).
Every coach has his favorites and Berhalter coached Trapp for years at Columbus, but at this point it’s fairly comical that the USMNT boss continues to start him (especially against the aforementioned Mexican midfield). It’s not up to Trapp to turn down a cap. It is on Berhalter to note that Trapp isn’t even a Top 30 center midfielder in MLS right now, and knowing the system isn’t everything.
That said, Berhalter did not have the option of selecting Tyler Adams or Michael Bradley in his place. It might’ve been nice to ask Morales to handle the deeper lying stuff and use McKennie and Sebastian Lletget more advanced, but honestly Trapp over Jackson Yueill was a safer move.
Morales was mostly good until the game fell apart and he was sauteed by Chucky Lozano in the run-up to Mexico’s third goal, and then — as if we jinxed it — he looks to have suffered a serious injury in the 90th minute.