The United States Men’s National Team fell 1-0 to Italy in a friendly this afternoon in Genk, Belgium. Ethan Horvath was in top form for the USMNT, making six saves on the day, but the great performance was spoiled by a stoppage-time winner for Italy with the last action of the match. However, the USMNT were very fortunate to keep the match scoreless for so long and the 1-0 loss was deserved. The youngest average American team in the modern era (22 years & 71 days) were simply outmatched. They defended desperately, but it was a brilliant team goal from Italy that would take the day.
The Americans came out in a defensive shape against a more talented, more experienced Italian side. With a 5-3-2 formation, they were expecting a lot of pressure. And that is just what they got for 94 minutes. Italy were getting into dangerous spots and were very much in control for the stages. Cameron Carter-Vickers & Shaq Moore both had last-ditch, yet impressive interventions to prevent goals. Still, a goal seemed inevitable.
In the 18th minute, Stefano Sensi lined up for a set piece in a dangerous spot. He fired a ball into the box that caught Horvath between two minds and left him in no man’s land. However, he made a very nice reaction save on a close range attempt from Leonardo Bonucci. The USMNT were not able to find anything going forward, with every attempt at keeping possession resulting in back passes until they ran out of field. It appeared that Plan A was to send hopeful balls for Christian Pulisic to run onto, but Plan B did not seem to exist.
Pushing for a goal before halftime, Italy began pressing forward. The Americans had almost everybody behind the ball, but Domenico Berardi created some space and curled in a beautiful left-footed shot from outside the box. Horvath was able to stay locked onto the dipping effort and tip it over the bar. He was then called upon just moments later in the 44th minute on another pesky set piece. The ball snuck through almost every player on the field before finally deflecting off an American defender. Horvath saw it very late but was able to swallow it up and get to halftime with the score level at 0-0.
The Yanks came out of the locker rooms with a little more creativity and they looked more prepared for the task at hand. However, the Italians were still dictating the match and dominating possession. A golden opportunity for Italy would arise in the 59th minute, when Kevin Lasagna got behind the defense and ran onto a beautiful pass in the box. In some absolutely desperate defending, Walker Zimmerman was able to do to just enough to disrupt the play, allowing Horvath to make the save.
Just five minutes later, Zimmerman almost stole a goal off a well taken set piece. He was sneaking at the back post and got his head on it, but it was pushed away by the Italian shot stopper, Torino’s Salvatore Sirigu. That chance was very much against the run of play, however. The 23-year-old American keeper was called upon several times in the final half hour. In the 70th minute he parried away a bullet destined for the top corner. Just two minutes later he stood his ground, making a huge one-on-one save.
Ethan Horvath says NOT TODAY.— U.S. Soccer MNT (@ussoccer_mnt) November 20, 2018
For the 6th time. pic.twitter.com/nRmjlde0XG
It appeared Horvath was in their heads. Attempt after attempt was spoiled and the European giants were pressing a bit. But, Italy eventually remembered who they are, a 4-time World Cup champion. Stoppage time was drawing to a close in the 94th minute when they gained some composure and began moving the ball around the final third. Quick, short passes led to a buildup into the box. Gagliardini slid a one-time ball into the path of Matteo Politano, who was finally able to beat Horvath by tucking it into the corner for the game winner.
It was the last action of the match and a very cruel ending for the Americans. They wrap up 2018 with no coach, just three wins on the calendar year, and countless questions about the future.