The United States finished a frustrating 2018 with a 1-0 loss to Italy tonight in a friendly played in Genk, Belgium. Despite some heroics from goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, the Azzurri thoroughly dominated the match from start to finish, and Inter Milan forward Matteo Politano came off the bench to fire home a 94th minute winner.
In what was in all likelihood his final match with the U.S. program, Dave Sarachan set his side up in a 532. Christian Pulisic, the only holdover from a woeful 3-0 defeat to England earlier in the international window, captained the team while playing as a second forward.
The young Yanks were quickly under pressure, largely due to the work of Federico Chiesa. The Fiorentina man was denied by Ethan Horvath in the 3rd minute, then teed Nicolo Barella for a shot that skipped wide in the 9th minute. Five minutes later, Chiesa’s cross found Domenico Berardi, who couldn’t keep his promising header down.
Cameron Carter-Vickers produced a huge 16th minute tackle to deny Berardi as the Azzurri continued to dominate proceedings. The siege wasn’t over, as a free kick from Sensi saw Leonardo Bonucci escape Walker Zimmerman. With the USMNT looking for an offside call that was never coming, Bonucci really should have been able to guide the ball past Horvath, but his effort hit the Club Brugge goalkeeper in the chest.
The United States found their defensive footing for a spell, but a poor clearance in the 39th minute from Carter-Vickers went right to Sensi, who quickly passed out right to Berardi, who was denied by a fingertip save from Horvath.
After Shaq Moore and Reggie Cannon were both booked within a one-minute span for fouls, Horvath produced a strong 44th minute stop on a Marco Verratti free kick from the left touchline.
The U.S. briefly pushed the game upfield as the second 45 minutes began, but the first real look of the half still went to the Italians in the 52nd minute. A cross from Francesco Acerbi looked to be going out, but as the American defense switched off, the ball curled just enough to stay in play, allowing halftime substitute Vincenzo Grifo to clip the ball back into the goalmouth for Verratti, who should have done better with the chance than head over the bar.
Horvath produced yet another clutch save in the 59th minute, as Bonucci’s lovely ball over the top — scooped over the defense with the outside of his foot after the U.S. again couldn’t get numbers around the ball — put Kevin Lasagna through on goal. With Zimmerman on his back but trying desperately not to foul, Lasagna shot low, but Horvath had cut the angle down and again kept the USMNT level.
Sarachan brought Bobby Wood and Wil Trapp in for Josh Sargent and Marky Delgado just after the hour mark, and within a minute his side very nearly produced a goal with their first look of any kind. Kellyn Acosta’s free kick to the back post found Zimmerman streaking in, and despite having to twist to head the ball along the endline, Zimmerman forced a spectacular save from Salvatore Sirigu.
Italy were displeased that Cannon was not given a second yellow for a 67th minute foul on Emerson, and picked up the intensity in the moments that followed. Sensi carried the ball past an inexplicably stagnant Trapp before picking out Grifo, whose rocket from 22 yards forced Horvath to save at full stretch in the 69th minute.
At the other end, a rare U.S. corner was popped up by Bonucci, and Tyler Adams won the second header. The ball fell to Wood, but in a crowd of blue shirts he couldn’t quite turn his spinning volley on frame.
Lasagna summed up a frustrating night for himself by wasting Kean’s good hold-up play by blazing over from 13 yards out in the 85th minute. It turned out to be the Udinese striker’s final look, as he was replaced by Politano shortly thereafter.
With play getting stretched late, the U.S. forced a turnover in midfield, and Romain Gall —making his debut for the senior national team — carried the ball 30 yards before ripping a low shot that Sirigu tipped wide.
It was a save the USMNT would rue, as Italy ended up grabbing a winner in the 94th minute. A long spell of Italian pressure, including multiple corners, ended with Politano playing a sublime give-and-go at the top of the box with Verratti. Late substitute Sebastian Lletget lost Politano in the exchange, and the Inter forward fired low past Horvath to give the Azzurri a richly deserved win.
Highlights will be added when they are made available.