Weston McKennie

Recap: Youthful USMNT earns 1-1 draw in friendly at Portugal

They can only do so much to salve the lingering sting of the World Cup qualifying fiasco, but the US national team's kids might just be alright. 

A young US side battled gamely and confidently to earn a 1-1 draw with Portugal at Estadio Dr. Magalhães Pessoa in Leiria, Portugal on Tuesday evening, highlighted by strong senior debuts from New York Red Bulls Homegrown Tyler Adams and FC Dallas academy product Weston McKennie.

McKennie opened the scoring with a well-taken goal, the Schalke midfielder driving forward to receive a pass from CJ Sapong before dipping his shoulder to carve out space for a cool near-post finish past Portuguese goalkeeper Beto. 

But the hosts equalized 10 minutes later via a howler from US goalkeeper Ethan Horvath. Portugal's left back Vitorino Antunes unleashed a low, dipping cross-shot from the left that looked unthreatening, only for Horvath to let it slip underneath him and trickle into the net.

Adams saw a goalbound header denied by a sterling save from Beto shortly after halftime, and both sides rang well-struck efforts off the woodwork. But a late winner did not materialize and Portugal will take the result forward into their World Cup 2018 preparations, while the USMNT look ahead to a new era under new management at some point next year.

Goals

  • 21' - USA - Weston McKennie
  • 21' - POR - Vitorino Antunes

Three Things

  1. KIDFIELD: Those eager to usher in the new guard will have been happy to see caretaker head coach Dave Sarachan start Adams, McKennie and Dallas' Kelyn Acosta in midfield alongside veterans Danny Williams and Juan Agudelo. The youngsters battled well against a Portuguese side boasting plenty of quality even absent Cristiano Ronaldo, and showed some calm, fluid passing sequences as well, especially in transition. 
  2. STRONG SAPONG: The Philadelphia Union vet was one of MLS' top No. 9s in 2017, and on Tuesday he gave observers reason to believe his skillset can translate well at international level. He put in the hard, dirty work of a targetman, but also made the most of his touches, producing an assist and a key pass, and only failed to connect two passes.
  3. 'KEEPER COMPETITION WIDE OPEN: Horvath was clearly gutted by his error, and did recover his focus well enough to post three saves. But his outing did little to distinguish him from his rivals for the No. 1 job, with Bill Hamid looking sturdy in his 45-minute cameo off the bench and Jesse Gonzalez waiting in the wings, not to mention the grizzled incumbents watching back home.
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