USMNT falls to Serbia as Brandon Vazquez scores goal in debut: Which Americans shone?

The US men’s national team fell to Serbia 2-1 in a friendly Wednesday at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The US opened the scoring in the 29th minute with a goal headed in by Brandon Vazquez, who scored during his debut with the squad. He was assisted by Julian Gressel.
  • Goals by Luka Ilić and Veljko Simić in the 43rd and 46th minute, respectively, sealed the win for Serbia.
  • It was the USMNT’s first match since its loss to the Netherlands in the Round of 16 at the World Cup in December.
  • The US, which hosts the 2026 World Cup, plays Colombia next in a friendly on Jan. 28 in Carson, Calif.

The Athletic‘s instant analysis:

A mixed bag for the Americans

As is often the case in January friendlies, Wednesday night was a mixed bag for the US A few players stood out positively, while a few others showed some understandable shakiness. As a team, the Americans were a bit sloppy in the most important moments. They weathered a poor start to control most of the match, but failed to convert a number of solid opportunities and gave away a couple of cheap goals to lose to an equally young and inexperienced Serbian team. — Stejska

Notable US performances

Vazquez: Vazquez’s dream of getting a longshot call-up to Qatar didn’t come true in November, but the 24-year-old made the most of his international debut Wednesday night, putting the US ahead with a fine goal in the 29th minute. Julian Gressel received the ball in space on the right flank and curled a lovely ball into the box, where Vazquez got across his defender, ran onto the ball at the near post and flicked an excellent header inside the far post. It was a classic No. 9 goal: Vazquez made a strong, decisive run in the area, used his size to win the ball in the air and finished with aplomb.

Cade Cowell: Vazquez got the only goal, but Cowell was the US’s best player Wednesday. The San Jose Earthquakes Winger was dangerous throughout his 72-minute performance, combining well with left back Jonathan Gomez to set up several chances and flashing a shot narrowly wide in the first half before wreaking havoc in the second. He was aggressive when he got on the ball, delivered some tantalizing crosses and nearly scored on a few different occasions, hitting the post twice roughly 20 seconds apart in the 56th minute and ripping a shot just wide from distance in the 58th.

It was a good start to the year for the 19-year-old, who, despite his significant talent, hasn’t quite become a consistent producer in MLS. He’ll look to level up with the San Jose Earthquakes under new head Coach Luchi Gonzalez this season — if he can, a multi-million dollar move to Europe shouldn’t be too distant. — Stejska

Who else stood out?

Another player who performed well Wednesday was goalkeeper Gaga Slonina. The Chelsea teenager made a couple of excellent stops in the first half and looked confident and composed throughout — not bad for an 18-year-old making his USMNT debut.

Center back Jaden Neal, who has yet to make his MLS debut with the LA Galaxy, had a decent first half, but made a poor play early in the second that led to Serbia’s winner. Alejandro Zendejas and Alan Soñora were also a bit quiet. Both showed flashes of quick, decisive play and solid movement, but both also got on the ball far less often than they would have liked. Soñora will have another chance to impress on Saturday against Colombia, while Zendejas will now depart camp to return to Club América. — Stejska

(Photo: Harry How / Getty Images)

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