EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Javier “Chicharito” Hernández scored in the first half, Erick Gutierrez and Uriel Antuna tacked on insurance goals four minutes apart in the second half, and Mexico outclassed the United States men’s national team 3-0 in front of an announced crowd of 47,960 Friday night at MetLife Stadium.
It was a second consecutive loss to El Tri, which also beat the USMNT in the Gold Cup final. But US head coach Gregg Berhalter said he felt better about this defeat than the 1-0 loss two months ago.
“From my perspective, and you guys are going to think I’m crazy, I’m happier about this game than the Gold Cup final,” Berhalter said. “Because in the Gold Cup final, I felt like all we did was play the ball long. And that was our only solution. And now, at least we tried to play in the way we’re envisioning.”
The USMNT got off to a positive start when debutant Sergino Dest cut inside and unleashed a dangerous shot that goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco parried away in the 14th minute.
But Dest was burned seven minutes later for Mexico’s first goal. Porto’s Jesus Corona nutmegged the Ajax right back before Tecatito whipped in a cross that Chicharito put past U.S. keeper Zack Steffen with a diving header outside the 6-yard box.
The U.S. struggled against Mexico’s pressure and a giveaway at the back nearly resulted in a second El Tri goal just past the half-hour mark.
A poor pass back from Weston McKennie to Walker Zimmerman forced Steffen into a desperation kick that was intercepted by Carlos Rodriguez. Tecatito fired toward the net, but missed the target in the 32nd minute.
The best opportunity for an equalizer came in the 37th minute on a sequence that started with Christian Pulisic spinning past a pair of Mexican defenders in midfield. The Chelsea midfielder received the ball back from Tyler Boyd on an overlapping run and found Alfredo Morales, a Fortuna Dusseldorf midfielder who took the ball down with his left foot. But Morales’ right-footed attempt rolled wide of the net and he pounded the ground in frustration.
“We still played with fear against them and that is what I can’t really live with,” Pulisic said. “That needs to change. We’re going to come out and give it everything the next time.”
The heated rivalry boiled over for the first time in the 57th minute with Hector Herrera and Morales squaring off, resulting in a midfield summit involving all 22 players.
Mexico’s Andrés Guardado and Hector “Chucky” Lozano were inches away from goals a minute apart midway through the second half. Lozano’s attempt came just after his entrance into the match.
Another defensive blunder led to Gutierrez’s first international goal in the 78th minute, easily slotting the ball past Steffen after the goalkeeper’s short pass under pressure was picked off.
“We’re going to eat goals sometimes in that system,” Steffen said. “But It’s a system that we all believe in and we want to play. We want to have the ball, we want to make teams run, we want to wear them out. I’ve been doing it under Gregg for the past three, four years. It’s showed that it pays off, but we’re going to eat goals. it’s a process. We really just need to keep working at it.”
Two minutes after Morales volleyed off the post from 12 yards out, Mexico made it 3-0 in the 82nd minute with Lozano blowing past Morales into open space and finding Antuna. The LA Galaxy winger fired past Steffen on his second touch.
The chance for a consolation goal came three minutes from full time after Jordan Morris was fouled in the box by Diego Reyes. Pulisic flipped the ball to Josh Sargent, who stepped to the spot. But the Werder Bremen forward was denied by Orozco, who dived to his right to make the save.
“It happened on the field. I felt very good about it. And Christian felt very confident in myself and he gave me the ball and said ‘take it,’” Sargent said. “He was very confident in me. I was unfortunate not to make that one, but it happens and I look forward to the next one.”
The USMNT next heads to St. Louis to face Uruguay in the second friendly of the September FIFA window on Tuesday at Busch Stadium.