Three points from Nissan Stadium as the U.S. claimed a 1-0 win over rival Mexico in Tuesday's international friendly.
1. U.S. doesn't dazzle but does enough to win
There was a lot of talk following the U.S. defeat against Brazil about this young group of Yanks needing to be braver and more creative in attack. But for 67 minutes playing 11-on-11, they were anything but on Tuesday night in Nashville, Tennessee.
This time, a lack of experience cannot be faulted. Yes, this was another young U.S. squad on the field, but it wasn't like Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Andres Guardado and Rafa Marquez were playing for El Tri. This was an equally inexperienced Mexico side, and after being on the end of a 4-1 pasting from Uruguay on Friday night, the visitors were the better side for a good chunk of the match.
For the U.S., "going forward" (if you can call it that) consisted of the defense circulating the ball around before one of the center-backs -- usually Matt Miazga -- hoofed it up to Gyasi Zardes surrounded by two Mexican defenders. Unsurprisingly, possession would be lost and Mexico would go back to being in control and the U.S. would invite further pressure. The one time Zardes did hold up the ball, he drew a foul to give the U.S. its best chance of the first half with a dangerous free kick from right outside the Mexico area. That was pretty much it in attack, outside of a quick spurt before halftime.
The lack of any U.S. threat played right into Mexico's hands. The El Tri midfield dominated and had all the time it wanted to switch and spread out the field, allowing the likes of Jose Abella and "wonderkid" Diego Lainez to operate down the right flank and look for the deep runners.
The only time U.S. fans were treated to any spice was when Miazga and Lainez were barking at each other midway through the second half. Angel Zaldivar's 67th-minute red card then tipped the balance in the U.S.'s favor. After struggling against Brazil, Antonee Robinson came off the bench and showed why he can be a part of the national team's future by getting forward and crossing for Tyler Adams, who did well to convert following a long sprint into the penalty area.
It was a nice moment for this young group of Yanks -- beating Mexico is always a positive -- but it does not cover up what was largely a listless performance.
2. Trapp as the No. 6 is not working
Wil Trapp is a favorite of still-interim coach Dave Sarachan, but Tuesday night only reinforced what was seen on Friday: playing him as the defensive midfielder in the 4-1-4-1 is not working.
Trapp's distribution was lacking against Brazil; too many of his passes between the lines failed to reach their targets. While one could cut him some slack for Brazil's working him over in midfield -- Brazil does that to a lot of players -- his lack of influence against Mexico was alarming, even though Trapp's teammates weren't exactly lining up to receive the ball. Things got better for Trapp in the second half, but the humbling pressure he received from Lainez and his inability to link raise red flags for his role moving forward.
Perhaps that role will be given to Adams or another player in the pool -- wouldn't Jonathan Gonzalez have been nice? -- but there is enough of a body of work at this stage to conclude that Trapp is not the solution in a critical position.
3. Lainez is the real deal
There were moments last Friday against Uruguay when Lainez showed why the likes of AS Roma are on the hunt for his services, and he backed that hype up against the U.S. on Tuesday, too.
In the opening 45 minutes, he was the best player on the field. His move to break Trapp's ankles toward the end of the first half will be the meme of the night, but there were plenty of other instances in which the 18-year-old put his stamp on the affair, including some aggressive play to fend off several U.S. players and win back possession.
The exchange of words with Miazga will go down as one of those ridiculous "It's Never A Friendly When These Two Teams Meet" narratives going forward, but one has to like the spirit of the young Club America man facing up to the bigger and taller Miazga. That fearlessness will serve him well as he looks poised to be a part of this rivalry for years to come.