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USA vs. Italy, International Friendly: Final Score 1-0 as Italians Score at the Death

The USMNT was completely dominated by Italy during a 1-0 loss in Belgium.

Italy v USA - International Friendly Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team ended 2018 by losing 1-0 to Italy in Genk, Belgium this afternoon. A last-second goal by Matteo Politano was the difference.

After the U.S. was dominated by England on Thursday in a 3-0 loss, Dave Sarachan made 10 changes with Christian Pulisic being the lone starter of both matches. The U.S. lineup had an average age of 22 years and 71 days, the youngest U.S. starting 11 in the modern era. At 20 years of age, Pulisic became the team’s youngest captain in the modern era.

Following the demolition of the U.S. by England at Wembley last week, it didn’t seem like this game against Italy could be any worse. But that’s exactly what happened. Italy dominated the game from start to finish and could’ve easily scored five goals if not for some excellent goalkeeping.

23-year-old Ethan Horvath, who plays in Belgium with Club Brugge, was the star on the night for the United States. He displayed some excellent goalkeeping skills, making five terrific saves which kept the game from becoming a blowout.

Horvath’s performance started in the third minute when Mattia De Sciglio sent Federico Chiesa down the right wing. Shielding Shaq Moore, Chiesa got in on goal but Horvath closed down the Italian attacker and made the stop.

Four minutes later, a free kick by Stefano Sensi was sent into the box as the Italian captain, Leonardo Bonucci, ran on. Beating Walker Zimmerman to it, Bonucci attempted to tip the ball past Horvath, except the goalkeeper was once again up to the task.

In the 39th minute, Berardi collected the ball outside of the box and decided to have a go at goal. His curling shot seemed destined for the back of the net but Horvath quickly reacted and tipped it over the bar for a corner kick.

Horvath’s final save of the first half came in the 44th minute, when Marco Verratti sent a free kick into the mixer. Driven into a sea of bodies, somebody got a touch on the delivery to direct it on goal but Horvath’s quick reflexes allowed him to palm the ball away and the U.S. cleared once again.

In the 58th minute, Bonucci sent a ball up the middle with the outside of his right foot for Kevin Lasagna. The Italy number nine held off Zimmerman and attempted to fire past Horvath, but the young goalkeeper stood his ground and made the stop.

Horvath’s final save of the night came in the 70th minute when Sensi played the ball for Vincenzo Grifo. The striker settled the ball and curled it through traffic toward the top corner. Once again, Horvath was up to the challenge as he knocked the ball wide of goal.

The U.S. was completely defensive in the first half, but did have some opportunities in the second period of play. The first came in the 63rd minute when Kellyn Acosta sent a free kick toward the back post. Zimmerman beat his man to the ball and headed it on goal. Despite not having had to make a play all game to that point, Salvatore Sirigu was on it and made a diving save just off of his post.

The U.S. had another good opportunity in the 78th minute, this time through second half substitute Bobby Wood. A poor clearance from an Acosta corner allowed Tyler Adams to head the ball toward Wood. Receiving it with his chest, Wood turned to fire on goal but his shot was wide of the frame.

As time wound down, the Italians pressed forward, trying to find a way through. They finally did four minutes into stoppage time. Marco Verratti received the ball from Matteo Politano and immediately played it forward for Robert Gagliardini. As Politano continued his run into the box, Gagliardini played it through and Politano played it past Horvath for the game’s lone goal.

While the U.S. was expected to lose to Italy, it would’ve been difficult to predict the domination from the Italians. The U.S. was dominated in a similar fashion during the first half against England but put up a fight in the second 45 minutes. Today, the Italians controlled the game from start to finish, holding 73% possession. They out-shot the U.S., 17-3 (6-1 on target).

The loss to Italy caps off the 2018 schedule for a team that is rebuilding with a group of very young players after the previous generation failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. In 11 games this year, the U.S. won three, lost five, and drew three. The Yanks scored a total of 10 goals in those 11 games, conceded 14, and ended the year on a two-game losing streak.