Eight players earn first career USMNT caps in 2-1 loss to Serbia
LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Men’s National Team, which deployed a young squad averaging just over 23 years of age and featuring eight international debuts, opened 2023 with a narrow 2-1 loss against Serbia in the team’s first match of the 2026 World Cup cycle. Forward Brandon Vázquez tallied the USA’s goal as he became the 59th USMNT player to score in their debut.
It was a night of milestones as the eight debuts marked the USA’s highest total of first caps in one match since the 2-0 win against Canada on Sept. 3, 1992, while the seven starters who were playing in their first games for the USA was the highest total in a Starting XI since the 1-0 loss to Guatemala on Jan. 10, 1988.
The first half was a tight, back-and-forth contest in which the young USA squad strung together a handful of quality chances early on with an attack spearheaded by powerful forwards Vázquez and Cade Cowell, who was especially troublesome to the Serbian defense throughout the night and earned Insider Man of the Match honors. Goalkeeper Gaga Slonina, who at age 18 became the youngest goalkeeper to ever play for the USMNT, showed his formidable talents with multiple quality saves in the first half.
The U.S. showed plenty of promise in the attack as Cowell and midfielder Alan Soñora knocked at the door with quality strikes from distance in the first half, but it was ultimately Vásquez who opened the scoring in the 29th minute. Defender Julian Gressel served in a perfect cross from the right side which Vazquez met with a flicked-on header from near the right corner of the six-yard box, sending the ball into the net at the lower left corner. The shot beat flying goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic, who also plays for the New England Revolution in Major League Soccer.
After big time sequence from Slonina in the 31st minute in which he denied a point-blank shot and then slapped away the spinning ball that was bound for the goal, Serbia scored the equalizer in the 43rd minute off a free kick from midfielder Luka Ilić that snuck through the U.S. defensive wall.
A lapse of concentration from the U.S. defense just seconds into the second half allowed midfielder Velko Simić to score what would eventually be the match winner as he snuck behind the back line and buried a shot past Slonina.
The Americans responded well, continuing to apply pressure in the attack and dominating the rest of the half. The USA certainly looked like a team that deserved an equalizer and came close twice in 56th minute as Cowell capitalized on a turnover and dribbled in on goal, firing a left-footed shot that bounced off the inside of the right post and rolled behind the goalkeeper before being cleared. Seconds later, he recovered the ball again and cut into the box, this time firing a right-footed shot that was denied by the outside of the left post.
The USA recorded 20 shots on the night with five on target, while seven of its nine corner kicks came after the interval as forward Paul Arriola, forward Alex Zendejas and midfielder Eryk Williamson came close to equalizing late in the match. Outside back DeJuan Jones did some fine work on the right flank to create danger through numerous crosses into the box, but the Serbians did well to clear.
The USMNT will return to action Saturday, Jan. 28 as the team faces Colombia at Dignity Health Sports Park (7:30 p.m. ET; TNT, Telemundo, Peacock). The USA is 12-2-3 when playing at DHSP.
GOAL SCORING RUNDOWN
USA – Brandon Vázquez (Julian Gressel), 29th minute –Aidan Morris controlled the ball at midfield and played Alan Soñora to his right. He then found Gressel out wide on the right flank where he whipped a cross into the box for Vázquez, who placed a quality header just inside the left post. USA 1, SRB 0
SRB – Luka Ilic, 43rd minute – After Los Angeles Galaxy forward Dejan Joveljić drew a foul just outside the USA box slightly toward the left, Ilic equalized with a left-footed free kick that split the U.S. wall and bounced into the bottom left corner past a diving Slonina. USA 1, SRB 1
SRB – Veljko Simic, 46th minute – A long ball from defender Marko Mijailovic after Serbia won a U.S. goal kick got away from the American back line, took an awkward bounce and Simic swooped into the win the ball and glide behind the U.S. defense. He then slotted his shot past Slonina from 13 yards into the left corner out to take the lead. USA 1, SRB 2
- Vazquez’s goal was assisted by fellow debutant Julian Gressel.
- The USMNT Starting XI had an average age of 23 years, 18 days and averaged four caps overall.
- Debutants Julian Gressel, Aidan Morris, Jalen Neal, Gaga Slonina, Alan Soñora, Brandon Vázquez and Alex Zendejas all started the match, while DeJuan Jones came on as a substitute.
- At 18 years, 255 days, Gaga Slonina became the youngest goalkeeper to play for the USMNT, beating out Tony Meola who made his debut at 19 years, 106 days on June 7, 1988 vs. Ecuador.
- Cade Cowell, Jonathan Gómez and Paxton Pomykal all earned their first career starts in their second overall caps.
- Seven of the USA starters are dual nationals: Cowell, Gómez, Vazquez and Zendejas (USA & Mexico); Gressel (USA & Germany), Soñora (USA & Argentina), Slonina (USA & Poland).
- The lone World Cup veteran in the Starting XI, center back Walker Zimmerman captained the USMNT for the seventh time tonight.
- Midfielder Eryk Williamson replaced Alan Soñora in the 57th minute to earn his first cap since returning from a torn ACL suffered just weeks after his last USMNT appearance in the Concacaf Gold Cup Final vs. Mexico on Aug. 1, 2021.
- With the USMNT dressing 23 players tonight, goalkeeper Roman Celentano was a healthy scratch from the gameday squad.
- The USMNT moves to 0-3-1 all-time against Serbia.
-U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MATCH REPORT-
Match: United States Men’s National Team vs. Serbia
Date: January 25, 2023
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: BMO Stadium; Los Angeles, Calif.
Kickoff: 10:07 p.m. ET (7:07 p.m. local)
Weather: 61 Degrees; Clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
SRB 1 1 1
USA – Brandon Vázquez (Julian Gressel) 29th minute
SRB – Luka Ilić 43
SRB – Veljko Simić 46
USA:24-Gaga Slonina; 2-Julian Gressel (4-DeJuan Jones, 62), 3-Walker Zimmerman (Capt.) (15-Aaron Long, 46), 22-Jalen Neal, 5-Jonathan Gómez; 21-Aidan Morris, 10-Paxton Pomykal (23-Kellyn Acosta, 63), 14-Alan Soñora (19-Eryk Williamson, 57); 17-Alex Zendejas, 8-Brandon Vázquez (13-Matthew Hoppe, 63), 20-Cade Cowell (7-Paul Arriola, 73)
Substitutes not used: 1-Sean Johnson, 6-Paxten Aaronson, 9-Jesús Ferreira, 11-Emmanuel Sabbi, 12-John Tolkin, 16-Sam Rogers
Head coach: Anthony Hudson
SRB: 1-Dorđe Petrović (12-Dragan Rosić, 46); 5-Marko Mijailović, 6-Nemanja Stojić, 4-Ranko Veselinović 3-Nemanja Petrović; 14-Nikola Petković (15-Luka Bijelović, 81), 8-Mirko Topić (17-Nikola Štulić, 46), 7-Luka Ilić (2-Marko Ivezić, 62), 10-Veljko Simić (Capt.) (13-Filip Damjanović, 77), 9-Dejan Joveljić, 16-Vladimir Lučić (11-Miloš Pantović, 62)
Substitutes not used: None
Head coach: Dragan Stojković
Stats Summary: USA / SRB
Shots: 20 / 11
Shots on Goal: 5 / 6
Saves: 4 / 4
Corner Kicks: 9 / 3
Fouls: 9 / 13
Offside: 0 / 3
SRB — Nemanja Petrović (Caution) 85th minute
USA — Aidan Morris (Caution) 88
SRB — Marko Mijailović (Caution) 89
Referee: Daneon Parchment (JAM)
Assistant Referee 1: Caleb Wales (TRI)
Assistant Referee 2: Zachari Zeegelaar (SUR)
4th Official: Kwinsi Williams (TRI)
Insiders Man of the Match: Cade Cowell