U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team defeats Japan 2-0 in international friendly
CHULA VISTA, Calif. – The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team defeated Japan 2-0 in a closed-door international friendly played at the Chula Vista Elite Athletic Training Center.
Mason Toye scored just before the half and Brooks Lennon put away a second-half penalty as the USA continued preparation for the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying tournament next March.
In his third camp as U-23 MNT head coach, Jason Kreis was able to observe 18 players make their U-23 debut against an international opponent, including teenagers Brenden Aaronson, Chris Gloster and Alex Mendez who all started as well as Edwin Cerrillo and Sebastian Soto, who entered off the bench.
Mendez, one of three players from the 2019 U-20 World Cup team to start, came close to scoring just two minutes in when he unleashed a 25-yard, left-footed blast that forced a fantastic diving save from Japan goalkeeper Ryosuke Kojima.
Japan then had their best chance of the day after clearing away the resulting corner kick. Forward Daizen Maeda did well to win a ball back in his own half and then worked a quick give-and-go with defender Ayumu Seko to get behind the USA defense at midfield. Maeda continued his breakaway with Aaron Herrera closing in from behind, but still got a shot off only to be denied by goalkeeper Matt Freese at the penalty mark.
The USA broke through just before the half. Aaronson was advancing the ball towards midfield when he looked up and saw Toye position himself for a run through two defenders. The 18-year-old Aaronson played a perfect low pass with his left between the defenders into Toye’s stride. The Minnesota United forward quickly gained a five-yard edge and calmly one-timed a shot from the top of the box around Kojima for his first international goal.
One of Kreis’s six changes to start the second half was Sebastian Soto, another U-20 World Cup vet, who came inches from twice extending the lead early on. The Hannover forward’s continued presence in the box was rewarded after 15 minutes when he was taken down for a penalty kick. Lennon stepped up and hit the shot down the middle to double the USA lead as the goalkeeper jumped to the right.
The USA had the better of play for most of the second half and forced Kojima to make three quality saves, while JT Marcinkowski saw few threats on his goal. Japan had a chance to cut into the lead with a free kick at the top of the box late on; however, new FC Barcelona forward Hiroka Abe sailed his shot over the goal.
The win was the USA’s first of the year as the team continued preparing for the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying tournament. In March, just days after Kreis was named coach, the U-23 MNT fell to Egypt, 0-2, and played the Netherlands to a scoreless draw. Both games were played at the Pinatar Arena in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain.
- The win was the first for Jason Kreis as head coach of the U-23 MNT. The team is 1-1-1 this year, with shutouts of Netherlands and Japan.
- Djordje Mihailovic is the only player to start all three games this year for the U-23s. Donovan Pines and JT Marcinkowski are the only others to appear in all three.
- After 22 players saw action in the first two March matches, 21 played today, including 18 who made their U-23 MNT debut.
- Three sets of MLS teammates started the match: Brenden Aaronson, Matt Freese and Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union); Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake); and Hasani Dotson and Mason Toye (Minnesota United). Union defender Auston Trusty and RSL winger Brooks Lennon entered as subs, as did FC Dallas teammates – Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerrillo.
- Six players from the 2019 U-20 World Cup team saw action: Cerrillo, Chris Gloster, McKenzie, Alex Mendez, Servania and Sebastian Soto.
- Gloster was the only player to go the full 90.