Weston McKennie man of the match as U.S. earn draw in Portugal
The long march back to the world stage for the United States after failure to make the 2018 World Cup began in Leiria, Portugal, with a friendly featuring a host of fresh faces under interim head coach Dave Sarachan. With little to play for but the launch of a new generation of players, the Americans played to a 1-1 draw with a Portuguese "B" squad.
The youth. Even before the match commenced, the theme of the day was established through the American lineup. Young players who could be a major part of getting the U.S. to Qatar in 2022 littered the field, with Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams starting together in midfield. Matt Miazga started alongside John Brooks at the back, and 22-year-old goalkeeper Ethan Horvath started in goal.
The young group pressed Portugal early and established a refreshing energy in the midfield that directly led to the Americans' getting the opening goal in the 21st minute through McKinnie. In the second half, as the game slowed and Portugal had more of the ball, the Americans still managed to create chances and give themselves a way to win.
It's hard to be overly critical, considering the circumstances surrounding the game and the makeup of the U.S. lineup, at least from a team perspective. Without much preparation, the young and new American team held its own against Portugal's rotated team. Defensive communication was occasionally poor, and Horvath's howler took the shine off what was otherwise a positive first half.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- On the job for likely this single game, Sarachan got the most basic part of the task right: He called up a young, hungry and talented group of players and set them up to start the American rebuilding process. The choice to put out Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKinnie and Tyler Adams showed that there was no tendency toward conservatism. Sarachan got a second wave of youngsters on with Lynden Gooch and Cameron Carter-Vickers coming off the bench.
The Americans seemed tactically sound and generally understood their roles. That's all it takes for Sarachan to get a passing grade.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ethan Horvath, 2.5 -- Spent a half-hour with little to do, then committed a terrible mistake to gift Portugal a goal and change the tone of the match. Looked nervous throughout his half on the field.
DF DeAndre Yedlin, 6 -- Caught up-field on Portuguese counters more than once but benefited from his recovery speed and covering of teammates. Played an up-and-down game against his opposite number.
DF Matt Miazga, 8 -- Played 90 minutes and was solid for most of it. Took a few risks that didn't result in real danger. Stepped up into midfield to good effect.
DF John Brooks, 7 -- Mostly solid on the defensive during a half of play. Showed his intelligence and savvy with timely midfield interventions. Should have had a goal that was disallowed for a foul off the ball.
DF Eric Lichaj, 6 -- Defended competently. Pushed into the attack well, especially in the second half, and provided an extra option in the final third.
MF Danny Williams, 7 -- Worked well in combination with Acosta and McKennie ahead of him. Passed well and created a dangerous chance with a cross in the second half.
MF Juan Agudelo, 5.5 -- Guilty of a few sloppy moments while trying to create opportunities on the left side of the attack. Showed flashes of technical brilliance but never impacted the game.
MF Kellyn Acosta, 7.5 -- Provided strong set-piece service and never looked out of place with the speed of the game. Tracked back to eliminate several opportunities for Portugal.
MF Weston McKennie, 8 -- Scored the lone U.S. goal on his debut for the U.S. in a man-of-the-match performance. Covered ground, passed smartly and won several recoveries.
MF Tyler Adams, 7.5 -- Aided in the press that served the Americans so well in the first half. Cut inside with intelligence runs that opened up space. Had a header saved off the line.
FW C.J. Sapong, 7.5 -- Much more effective in the first half when the U.S. was able to press high and find him with runs into wide areas. Held the ball up well and won several fouls in the attacking half.
GK Bill Hamid, 6 -- Made one save that wasn't as clean as he'd like. Otherwise, he was mostly untroubled in the second half.
DF Cameron Carter-Vickers, 6 -- A step slow to start his appearance but settled into the game as the half progressed. Missed his chance to give the Americans the lead on the attacking end.
DF Jorge Villafana, 5 -- Didn't provide the attacking threat of Lichaj and largely played simple soccer, avoiding turnovers and mistakes.
MF Lynden Gooch, 7 -- Used speed and power to provide a threat in wide areas after coming on. Showed the potential to be a crossing threat for the national team.
FW Dom Dwyer, NR -- Had a limited impact in less than 15 minutes. Contributed three defensive actions with Portugal on the ball toward the end of the game.
MF Alejandro Bedoya, NR -- Touched the ball just a handful of times as the clock approached full-time.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.