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Ethan Horvath makes claim to start, Reggie Cannon exposed in U.S. defeat to Italy

The United States ended 2018 with a loss to Italy on a late goal, despite a strong performance from goalkeeper Ethan Horvath.

The final match of 2018 failed to deliver a goal, much less a win, for the United States men's national team. A heroic performance from goalkeeper Ethan Horvath was all that saved the Americans from a humiliating loss in a game dominated by Italy at Luminus Arena in Genk, Belgium.

Positives

Horvath's play is the only clear positive from a game in which the Americans had a paltry 26.7 percent possession and ultimately succumbed to Italy's pressure. The 23-year old made a strong case that he -- and not Zack Steffen -- should be the starter heading into 2019 and the resumption of competitive matches come summer.

Negatives

As was the case in London last week, the Americans simply could not get a handle on the ball against a more technical, and better-drilled, opponent. A disjointed press created gaps for the Italians to exploit and ensured that the midfield was chasing the ball all evening. The three-man backline was never actually that, with wing-backs Reggie Cannon and Shaq Moore pinned deep and unable to influence the attack.

Manager rating out of 10

3 -- Dave Sarachan's decision to roll out a formation change from the match against England didn't pay off in any measure. The U.S. still look tentative and indecisive, either through a lack of direction or because the message from the coach was muddled. An improvement in cohesion in the second half was marginal at best. It was a poor end to Sarachan's term as interim head coach.

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Ethan Horvath, 7 -- The only star on the day for the U.S. on an otherwise depressing day in Belgium. Can hardly be blamed for the loss after making five saves.

DF Aaron Long, 4 -- Out of step with his defensive teammates too often. Occasionally applied pressure successfully, but was unable to stop Italy with the Americans consistently under pressure.

DF Walker Zimmerman, 4 -- Showed leadership ability as the organizer at the back, but was equally complicit in presenting Italy shooting opportunities as the rest of the team. Switched off more than once in marking situations but had the Americans' best chance with a header that was well saved by Salvatore Sirigu.

DF Cameron Carter-Vickers, 3 -- Shockingly bad with the ball at his feet, particularly in the first half. Guilty of silly mistakes, like fouling in Italy's half with the U.S. applying effective pressure.

MF Shaq Moore, 3 -- Clearly uncomfortable deployed on the left side, especially when attempting to play the ball forward. Looked marginally better on the right, springing Bobby Wood with a curling ball in the 77th and providing a cross in the 88th.

MF Kellyn Acosta, 3 -- Chased shadows with the rest of the midfield and was ineffective when pressing. Wasteful with set-piece service save for one or two decent balls.

MF Tyler Adams, 5 -- By far the most effective member of the midfield on the evening. Broke lines with dribbles forward, provided energy and pressure. Lost his mark in the final moments, though, leading to Italy's goal.

Ethan Horvath was brilliant against Italy, making five big saves and a claim that he should start over recent No. 1 Zack Steffen.
Ethan Horvath was brilliant against Italy, making five big saves and a claim that he should start over recent No. 1 Zack Steffen.

MF Marky Delgado, 3 -- Too slow, too sloppy for nearly all of his hour on the field. Misplaced eight of 23 passes as the Americans struggled to get a foot on the ball.

MF Reggie Cannon, 3 -- Struggled with Emerson Palmieri in a defensive sense and lacked the touch and eye to help the U.S. on the attacking end. Would have certainly picked up a second yellow if not for the game's low stakes.

FW Christian Pulisic, 4 -- Hampered by a lack of touches, often pulled too far from goal when on the ball. Active, but showed a poor first touch and propensity for turning the ball over under pressure.

FW Josh Sargent, 5 -- Limited by the USMNT's lack of possession. He worked back to good effectiveness in a bid to help recover possession. Showed strength and skill with hold-up play

Substitutes

MF Wil Trapp, N/R -- Showed a decent touch and popped up for a pair of defensive interventions.

FW Bobby Wood, N/R -- Stretched the Italy backline with runs in behind. Unable to connect on his lone shooting chance off a corner kick in the 79th minute.

DF Jorge Villafana, N/R -- Exhibited good energy and recovery ability in his 15 minutes.

MF Sebastian Lletget, N/R -- Nearly sprung the Americans for a break in his limited time on the field.

MF Romain Gall, N/R -- Had couple of touches and took an off-target shot from distance in his cameo.

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