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Slovenia 1-0 United States (Jan 20, 2024) Game Analysis

The U.S. men’s national team suffered a defeat in its opening match of 2024, as an inexperienced lineup was beaten 1-0 by Slovenia in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday.

Nejc Gradisar scored in the 26th minute of his international debut following an American giveaway, and Slovenia extended the United States’ winless streak against European opponents to six in an exhibition game between nations missing top players.

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Twenty-four players made international debuts, including 13 Slovenians. Seven of the 11 American debutants were starters, tying the Americans’ most since modern records began in 1990.

All Americans were from Major League Soccer for a match not on a FIFA international date. Europe-based players return when the U.S. faces Jamaica on March 21 in a Concacaf Nations League semifinal.

Following a November defeat at Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. has lost consecutive games under coach Gregg Berhalter for the first time since a pair of matches against Mexico in 2019. The 12th-ranked U.S. has lost four straight games against European opponents and is winless against Europe since beating Bosnia and Herzegovina in December 2021.

Slovenia scored after Danijel Sturm stripped the ball from winger Bernard Kamungo just short of the center line, dribbled and passed to the 21-year-old Gradisar, who sprinted ahead of defender Sean Zawadzki. With the outside of his right foot, Gradisar slotted the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Patrick Schulte.

Sturm, Gradisar, Kamungo, Zawadzki and Schulte all were making their debuts.

Seattle Sounders midfielder Josh Atencio was one of 11 debutants for the USMNT against Slovenia.

Carmen Mandato/USSF/Getty Images for USSF


Slovenia goalkeeper Igor Vekic, also making his debut, used his right foot to block Kamungo’s open shot from near the penalty spot in the 30th minute. Second-half sub John Tolkin put a pair of good chances wide in the last 15 minutes.

The seven debuting American starters matched the total in last January’s loss to Serbia. Schulte, Zawadzki and Kamungo were joined by midfielders Josh Atencio and Timmy Tillman, winger Diego Luna and forward Brian White.

Jack McGlynn, Duncan McGuire and Esmir Bajraktarevic entered in the 61st minute and Aziel Jackson in the 89th. The 11 debuts were one shy of the U.S. high set Aug. 3, 1973, against Poland, and tied Jan. 10, 1988, at Guatemala.

Seventy-one players have debuted in Berhalter’s 67 games, the second-highest total under a U.S. coach behind 89 debuts in 148 games with Bruce Arena.

Tillman became part of the 10th set of brothers to play for the U.S.; Malik Tillman debuted in 2022 and has made eight appearances.

Right back Shaq Moore made his first appearance since the 2022 World Cup against Iran and central defender Miles Robinson captained the U.S. for the first time.

Eight starters debuted for 54th-ranked Slovenia, which plays Denmark, Serbia and England in the group stage of the European Championship in June.

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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