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First step towards 2026 ends in defeat for USMNT

The US men’s national team took the first small step towards the 2026 World Cup with a 2-1 defeat to Serbia on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Brandon Vazquez gave the US the lead but Luka Ilic tied the game just before halftime with Veljko Simic putting Serbia ahead a minute into the second half.

Less than two months after bowing out of the 2022 World Cup, the USMNT, bearing no resemblance to the squad that lost to the Netherlands in the Round of 16 on Dec. 3fielded an inexperienced team that had eight players in the starting lineup make their international debuts, with nine of the 11 starters age 24 or younger.

Gaga Slonina, at 18 years, 255 days old, became the youngest goalkeeper to play for the USMNT, surpassing Tony Meola, who made his debut at 19 years, 106 days on June 7, 1988, vs. Ecuador. Slonina made four saves.

Hudson overseas young US side

The biggest change for the US was assistant coach Anthony Hudson being named interim head coach to replace Gregg Berhalter. US Soccer continues to investigate allegations of misconduct 31 years ago by Berhalter with his then-girlfriend, now wifewhich were brought by the parents of US player Gio Reyna.

United States National Men's Soccer interim-head coach Anthony Hudson

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United States National Men’s Soccer interim-head coach Anthony Hudson HARRY HOWEAFP

Vazquez gave the US the lead in the 29th minute with a fine reflex action header inside the left post. He became the 59th player to score in his US debut. Vazquez, 24, had 18 regular-season goals for FC Cincinnati last season, including six headers to tie for the Major League Soccer lead.

Ilic bagged the equalizer in the 43rd minute from a 22-yard free kick, and Simic ran onto a loose ball to score from distance to make it 2-1 in the 46th.

Cade Cowell tried to level the score in the 56th minute, but frustratingly saw his effort hit both posts. The US had 20 shots (five on target) to 11 (six on target) for Serbia.

The US will now face Colombia at the Dignity Health Sports Park (Carson) on Saturday.

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