SAN JOSE, Calif. – The MLS Homegrown team didn’t walk out as winners in the 2016 Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game on Wednesday evening, but despite a 2-0 loss to Mexico’s Under-20 team, they kept a mostly upbeat outlook as they wrapped their participation in the league’s third annual youth showcase.
“The goals we gave up were a little naïve, but we probably could’ve scored a couple goals too,” Homegrown head coach Landon Donovan told reporters after the game. “So, I thought it was a good game, it was enjoyable, and aside from the result I thought everyone enjoyed themselves.”
Mexico were especially dangerous to open the game, putting the US defense under early pressure with a series of corner kicks within the first 10 minutes, and would eventually find the two decisive goals in the final 12 minutes of the first half.
El Tri’s dominance was not entirely surprising though, given they have played together for a long time, including at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup, whereas some of the Homegrown players were meeting each other for the first team when they arrived in the Bay Area on Monday.
It was an element of the encounter that Donovan was quick to note in his postgame remarks, though he also admitted that the MLS team “could’ve conceded more goals.”
Standing between the Homegrowns and a potentially lopsided scoreline were some fine saves from the Homegrown goalkeeping duo of Jesse Gonzalez and Maxime Crepeau, who played in the first and second halves, respectively.
Gonzalez drew particular attention for his performance in the opening stanza of the game, making several saves on clear chances for Mexico to keep the scoreline respectable. Among the best were an early acrobatic save on Daniel Rios after Mexico’s early spell of pressure and a one-on-one denial of Ulises Jaimes in the 20th minute.
Donovan highlighted the FC Dallas ‘keeper’s “incredible potential” in his postgame remarks, also noting that Gonzalez is a player that needs to continue getting minutes. He’s seen plenty of playing time without quite locking down the starting job in North Texas in the early stages of his professional career.
Gonzalez wasn’t necessarily perfect in the half. Though he got his body in front of Mexico midfielder Luis Marquez’s penalty kick to open the scoring in the 33rd minute, the ball still managed to squirt over him and into the net.
“Yeah, it’s unlucky,” Gonzalez said of the first goal. “For a goalkeeper you always think you could’ve stopped it, but it’s part of the game.”
The second goal came as Marquez floated an inswinging free kick from the right side into the area, only for the ball to sail over everyone and bounce into the far corner of the net.
Gonzalez shared the blame on the second goal with his defense, saying that, “I think the line dropped too quick, and for a goalkeeper it’s tough,” while adding that he could’ve dropped back and “just given myself more time to react to it.”
Despite the two goals conceded, Gonzalez’s overall performance was one of the high points for the Homegrown side. But the highest praise of the evening may have come from Donovan’s opposite number, someone plenty familiar with the shot-stopper that represented El Tri at the 2015 Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand last summer.
“[He was] very good,” Mexico U-20 head coach Mario Arteaga enthused after the game. “I also had him as well on the Under-18s. He’s an excellent goalkeeper and excellent person and someone that I don’t even doubt it in the least that he’ll be on the senior national team for us.”