U.S. Olympic Men’s Soccer Team Kicks Off Road To Paris 2024 With 2-1 Win Against Mexico In Phoenix

Eighteen-Year-Olds Esmir Bajraktarevic and Obed Vargas Net Goals Late in Each Half; USA Will Next Face Japan on Tuesday, Oct. 17 (10:30 p.m. ET; ussoccer.com, U.S. Soccer YouTube)

PHOENIX (Oct. 11, 2023) – The U.S. Olympic Men’s Soccer Team began its journey to the 2024 Paris Olympics with a 2-1 victory over archrival Mexico. Eighteen-year-olds Esmir Bajraktarevic and Obed Vargas, two of the squad’s youngest players, scored at the end of each half to boost the U.S. to a cycle-opening victory.

Next up, the U.S. Olympic Men’s Team will take on Japan on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 10:30 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed on ussoccer.com and U.S. Soccer YouTube.

The U.S. dominated the first half of play, creating a number of good chances and threatening on several set piece opportunities. Forward Taylor Booth had a prime opportunity to open the scoring early, as a nifty combination on the wing from left back John Tolkin and midfielder Jack McGlynn sprung him down the flank. After making a few nice moves, he was brought down in the box and earned a penalty, but his ensuing attempt from the spot was saved by Mexico goalkeeper Fernando Tapia.

The U.S. continued on the front foot for the opening 45 as the midfield trio of Tanner Tessmann, captain Gianluca Busio and McGlynn combined well. Making his international debut at any level, Orlando City forward Duncan McGuire also put in a strong performance at center forward. On corner kicks, both starting center backs, Maximilian Dietz and Jonathan Tomkinson had header attempts go just over the bar.

The deadlock was broken in first-half stoppage time by Bajraktarevic. The New England Revolution winger received the ball just outside the arc and hit a hard-rolling shot to the left post past the outstretched Tapia.

In the second half, head coach Marko Mitrovic made nine changes, working to evaluate as much of the roster as possible in his first game leading the Olympic Team. The back line and midfield swapped out in the 60th, while the attacking front three changed in the 72nd.

Mexico fought back against the new-look U.S. line-up and put the defense on alert with several dangerous forays into the final third. Goalkeeper Patrick Schulte made an impressive diving save on one of El Tri’s best attempts in the 59th following a corner kick.

Vargas put an exclamation point on things in the 90th minute. Forward Johan Gomez drove the ball forward and dished to winger Bernard Kamungo inside the box on the right side. The FC Dallas attacker made a move towards goal and dished to Vargas, who one-timed a shot to the right side.

Bajraktarevic and Vargas are two of the squad’s youngest players. Alongside midfielder Benja Cremaschi, they are the three players in camp born in 2005. All three are age-eligible for the 2025 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Mexico got on the board late with a rocket from Jesús Brigido at the death to make the final score line 2-1.

The victory against Mexico marks the U.S. Olympic Men’s Soccer Team’s first victory of the cycle in the run-up to the 2024 Olympics. It was the first U-23 appearance for all players except for Tessmann, who made three appearances at the 2021 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.

The USA qualified for its first Olympic Men’s Football Tournament in 16 years with a dominant performance at the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship. There, the U.S. topped host Honduras 3-0 before a raucous crowd in San Pedro Sula to secure its Olympic berth.

The Men’s Olympic Soccer Tournament is restricted to players under the age of 23 with an allowance for three overage players. The Olympic Men’s Soccer Team serves as an important part of the Federation’s mission to develop winning teams as it will provide some of the nation’s top young talent the opportunity to face elite opposition on the world stage next summer.


Match: United States Olympic Men’s Soccer Team vs. Mexico
Date: Oct. 11, 2023
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Phoenix Rising Stadium; Phoenix, Ariz.
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. local)
Weather: 86 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary:      1          2          F
USA                                1          1          2
MEX                               0          1          1

USA - Esmir Bajraktarevic                                  45+1
USA - Obed Vargas (Bernard Kamungo)          90
MEX - Jesús Brigido                                             90+3   

USA: 12-Patrick Schulte (22-John Pulskamp, 60); 2-Nathan Harriel (3-Caleb Wiley, 60), 13-Maximilian Dietz, 20-Jonathan Tomkinson (4-Brandan Craig, 60), 21-John Tolkin (5-Bryan Reynolds, 60); 8-Tanner Tessmann (16-Aidan Morris,, 6-Gianluca Busio (Capt.) (18-Obed Vargas, 60), 14-Jack McGlynn 15-Benjamin Cremaschi, 60); 17-Brian Gutierrez, 9-Duncan McGuire (7-Johan Gomez, 73) , 11-Taylor Booth (24-Esmir Bajraktarevic, 32) (23-Bernard Kamungo, 73)
Substitutes Not Used: 1-Chris Brady, 19-Indiana Vassilev
Head Coach: Marko Mitrović

MEX: 1-Fernando Tapia; 2-Pablo Monroy, 3-Rafael Fernandez, 4-Emilio Lara, 5-Mauricio Isais, 6-Erik Lira (Capt.), 7-Raymundo Fulgencio, 8-Sebastian Perez Bouquet, 9-Ettson Ayon, 10-Jordan Carrillo, 11-Bryan Gonzalez
Substitutes: 12-Eduardo Garcia, 13-Jesus Garza, 14-Diego Campillo, 15-Antonio Leone, 16-Oscar Villa, 17-Fidel Ambriz, 18-Ramiro Arciga, 19-Jeremy Marquez, 20-Diego Medina, 21-Jesús Brigido, 22-Ali Avila
Head Coach: Richard Cadena

Stats Summary:
Shots: 12 / 7
Shots on Goal: 7 / 2
Saves: 1 / 5
Fouls: 12 / 10
Offside: 1 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Duncan McGuire (Caution)                   27th minute
MEX – Erik Lira (Caution)                                 27
USA – Maximilian Dietz (Caution)                  34
USA – Tanner Tessmann (Caution)                36

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