NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan hailed the contribution of midfielder Tyler Adams in leading his side to a 1-0 victory over archrival Mexico on Tuesday night.
The New York Red Bulls midfielder scored the only goal, latching onto a low crossing pass from Antonee Robinson and side-footing home from 12 yards past Mexico keeper Hugo Gonzalez in the 71st minute. The goal came just four minutes after Mexico forward Angel Zaldivar was sent off for a late tackle on U.S. midfielder Wil Trapp.
"This kid's a beast," Sarachan said of Adams. "I mean, when you look at data and analytics and at the volume of work he does in 90 minutes ... you guys on the outside see a good part of it, but the data backs it up. He's just a winner, this kid."
The goal was Adams' first at the international level and came in just his seventh international appearance. But the 19-year-old has been making an impression on Sarachan in all facets of his game.
"I think I've been really pleased in terms of [Adams'] growth with the ball in tight spots," Sarachan said. "We know he can run and cover ground and win tackles and compete. But at the next level, can you have a presence with the ball in picking your spots? It just keeps getting better.
"It's not perfect, but I think he's shown that he's emerging. Everyone's starting to look up to him a little bit. When the game was getting crazy, Tyler was trying to calm it down; real good night for him."
For his part, Adams said he was thrilled to stand out.
"It was a gritty game like I expected. Obviously, getting a sniff of that at the youth national team level, I kind of knew what to expect because [there were] a lot of young faces from their team as well. So going out there and competing was the most important part," Adams said.
"Obviously to grab my first goal is pretty cool on this day, but to recognize all the people as well that went through such a tragic day, it's nice for us to get a win. The U.S. is all about pride and character, and I think we showed our character today."
For many of the U.S. players, the match was a first encounter with Mexico at the senior level and the win was even more emotional given that it came on the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that took nearly 3,000 lives.
"Playing here against Mexico on 9/11, it was an important night on many fronts, but from a soccer perspective, overall again I was pretty pleased in terms of the effort, and in terms of the collective, the way we made it hard on Mexico to create a lot of chances," Sarachan said. "I thought the first half, once again it could have been a little better in terms of our use of the ball and being a little dangerous."
The U.S. was forced into a 40th minute substitution when midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of the match with a left knee sprain. Sarachan brought on Julian Green and then switched to a 4-4-2 formation to start the second half. The forced change ended up benefiting the Americans as it not only increased the effectiveness of the U.S. attack, but it helped defensively as well, as Trapp had Adams deployed alongside him.
"I had toyed with the idea of playing two forwards to start the match," Sarachan said. "Weston took a knock. We kept an eye on him and he did need to come off and we felt that by adding Julian [Green], it was just another player that could hold up play for us. And I knew with Wil [Trapp] and with Tyler [Adams], they could certainly cover the middle of the midfield. I thought [adding Julian] gave us a little more of an opportunity to be dangerous going forward."
The game, which had been fairly subdued for the first 65 minutes, came to life after a confrontation between U.S. defender Matt Miazga and Mexico midfielder Diego Lainez. The flashpoint was followed quickly by Zaldivar's red card and Adams' goal.
For the U.S. it proved to be a positive introduction to a rivalry that has been plenty heated over the years. Sarachan, a veteran of many past encounters with El Tri, was pleased that his side kept its cool.
"This group definitely got a real taste of [the rivalry] over the last 72 hours after the Brazil match. As I've said, a lot of these young guys have played Mexico at the youth level, so it's not new to them, but we knew that at some point in the game, things might boil over and I think our guys showed great composure.
"I think that's one of the things going into games against CONCACAF opponents is having composure in moments where it could lead to maybe a red card or something. They got a good taste of it today."
For Sarachan, the win ended the current fixture window on a positive note.
"We've talked a lot about the tactics and the soccer, but the thing that we tried to keep talking to this group about is: What's the identity of this team? When fans watch this team, what do they come away with? We nitpick on the technical side, but you saw a team tonight that played aggressively, competed hard and won most of their duels. I think that's been a constant over the time I've had the group and over the past two games against Brazil and Mexico.
"I thought tonight was a little bit better with the ball. Still an area to improve, for sure. But this team, it was a real collective effort from the first guy to the 22nd. As a staff, what else can you ask for?"