Slovenia edge United States in friendly as 24 make international debuts

Nejc Gradišar scored in the 26th minute of his international debut after an American giveaway, and Slovenia extended the United States’ winless streak against European opponents to six with a 1-0 win in a friendly match on Saturday in San Antonio between countries that top players were missing.

Twenty-four players made international debuts, including 13 Slovenians. Seven of the eleven American debutants were starters, tying the most Americans since the dawn of modern recording in 1990.

All Americans came from Major League Soccer for a match that did not take place on an international FIFA date. Players from Europe return when the U.S. faces Jamaica in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals on March 21.

After a November loss to Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. has lost back-to-back games under coach Gregg Berhalter for the first time since a pair of games against Mexico in 2019. The 12th-ranked USA have lost four straight games against European opponents and are winless against Europe since beating Bosnia and Herzegovina in December 2021.

Slovenia scored after Danijel Šturm took the ball from winger Bernard Kamungo just in front of the halfway line, dribbled and passed it to 21-year-old Gradišar, who sprinted in front of defender Sean Zawadzki. With the outside of his right foot, Gradišar pushed the ball past oncoming goalkeeper Patrick Schulte.

Šturm, Gradišar, Kamungo, Zawadzki and Schulte all made their debuts.

Slovenian goalkeeper Igor Vekič, also making his debut, used his right foot to block Kamungo’s open shot from close to the penalty spot in the 30th minute. Second-half substitute John Tolkin created a couple of good chances wide in the final 15 minutes.

The seven American starters making their debut matched the total from 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 came on in the 61st minute and Aziel Jackson in the 89th. The eleven debuts were just one shy of the American high of August 3, 1973 against Poland, and tied on January 10, 1988 in Guatemala.

Seventy-one players made their debuts in Berhalter’s 67 games, the second-highest total under an American coach behind 89 debuts in 148 games with Bruce Arena.

Tillman became part of the 10th group of brothers to play for the USA; Malik Tillman made his debut in 2022 and made eight appearances.

Right-back Shaq Moore made his first appearance since the 2022 World Cup against Iran and centre-back Miles Robinson captained the US for the first time.

Eight starters made their debut for 54th-ranked Slovenia, which will play Denmark, Serbia and England in the group stages of the European Championship in June.