United States midfielder Christian Pulisic said that the squad must stop playing afraid against rivals Mexico.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez scored in the first half, Erick Gutierrez and Uriel Antuna had late goals four minutes apart in Mexico's win over the U.S. in the friendly at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
"We still play with fear against them, and that is what I can't really live with," Pulisic said after the USMNT's 3-0 loss to Mexico on Friday night. "That needs to change."
"We have to go and play like we're good enough to be out there, be confident and play without thinking twice about it. That's how it needs to be, and that's just not where we're at right now."
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The Americans, still trying to rebound from their failure to reach last year's World Cup, lost to Mexico by three goals for the first time since a 5-0 defeat in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup final. El Tri beat the U.S. 1-0 two months ago in the latest Gold Cup final and has won four of the last six meetings, with one draw.
"You guys are going to think I'm crazy, I'm happier about this game than I am about the Gold Cup final," U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. "In the Gold Cup final, I felt like all we did was play the ball long and that was our only solution. And now at least we tried to play in the way that we're envisioning."
Berhalter used just five starters from the Gold Cup final and Mexico coach Gerardo "Tata" Martinez two as many of his regulars returned. Berhalter pointed to better possession and passing accuracy, but still the Americans were outshot 10-6 and Berhalter said the attack "kind of stalled" in the final third.
U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who played under Berhalter in Columbus, said he believes in the coach's build-from-the-back system.
"We're going to eat goals, but it's a process," Steffen said. "You could definitely see where we need to improve and come together more and really trust one another and be brave and just be fearless."
Morales hit a post in the 80th minute, and when the U.S. was awarded a penalty kick, Pulisic handed the ball to 19-year-old Joshua Sargent. The forward's 88th-minute attempt was stopped by Jonathan Orozco, who dived to his right.
"Christian felt very confident in myself," Sargent said. "I was unfortunate not to make that one, but it happens and I look forward to the next one."
Sergino Dest, an 18-year-old who has gained playing time for Ajax this season, started at left back and became the third American born in the 2000s to play for the national team after Tim Weah and Sargent.
"He lacked a little bit of aggressiveness going forward when Christian was coming inside. But overall pleased with his performance," Berhalter said.
Dest can switch to the Netherlands if he doesn't play a competitive match for the U.S. He had a curling 25-yard shot in the 14th minute that was punched away.
Jesus "Tecatito" Corona created the first goal when he dribbled past Pulisic, played the ball through the legs of Dest, then took a touch and made an open cross to an unmarked Hernandez. Chicharito's diving header from eight yards was his 52nd international goal.
"It was a great action from him," Dest said. "I don't think I played a bad game or something, but it was just that moment was crucial. I have to learn from it."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.