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Can U.S. Soccer Live Up to Its Promise?

November 23rd, 2020 · 3 Comments · Football, soccer

The new (to me) slogan attached to the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team is kinda cute.


All caps and a period, see? So “US” can be a pronoun as well as the US in the abbreviation for “United States”.

It is a temptation to blurt out a rejoinder to that:


But that would be a cheap shot. Even in the context of the meltdown that led to the Yanks’ failure to qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup and pretty much falling off the map of American sports since then. (Going 421 days without a coach didn’t help.)

Perhaps you recall October 10, 2017, a Day That Will Live in U.S. Soccer Infamy.

Trinidad & Tobago 2, US 1. When all the Yanks needed was a draw versus the bottom side in the Concacaf hexagonal to reach the World Cup finals for the eighth consecutive quadrennial cycle.

At the time, I thought it was a disappointment, not a disaster. It was noted that pretty much every soccer nation fails to reach the World Cup once in awhile. (Italy in 2018, Uruguay in 2006, England and France in 1994. And all of those countries have won a World Cup — or four).

Missing a World Cup affords an opportunity for a national federation to reconsider its methods for developing players and having a close look at its talent pool. It also could be a pause to get rid of a coach or maybe a top executive. (Goodbye, Sunil Gulati!)

There is, of course, a chance that what was needed was a little less upheaval. The player pool has turned over almost entirely, since that night in Trinidad, and the federation is selling that turnover. (See the slogan, above.)

The Yanks played two internationals last week, versus Wales (0-0) and Panama (6-2), and it seemed clear the No. 1 priority was getting the kids’ feet wet. No fewer than nine of them made their U.S. debuts in one of the two matches.

The nine.

–Dortmund forward Gio Reyna, 18, son of former U.S. playmaker Claudio Reyna;

–Valencia winger Yunus Musah, 17, who is eligible to play for England, Italy, Ghana or the US. He has one goal for Valencia’s first team.

–Barcelona winger Konrad de la Fuente, 19, who has yet to get on the field with Barca’s first team;

–Caen forward Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, who scored twice against Panama;

–Internacional (Brazil) midfielder Johnny Cardoso, 19;

–Wolverhampton midfielder Owen Otasowie, 19;

–SC Telstar forward Sebastian Soto, 20, who scored twice against Panama;

–Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards, 20, who is playing with the Bayern varsity;

–PSV midfielder Richy Ledezma, 20, who had two assists in the Panama match.

During their recent time with the men’s team, it pretty much was only about the kids. The 11 who started in the Panama game carried an average age of 22 years, 154 days, the second-youngest U.S. lineup in history, according to the U.S. federation.

Also, all 11 of the starters in the Panama game play for teams in Europe. That had not happened since 2011.

So, for those of us who have paid little attention to the men over the past three years … we will want to get up to speed with all these young guys, if we want to remain current.

A few guys of whom you may have heard were with the team, and a couple of the most prominent were not there at all.

Tim Ream, a fiery 33-year-old central defender who plays for Fulham, wore the captain’s armband for both games. That would suggest he has a pretty good chance to be at the Qatar World Cup next year, barking out orders.

A sure thing for playing in Doha next year, barring injuries, is Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, the face of the team. American fans should pray for his health every night.

Josh Sargent, who has started at forward for the German club Werder Bremen, also looks like an early favorite to play in Doha.

And Zack Steffen, a regular in the nets for Fortuna Dusseldorf, on loan from Manchester City, seems to have seized control of the goalkeeper job.

All the kids … makes for pleasant daydreams, but it seems likely U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter mostly will go for guys with a few more years and many more games on their resumes.

Things will get serious pretty soon. Concacaf qualifying for the 2022 World Cup is scheduled to begin on June 21 of the coming year, and Berhalter will have to make some decisions on how he will shape his team.

So don’t look for any more surges of children on the pitch. I’m guessing the future will be mostly about more experienced hands.


3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Doug // Nov 24, 2020 at 7:33 PM

    I can’t remember when the U.S. men’s team had so many talented young players who have both skill and tactical awareness. The U.S. actually has a midfield that can control the play against many teams. A couple of notes: Ream is mostly a squad player now with Fulham, not a starter and Steffen is back with Man City and no longer on loan with Fortuna. I think you are correct that the team will need some vets to lead them through the freak show that CONCACAF World Cup qualifying always is. Still, after the last couple of miserable seasons, it really does look like the U.S. is heading in the right direction.

  • 2 Gene Hiigel // Nov 26, 2020 at 8:46 PM

    I think soccer has become increasingly a young man’s game and that Berhalter will go that direction. Today, assuming no injuries, I see at least four of those 21 and unders as locks for starting in qualifying next year and Doha in 2022—Pulisic at Chelsea, of course, Reyna at Dortmund (and he will push Pulisic for stardom), Dest at Barca (another one who will push Pulisic as the star) and Tyler Adams at Leipzig, plus, if by some miracle Musah choses the US, Musah. Then you add in Steffin, who is young for a goalkeeper (but unfortunately getting only cup matches at Man City).

    Unfortunately I don’t see where the goals are coming from—maybe Pulisic, but I have little faith in young Sargent as yet or “old” guys like Altidore.or Zardes.

  • 3 Gene Hiigel // Dec 8, 2020 at 8:42 PM

    How could I have forgotten one of my favorite young Americans? Weston McKinnie at Juventus. Guess he showed me by scoring in a Serie A match on Saturday and then a spectacular goal today against Barca in Champion’s League.

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