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Tonight’s U.S. friendly is all about culture and a clean slate

Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer

With an interim coach, a weird international break, and —sigh— no World Cup on the horizon, it’s easy to blow off tonight’s USMNT friendly versus Paraguay (7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1/Unimas). And honestly, it’s not a big deal if you do. Because the most important aspect of this U.S. national team camp is what happens off-the-field, not on it.

After a devastatingly poor World Cup qualifying cycle mired with mental errors, inconsistency, and playing scared to lose, interim manager Dave Sarachan has called up one of the youngest rosters ever.

It’s the dawn of a new generation of U.S. players. These kids are young and hungry, and have an undeniable swagger that the prior cycle lacked. It was that very lack of swagger – of confidence watered down with apathy – that led to a half-hearted effort and loss on that terrible night in Trinidad & Tobago.

And while these kids are dang good on the field – yes, this is likely the best generation of players this country has ever seen – putting this group together in the middle of North Carolina is all about building chemistry and a new, fresh soccer culture for the next cycle.

This age group grew up competing against other elite players and squads across the world. They have a globetrotting flair and adventures under their belts that no previous generation of American soccer players has experienced. And yet they are American through and through, full of the bombasticity and tenacity we have always held dear on the soccer pitch. This week’s national team camp should be a celebration of the young talent coming through the pipeline and the first brick in building a new culture around those players.

Some notes:
  • The average age of the U.S. roster is 23-years-old (Eric Lichaj is the oldest player at 29; Tim Weah the youngest at 18)
  • The roster is very Academy heavy – featuring several players who came up in MLS academies and/or went to Europe to play as high schoolers (yep, we’re doing something right)
  • This generation is stacked on defense – Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Erik Palmer-Brown, Antonee Robinson, and Shaq Moore are all super talented and doing well on the club side
  • Auston Trusty is most certainly in consideration for the summer national team camp, but wisely stayed with the Union this week while still getting comfortable as an MLS starter
  • No Pulisic is no problem – we already know what the Borussia Dortumund wunderkind brings to the table, this camp is about finding who can help him out
Players to watch:
  • Tim Weah is for real, for real; all you need to know is that he’s getting time with Paris Saint-Germain’s very, very wealthy first team
  • Antonee Robinson might not ring a bell for American fans, but the left back has been turning heads at the vaunted Everton academy and would fill a position of major need for the Yanks
  • Shaq Moore has looked very good for Levante in La Liga and should compete for time at right back with DeAndre Yedlin
  • Downingtown’s own Zack Steffen should be the goalkeeper of the future
  • I know he plays for New York, but Tyler Adams is the heir-apparent to Michael Bradley and a consummate leader on the field – his intensity and ability to dictate play are unmatched

10 Comments

  1. I’d wait to see what type of lineup they put out first before I declare the process started for this team.

  2. pragmatist says:

    Yes, going to the World Cup would have been MUCH better, but……..
    .
    You now get a younger generation with years to grow together. They are potentially better all over the roster than any previous squad, and they most certainly have more high-level experience than any previous squad. AND they are going to have to watch the World Cup instead of playing in it, which is going to piss them off, especially when they get back to their clubs and have to listen to their teammates talk about how awesome it was.
    .
    There will be no lack of motivation for this squad after this WC cycle. They are being pushed into the role of American Soccer Saviors. Let’s see if they are up for it. I’m guessing this is the start of an evolutionary leap for soccer in this country.

  3. Could you imagine if Steffen was here. We would have homegrown players with a chance to be national team starters or backups at GK, RB, CB (x2), and LB.

    • Atomic Spartan says:

      I admit it would be nice to feature guys with caps. But given the MLS habit of continuing league play during NT breaks, it could put teams like the U at a disadvantage. We need all our top level players on the field playing all out just to steal games. Or at least that seems to be the coaching philosophy around here.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        With respect, I’d sacrifice MLS league games every day of the week to watch a NT that featured 2 to 3 of this countries youth studs starting in Philly and having been a product of our pipeline. An absolute no brainer.
        .
        Course maybe you and I have different hopes and expectations for the game.

  4. I want to watch to see the guys play together. See if the chemistry is starting. See who looks good on the ball. If they are able to stay in the match for 90 mins! I’m not as analytical as some on this page but I know what passes the eye test. Hope they pass the eye test!!

  5. We’re not going to know if we’re “doing something right” with DA just because that’s who gets called up. DA is the only place that gets scouted heavily, but that doesn’t mean it in itself is sufficient for developing talent in this country.
    .
    Everyone from IMG got called up the past few years, you’d think based on that face that it means IMG was doing something right, but in face we missed the World Cup because the IMG guys weren’t good enough.

    • So the whole roster (which, by the way, all have professional contracts many in Europe, some in Mex.) have all played for a DA at some point? Nah, 15 of 23 played with a DA But, I’ll concede your point that a DA has been involved in the development of some of them. I think the point really is that these individuals are now playing with some good teams and are getting meaningful minutes at a young age. Does it matter that they may have been in a DA team at some point. None are in a DA now, they have moved on. Someone else has scouted them and they are proving their worth elsewhere. Is the scouting net wide enough with the DA’s? No. Is it wider than IMG? Yes. Is there a clearer path to the pro’s now? Probably. Oh and the elephant not in this room (sorry Pachy) our own local hero from Hershey played for a DA. Perhaps more interesting to me is that fact that I think only one player on the roster spent anytime in a college team is the old man on the team, Eric Lichaj. I call that progress.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Agree. Well Said. How anyone could watch that game and not say, hmm- as broken as the doom sayers say it is stateside, myself included, it’s clear progress is being made and players that began in this pipeline are moving abroad some earlier than others to a large degree (a good outcome) and then showing excellent potential at the INT level.
        .
        It was Paraguay… but the level of technical skill (clearly better), poise and moxy was … totally refreshing and most definitely not the norm.
        .
        Maybe we look back someday and say that ‘jag off’ disgrace, shitty WTF failure of a qualifying- summer of watching World Cup also excised necrotic tissue for some nice pink rich granular.

      • Pink Rich Granular… I think I saw them play a show with UK Subs, Anti Nowhere League and Suicidal Tendencies back in my youth 😉

        Seriously though, I’m dreading the empty feeling coming this way during this summer’s World Cup. But these pups have me looking up more than I have been since about 2015 or so. I’ll take it!!

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