It’s been a long time since the USMNT played a game. The last game was on February 1 against Costa Rica (a dull 1-0 win at the end of the annual January camp). March had promised a pair of interesting friendlies against Wales and Netherlands, but then the COVID pandemic hit and international soccer was put on hiatus. Other countries began to resume playing international games as early as September, and most came back by October. US Soccer, however, opted to wait until November to make a return. But the USMNT is finally back and plays its first game in over nine months against Wales.
With no international soccer to speak of for most of the calendar year, the attention of USMNT fans has turned to young prospects plying their trade at various clubs across Europe. This has turned out to be a rather fruitful pastime as many of the players that Gregg Berhalter has called into this camp have been players fans have had their eyes on for months now. Only one player of the twenty-four on the roster is over the age of 30 (that would be Tim Ream) while seven of them are teenagers.
But while there are plenty of new faces, several familiar names are there as well. In goal are Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath, and newcomer Chituru Odunze of Leicester City. On the backline there’s the aforementioned Ream, 2014 World Cup hero John Brooks, Reggie Cannon, Matt Miazga, Antonee Robinson, prized dual-national Sergino Dest, and Bayern Munich up-and-comer Chris Richards. In the midfield is Weston McKennie, fresh off his move to Juventus. The only MLS player on the roster in Sebastian Lletget. Meanwhile, Tyler Adams plus a host of uncapped players are included such as Johnny Cardoso, Richie Ledezma, recent US commit Yunus Musah, and Owen Otasowie. Up front is where things get even more exciting. Despite Christian Pulisic being ruled because of an injury picked up with Chelsea, Tim Weah makes his US return as does Uly Llanez (who scored the only goal against Costa Rica in February). Also making waves are Konrad de la Fuente who has been earning first team minutes at Barcelona, Giovanni Reyna (son of US great Claudio Reyna) and 20-year-old Sebastian Soto.
This is without a doubt the highest quality roster that Berhalter has called up in his time as US manager. And while many US fans and media will be willing to give him a pass if results in these two friendlies don’t go his way (the US plays Panama a few days after Wales), it bears remembering that the US is going to have a packed 2021 with CONCACAF Nations League play, Gold Cup, and World Cup Qualifying. This roster seems to prove that depth should not be a problem when dealing with three competitions next year but results matter. And this team and this fan base desperately need a shot of adrenaline to get their confidence back heading into a busy 2021. They can start that with a win over a quality opponent in Wales.
Much like the US, Wales is using the friendly window to prepare for a busy 2021. Ahead, they have games in the UEFA Nations League, World Cup qualifying, and the all-important Euro 2020 (which were originally supposed to be played this past summer but has been moved to summer of next year for obvious reasons). The roster is much more experienced than the US roster. The goalkeeper might be the weakest spot. Regular goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey is still recovering from injury, so Danny Ward is currently the most experienced player in the squad with just seven caps. Wales’ backline is solid with Chris Gunter earning 97 caps, Tottenham’s Ben Davies earning 57 caps, and Swansea City Connor Roberts with 20 caps. In the midfield, they have a solid group with five players earning double digit appearances. But the star of the show for the Welsh is, of course, Gareth Bale, their captain and talisman. In 85 appearances for Wales, he has 33 goals. Whether he plays or not will depend on what Wales assistant coach Rob Page wants to hear the wrath from Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho who has publicly expressed his concern at Wales playing Bale too much.
Oddly enough, the Welsh roster features fewer players at big time clubs than the US roster. Bale obviously just made a move from Real Madrid back to Tottenham but outside of Neco Williams playing for Liverpool, the bulk of the Welsh roster plies their trade in the English Championship.
1. This game between the US and Wales is a make-up game of the match that was supposed to have been played between the two back in March.
2. This is the first game the US has played in Europe since a 1-0 loss to Italy in November 2018.
3. The US has not won a game on European soil since a 2-1 win over Germany in June of 2015.
When and where to watch the game on US TV:
May 26, 2003
Spartan Stadium, San Jose, California
USA 2-0 Wales
Current FIFA ranking:
Next USMNT game:
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