The upcoming USMNT friendly against Morocco begins preparations for the 2022 World Cup.
In a normal World Cup year, late May and very early June have specific roles. Nations announce squads, make last-minute preparations and send the sides off with a slew of send-off games. This year, the World Cup is in Qatar. The blisteringly hot summers pushed the tournament back to November and December.
Therefore, May and June are still consisting of friendly games. However, managers have an eye on who will eventually make the World Cup rosters. Such is the case for the USMNT as they gear up for a four-game window. This set of fixtures marks the final home games for the U.S. before the World Cup. The first of these games is against Morocco.
USMNT friendly against Morocco
Gregg Berhalter called a roster with a mix of locked-in starters and those with an outside shot of being on the plane to Qatar. A number of these players did not make appearances for a variety of reasons. That could be injury or poor form, or even both in some cases.
Walker Zimmerman, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Christian Pulisic figure to be almost automatic selections. Other players, such as Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers, Heracles midfielder Luca de la Torre and Antalyaspor forward Haji Wright are on the fence. All three are seemingly fringe players being given their last chance to make it to the World Cup.
The wild card in the deck is 20-year-old Malik Tillman of Bayern Munich. Tillman represented Germany at the youth levels. However, FIFA granted the midfielder a one-time switch to the United States. It seems that before every World Cup there is one player who comes out of nowhere to make the roster. For example, in 2014 it was Julian Green. In 2022, it could be Malik Tillman.
On the injury front, a number of USMNT players pulled out of this window of games due to injury. Notably, goalkeeper Zack Steffen and midfielder Djordje Mihailovic are unavailable for Gregg Berhalter.
Previously, Morocco proved to be a tough opponent for the US. The African side has three wins in three games against the Americans. The last time these two sides met came way back in 2006. Nashville’s Nissan Stadium was the venue as Morocco saw the United States off with a narrow 1-0 win on May 23 ahead of the World Cup in Germany.
Morocco failed to qualify for four-straight World Cups from 2002 to 2014. However, the nation marked its return to the tournament in 2018. There, Morocco failed to win a gam and finished bottom of its group.
Morocco’s recent form is admirable over recent years. It blitzed through its qualification group with six wins in six games. After that, Morocco advanced to the World Cup after beating the Democratic Republic of Congo in a home-and-home playoff. Additionally, Morocco reached the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations back in January. Egypt ended Morocco’s run with an extra time victory.
These results put Morocco’s current FIFA World Ranking at No. 24.
Following this friendly against the U.S., Morocco flies back home to prepare for qualification for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Morocco’s roster features players plying their trades in a whole slew of different countries. Representatives in France, Belgium, England, Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Italy and, of course, Morocco represent the national side. While a number of players have a good number of caps for the team, the squad seems to be light on goal scoring. Only 24-year-old Youssef En-Nesyri of Sevilla has double digit goals to his name. He scored 12 time in 45 appearances for the Atlas Lions.
When and where to watch USA vs. Morocco
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The USMNT friendly against Morocco kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET from TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. This is the third time during the current cycle the USMNT is playing in Cincinnati. Plus, this is the sixth game during the current cycle played in the state of Ohio.
English-language coverage of the game is on ESPN2, with Jon Champion and Taylor Twellman on the call.
The next game for the United States is just four days later. On Sunday, June 5, the USMNT plays Uruguay at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. Coverage is at 5 p.m. ET on FOX for Sunday’s game.
PHOTO: John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images
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