Exactly one month removed from disgracefully crashing and burning out of World Cup 2018 contention, the United States men’s national team has brought a squad full of youth and inexperience to Portugal as they attempt to move beyond the agony of their failures in Trinidad, while building a pathway way to Qatar 2022.
Deprived of meaningful competition until the 2019 Gold Cup, the U.S. will have to rely on rather trivial friendly matches to develop young players and turn the spotlight on players who have until recently been on the fringe. These initiatives began on Tuesday evening as two teenage prospects, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, received their first international caps and became appointed to the team’s starting eleven.
The night became even more memorable for McKennie when he confidently received the ball 20 yards out and took a flawless first touch, eluding a defender with a subtle drop of the shoulder and slotting home the game’s opening goal. This happened in the 20th minute of the game, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead.
However, the team’s inexperience was on display in the 31st minute, when U.S. goalkeeper Ethan Horvath let an easy save slide through his legs. This allowed Portugal to equalize before the half. These are growing pains that U.S. supporters might get used to over the next couple years as the federation continues its transition into a younger team.
Adams was also able to impress on Tuesday night, displaying a consistent work rate, defensive ability and a capacity to become involved in the team’s effort. This included a headed effort that required a goal line save from Portugal’s keeper. Adams, along with Matt Miazga and Juan Agudelo, represented an impressive contingent of former New York Red Bulls academy graduates to find their way into the national team.
It is going to take some time before the pain of missing out on a World Cup begins to dissipate, but fans should be able to find joy in the promising players making their way up the ranks. As long as the people in charge continue to give these young men the opportunities they need to grow, the disappointment that fans are feeling can be converted into fuel for the next crop of talent.
The boys will suit up again on January 28th as they take on Bosnia & Herzegovina at the Stubhub Center in Los Angeles. Hopefully fans get a look at some new faces as this team and this country places an emphasis on youth development and continues to take the necessary steps it needs to achieve their ultimate goals.