1. Youth on show
Perhaps the most exciting element of friendly matches is the chance it provides youth players to make their debut at the senior level. Gregg Berhalter has certainly made the most of this situation, calling up a few phenoms that should feature versus Costa Rica.
The most marquee young name on the roster is Ulysses Llanez, who has represented the U.S. at almost every youth level possible. Now 18 and playing for Wolfburg academy, he is incredibly dangerous whenever he gets the ball high up the pitch. Llanez can shoot, pick out a killer pass in the final third, and is a capable dribbler. It will be fascinating to see what he can do on the senior international stage.
Then there’s the FC Dallas pairing of Jesus Ferreira and Brandon Servania, who are the most recent graduates of the club’s famous academy. Born in Colombia before becoming a U.S. citizen, Ferreira scored nine goals last season in MLS and has tremendous potential. Servania plays deeper on the pitch and can either track back or push forward when need be, showcasing his versatility.
In terms of the backline, Julian Araujo could come in to start at right-back. He became a key component of the defense for the Los Angeles Galaxy last year, which is quite something considering he is only 18. He has played in big games and has shown he can handle the pressure. There might already be some depth at that position, but another quality option like Araujo can never hurt.
Fans are finally starting to hope about the USMNT once again. And a large reason why is the burgeoning young talent around the world, much of which will be on show against Costa Rica on Saturday afternoon. For that reason alone, this is must-watch sport.