It wasn’t always the prettiest for the United States national team, who emerged on Sunday with a 2-1 win at Northern Ireland in an international friendly. But what is beginning to emerge for the United States is a bit of confidence ahead of a busy summer and a crucial fall.
For a young American side, it was an important boost against a quality European side. The Yanks are now on a bit of a roll. Since a July Gold Cup loss to Mexico, the United States national team has drawn at Wales, beaten Panama (6-2), hammered El Salvador (6-0) then Trinidad & Tobago (7-0) followed the 4-1 win over Jamaica last week and now a strong Welsh side.
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Three thoughts from Sunday’s friendly win in Belfast and what it means for the program:
Musah Time – The big news from Sunday wasn’t the result against a solid European side. Nope. It was getting Yunus Musah cap-tied officially. Even though the Valencia midfielder has made it clear that his international future was with the red, white and blue, it is still a relief to get him that fourth cap, which guarantees his future is with the Americans.
And only the Americans.
Musah is intriguing because he can slow things down in the midfield while also having the pace and athleticism to play on the wing. That he plays consistently at 19-years old for a good La Liga side makes his development integral for the Unite States bouncing back into the World Cup next year.
Style and Substance – All too often, the United States performs poorly but gets a result. Or plays well and is disappointed by the scoreboard. These last two games, and frankly since the Gold Cup Final loss to Mexico, it sure feels like the United States is playing well and getting results.
All things considered, it was two good games for the United States. They’ve sent a message in recent months that they are ready to be dominant in the region.
While fans may ho-hum some of the recent opponents, these are the caliber of matches that the Americans will face this fall in qualifying. The recent roll of blowouts (Panama, El Salvador, Jamaica) shows a side that should be able to get some serious results this fall to book a place back in the World Cup.
The Dike is Open – In his second international appearance, Darryl Dike came off the bench and looked lively as well as productive in his 27 minutes of action. He nearly scored just a handful of minutes in and in the 81st minute, forced a good save from Northern Ireland’s goalkeeper Conor Hazard.
Dike’s loan spell at Barnsley has been tremendously productive and has showcased his ability on and off the ball. This international appearance underscored his ability to run channels and win balls.
Start finishing a few of those chances and the striker situation for Gregg Berhalter becomes very intriguing. It is a good problem for the the United States national team as a whole.
And One More Thing…
This is a golden era for the United States with players overseas, starting for prominent European clubs. But the national team nonetheless owes a lot to MLS and the academy system. A reminder that the three starting centerbacks on Sunday all started in MLS with Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls) still in the league. Even as the national team becomes more Euro-centric in terms of club ball, it is clear that there is a big place for MLS in developing the next level of talent.
Even the likes of goal scorer Gio Reyna, came up through the ranks at New York City FC before signing with Borussia Dortmund. The future of the United States national team is linked directly to the growth of these academies.