With three German Bundesliga starters in the starting XI, Gregg Berhalter's USMNT returned to action for the first time in nine months on Thursday.
Though there were no goals in the 0-0 friendly draw with Wales, plenty of Bundesliga familiars were quick to report that they did indeed enjoy themselves.
|Weston McKennie.||Photo: Erik Drost, CC BY-SA 2.0|
The US Men's national team finally took the to the pitch for the first time in the global COVID Era. The USSF having deemed that a trip across the pond posed too many risks, most of the European based US Internationals made a short trip over to Swansea City's Liberty stadium for an exhibition against the Welsh national team. In four days time, the squad will head to Wiener Neustadt in Austria for another friendly against CONCACAF rivals Panama.
With so many athletes and clubs across the globe already having had the the chance to express solidarity with America's recent domestic social justice movement, the USMNT starters beamed with pride as they got the chance to display their own messages on their warm up jerseys.
Schalke's Weston McKennie, the first Bundesliga player to don a "Black Lives Matter" armband last spring, sported a warm up jacket with "for social justice" on the back. Dortmund phenom Giovanni Reyna, making his USMNT team debut, wore one reading "spread love, not hate".
Tyler Adams of New York ("all equal") linked arms with John Anthony Brooks of Berlin ("stop racism") as all players lined up for the National Anthem with the words "Be the change" emblazoned across the front of their coats.
The lineup itself resembled a simple 4-3-3. Sebastian Lletget of the LA Galaxy served as the lead striker; sometimes pocketing in a bit of a false-nine role to make way for Reyna--deployed rightward--and his fellow teenage phenom Konrad de la Fuente of FC Barcelona, who assumed Reyna's usual club position on the left.
The midfield consisted of a rotating eight set-up with Adams and McKennie joined by 17-year-old Yunus Musah of Valencia. Brooks paired at center back with former Red Bull NY defender Matt Miazaga. Former Fortuna Düsseldorf loanee Zack Steffen returned to action as the starter between the sticks.
Chances were at a premium for much of the game. It nevertheless remains worth noting that the US side retained nearly seventy percent possession against a much more experienced hosting side. The Brooks-Miaga center-back duo coordinated well despite having a scant two limited training sessions to work on their communication. Steffen, who looked legitimately healthy after his sustained injury spell, made two nifty saves with his feet.
As the analysis trickled in on various American footballing sites, the common thread among the tactics watchers centered around the impressive performances of McKennie and Adams in midfield. The two Bundesligists covered a great deal of ground with their rotations. Great combination play was also on display from the youngsters. Writing for the Athletic, USMNT expert Paul Tenorio noted that Adams and McKennie could serve as the heart of the midfield "for years to come."
Other reviews praised Brooks' defensive performance more explicitly. There had emerged a few stories in the US Media in recent days whether a German-born and German speaking player such as Brooks could still feel comfortable on a US Team that no longer featured other native German sons such as Jermaine Jones, Timothy Chandler, Julian Green, Fabian Johnson, and Danny Williams. The 27-year-old Berliner appeared, at least one the surface, to enjoy himself.
A general sense of having had fun suiting up once again in the US colors permeated the post-match interviews. McKennie called it "fun to be a part of", spoke of the team's confidence on the ball as a "good-stepping stone".
"Tonight I think you saw glimpses of what we can really do well," Adams noted in a post-match interview, "some of our pressing moments and where we won the ball upfield to be effective in the final third."