Back in the World Cup, after missing the 2018 edition, Team USA will be back in Qatar and will face England, Iran, and the qualified team between Scotland, Ukraine, and Wales.
An affordable group for Pulisic and his family who will do everything to play the party troubles in Doha.
This time it’s official, the United States will be in Qatar in 2022. Despite the Stars and Stripes’ defeat against Costa Rica (2-0), Christian Pulisic and his teammates finished in third place in their qualifying group behind Canada and Mexico.
They exorcised the old demons of 2017, those who had prevented them from taking part in the Russian edition 4 years ago. In Doha, Team USA inherited Group B alongside England, Iran, and the last European barragist, and it will be Scotland, Ukraine, or Wales.
It is an affordable group for the American selection that has all the weapons to qualify, thanks to its young generation full of talent.
In the United States, it is often referred to as “Couva Night.” On October 11, 2017, it was at the Ato Boldon Stadium, the home of the Trinidad and Tobago national team.
While a draw was enough for the Americans to qualify, Tim Howard and his teammates quickly found themselves led by two goals and could not return to the score. “It’s a real trauma,” says Antoine Lateran, the site Culture Soccer editor-in-chief.
“It should have been the last World Cup for veterans like Altidore, Bradley, or Dempsey. Christian Pulisic, kneeling with his head in his hands at the end of the match, symbolizes this evening. He was only 19 years old.”
This non-qualification to the World Cup is the starting point of a real revolution within the American federation.
Exit the veterans, place to the young with the appointment of a character then little known for those who do not follow the MLS: Gregg Berhalter, the former coach of the Columbus Crew. “At the time of his appointment, Berhalter’s name is not very popular with fans,” recalls Antoine Lateran, “He has a real legitimacy problem because he is young, because he is American, and played and coached in MLS. It’s not the big-name the fans have been waiting for.
A new generation to rekindle the flame.
To face criticism, the coach, who will celebrate his 49th birthday in August, decides to significantly rejuvenate his team that goes from 32 years of average age against Trinidad and Tobago to 24 against Costa Rica this week.
But beyond his choices, Gregg Berhalter is very involved in the career of his players and does not hesitate to advise them.
“Where the coach has been good is that he has helped young Americans make their career choices. When we look at the team lined up in 2018/19, we find players like Tyler Adams, who was in MLS at the time, Weston McKennie at Schalke 04, or Josh Sargent at the reserve of Werder Bremen.
3 years later, McKennie was a starter at Juventus, Adams at Leipzig, and Sargent played regularly in the Premier League. He accompanied them throughout this process, which makes the national team rather competitive.” explains Antoine Lateran.
The example of Tyler Adams is probably the most telling since the 23-year-old midfielder has said several times that he talks every week with his coach to discuss his last game or how he wants to play it.
Trained at the New York Red Bulls, he also symbolizes the development of MLS, which has completely revolutionized its development policy in recent years.
To put it simply, the American championship was, until recently, a league where former European stars were going to finish their careers. In recent years, it has offered itself a real makeover.
In less than 10 years, MLS has invested heavily in the training of young players and has created 133 independent academies and clubs from U13 to U19. In March, a new championship started: the “MLS Next PRO,” a semi-professional league for young players.
“The MLS Next pro allows young people to store playing time and MLS clubs to have 60 players rather than 30 with many young people, “says Antoine Latran, who welcomes this new policy implemented in MLS.
The absence of a real number 9: the big problem of selection
Today the team is reaching maturity, led by Christian Pulisic (47 caps), the star of Team USA. The Chelsea player, a true technical leader, stands out for his speed, dribbling, and especially his ability to shine in big matches, whether with the Blues or the Stars and Stripes.
In midfield, Tyler Adams (23 caps) and Weston McKennie (31 caps) are excellent when they are not injured, and the defense is carried by Walker Zimmerman (27 caps), one of the best defenders in MLS for two seasons.
If this small group can nurture great ambitions, there is still a serious problem within the American squad: no center-forward manages to impose himself.
“There are 5 or 6 names that have been rotating for 2 or 3 years,” says Antoine Lateran. “The first option is Ricardo Pepi, but he no longer plays since he arrived in Augsburg this winter. Then there is Jordan Siebatcheu, the top scorer of the Swiss championship, but it has never worked in the selection.
The third name is Josh Sargent, but Norwich makes him play winger, and finally, there is Jesus Ferreira, the Dallas striker who can win his place but does not have a hyper sexy profile.
Now that she has landed her ticket to Qatar, a question arises: how far can the American team go? To this question, the editor-in-chief of Culture Soccer has little idea.
“The United States can qualify in the eighth, and I can’t wait to see that. Firstly, there has been a small rivalry with England since the 2010 World Cup and the big political context for the match against Iran.” The USA and England have already faced each other 12 times.
Their last meeting was in November 2018 and had turned in favor of the Three Lions, who had won 3-0. With this rather favorable draw, the objective is clear: to qualify in eighth and why not in the quarters.
If Pulisic and his team manage to eliminate one of the teams in Group A, it will be Qatar, the Netherlands, Senegal, or Ecuador.