The USMNT revolution has begun, with Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Portugal signalling a bright new beginning sprinkled with a touch of Bundesliga star dust.
Prompted by their failure to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup, new coach Dave Sarachan moved to alter the landscape and trusted some of the nation’s brightest young talent to take on European champions Portugal in an Iberia-based friendly. The move paid off, with the fledgling USA charges combining with a dash of experience to perform admirably in a 1-1 draw at the Estádio Dr. Magalhães Pessoa.
The contest’s stand-out contributor was Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie, the 19-year-old midfielder marking his first senior U.S. appearance with a confidently taken goal in the game’s first half.
“I’m going through the same stuff that [former American soccer greats Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra] went through; it’s mind blowing!” McKennie told the U.S. Soccer Federation in the build-up to Tuesday’s game against the No.3 ranked team in the world.
McKennie met his childhood idols Donovan and Bocanegra when his parents were based in Kaiserslautern in the past and said he, “always wanted to go back to Germany to play where I learned the sport.”
His return to Europe from club FC Dallas was – in part – inspired by current Borussia Dortmund tyro and USMNT favourite Christian Pulisic. “Seeing the success of Christian over there, it was like ‘I want that, I need that.’ I was hungry for it, to see what places my abilities would take me. I didn’t want to not know what I was capable of,” McKennie added.
Another Bundesliga player who hit the back of the net in Leiria was Wolfsburg’s John Brooks - although the defender’s header was ruled out for a foul in the build-up. At 24, Brooks represented the average age for Tuesday’s U.S. team and with his solid form in the Bundesliga since recovering from a long-standing injury, the former Hertha Berlin giant is also certain to play a big part in America’s aim to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
However, the player that featured at both the U-17 and U-20 World Cups this year spoke of his delight at being asked to team up with his senior colleagues. “I never thought I’d be here so soon [but] the fact that I am is amazing,” Sargent told U.S. Soccer.
“We can do it a lot sooner than we thought,” Sarachan added. “It gives the U.S. hope to see a lot of young talents. [Josh] has obviously impressed at both youth World Cups this year … we think he will have a bright future in the National Team program.”
Indeed, with the likes of Pulisic, McKennie, Brooks and soon-to-be Werder talent Sargent to the fore, the future of U.S. soccer is in safe hands.