Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, making a save during last year’s Concacaf Gold Cup, played a solid game for the USA. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
SWANSEA, Wales – All things considered not bad, not bad at all.
Considering the team hadn’t played for 285 days, considering this squad had all of two days of training, considering the average age of the lineup was 22 years and 252 days and considering the Starting XI averaged eight caps per player, the U.S. men’s national team didn’t fare too badly against Wales at Liberty Stadium Thursday.
The Americans’ score draw against Wales won’t make many highlight videos, but there were some encouraging moments for the team, which was the fourth youngest USMNT lineup to start a match.
“I told the guys in the locker room that I was proud of them,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said. You’re starting to see some of the energy that I talked about, especially in the defensive side with our pressing i thought was relentless all game. Really unbalanced the Wales team, didn’t let them settle into a rhythm. “I was also proud because we had two days to work together right two days in abbreviated sessions.
“Offensively I think we need to continue to improve continue to threaten the backline. We didn’t do that enough in this game today. But, we saw enough to be pleased and you know six guys made their debut.”
Six players made their first appearances for the team.
Seventeen-year-old Gio Reyna made his much-anticipated debut at midfield, as did Konrad de La Fuente and Yunus Musah. Also earning their first caps – Johnny Cardoso, who replaced former Red Bulls stalwart Tyler Adams in the 71st minute, Nicholas Gioacchini, who came on for Reyna in the 79th minute and Owen Otasowie, who subbed for Sebastian Lletget in the 87th minute.
They and their teammates had to play on a water-logged field and in the rain.
The last time the USMNT played was Feb. 1, a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in an international friendly.
And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, shutting down soccer and many other sports and of course, soccer.
The USMNT had encouraging start before running out of steam in the second half. There was some crisp, short passing at midfield, which was led by Adams, who seemingly has a rechargeable battery in his body. There also was a close encounter or two, but the Americans could not convert.
“The next thing we might have to work on is having a deadlly instinct and scoring a goal,” midfielder Weston McKennie said. “The dynamic movement behind the line was something that we were missing.”
Still, then did not dent McKennie’s enthusiasm.
“A lot of guys had fun out there,” he said. “It would have been better if we won the game. It was a good stepping stone.”
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen wasn’t tested very much but denied Daniel James after the Welsh player came on in the 63rd minute.
“We have a very bright future as long as we keep our heads down, stay humble and work hard,” Steffen said.
The USMNT will have an opportunity to demonstrate that when it meets Panama in Austria Monday at 2:45 p.m.