Gregg Berhalter felt six players had encouraging debuts for the USMNT. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer)
By Michael Lewis
The U.S.’s scoreless draw with host Wales in Swansea Thursday turned out to be a record-breaking day for the men’s national team.
Six players wore the Red, White and Blue of the senior national team for the first time and a pair of 17-year-olds – Gio Reyna and Yunus Musah, made their debuts. They became the 12th and 13th player in USMNT history to accomplish that achievement.
It also was only the second time two players under the age of 18 earned USMNT caps in the same game. The other time involved three players — Mike Slivinski and Mark Jonas (both 16) and Nelson Vargas (17) — in a 1-0 win over Jamaica in High Point, N.C. Sept. 14, 1991.
The other four players who made their debuts included Johnny Cardoso, Nicholas Gioacchini, Konrad de la Fuente and Owen Otasowie.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter gave a quick assessment of and a thumb’s up to those six players via a ZOOM call with the media.
* Midfielder Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund, Germany). The 17-year–old midfielder played the opening 79 minutes before he was replaced by Gioacchini.
“Gio showed the real quality at times, he really did,” Berhalter said. “It was the fluidity on the ball, getting in good positions that hurt the defense. His defending I thought was, was a good start a good starting point. Overall, a 17-year-old debuting and he didn’t look like that. So, I think from that standpoint it was solid.”
* Midfielder Yunus Musah (Valencia, Spain) – Musah, 17, was subbed out for Tim Weah in the 79th minute.
“Yunus showed real moments of quality on the ball, Real composure for a 17-year-old getting the ball on a bouncy field a little bit under pressure,” Berhalter said. “He is able to deal with it and move out of it. I think maybe lacking a little bit of a final movement, final ball that we know he can do. But overall worked really hard and hung in there.”
* Forward Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona, Spain) – De la Fuente, 19, started and was replaced by Uly Llanez in the 71st minute.
“He had moments where you could see his real quality,” Berhalter said. “I thought defensively the pressing releasing to the center back was really good at times. I like how he just hung in there. That was the type of game that he had to play hanging in there and I think he did okay.”
* Midfielder Johnny Cardoso (Internacional, Brazil) – Cardoso, 19, was a 71st-minute substitute for Tyler Adams.
“When they [Cardoso and Gioacchini] came in the game. it was a little bit difficult for them to make a big impact,” Berhalter said. “Johnny you can see his cleverness, his street smarts and how he moves around the field. It gives it a different look than Tyler Adams, a super dynamic and runs around and can cover a ton of ground.”
* Forward Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen, France) — Gioacchini, 20, replaced Reyna in the 79th minute.
“Nicholas was finding himself in the game when he came in,” Berhalter said. “It wasn’t it wasn’t the easiest conditions in the game. I didn’t think there was a lot of service for him, a lot of balls for him but, you know. He was dealing with managing the game well.”
* Midfielder Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton, England) – Otasowie, 19, subbed on for Sebastian Lletget in the 87th minute.
“He showed a tremendous amount of physicality,” Berhalter said. “He got the ball in some difficult situations at times, made a good pass wide. Defensively, I think there wasn’t much for him to do because of how late he came in, but overall, we’re pleased with all these guys.”