New Kids On the Pitch

Once Finished USMNT Finds Redemption In Young Talent


Zane Mrozla-Mindrup

The U.S. happened upon a burgeoning “golden generation” of young stars who are lighting up the European game.

The United States Men’s National Soccer Team returned to action this week, for the first time in more than eight months playing international friendlies against Wales and Panama. It is a team that has been written off on the international stage, a laughing stock after failing to qualify for World Cup 2018, and historically outshined by their more successful female counterparts, yet, bolstered by a new crop of young stars, the USMNT is on the rise.
To start, this is a more respectable outfit than people think with a not completely empty trophy cabinet, the United States saw its two greatest victories at the 1904 Olympic Games where it claimed second place, and the 1930 FIFA World Cup where it took home third. More recently they have taken home gold six times in the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football) championships along with respectable top-three finishes in the FIFA Confederations Cup. It has also churned out many players who could compete at the highest levels of European football including the likes of Claudio Reyna, Landon Donovan, and Tim Howard.
Despite having talented players and proving their ability to win on the world stage, the U.S. did earn a reputation for less than inspired performances at major international competitions often going out of tournaments in the group stage or early knock-out rounds. The low-point for the team came in the fall of 2017 when they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after losing a match to the national team of Trinidad and Tobago. The loss marked rock bottom and showed that success on the international stage would require a great deal of change.
In the months afterward, the team got a new head coach, former USMNT defender Gregg Berhalter, and more than a year on from his hiring something incredible happened. The U.S. happened upon a burgeoning “golden generation” of young stars who are lighting up the European game. Christian Pulisic led the way, starring first in Germany with Borussia Dortmund and now in England with Chelsea. He is joined by the likes of Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest, Juventus’s Weston McKennie and Claudio Reyna’s son Giovanni of Borussia Dortmund. Not to mention other fresh talents like Nicholas Gioacchini, Yunus Musah, Sebastian Soto and Zack Steffen.
All these names tie back into those two recent international friendlies. The first was a zero to zero draw against Wales, which may sound like the most boring event in all of sports, but actually was a quality outing against an established European national team. The other match was a six to two thrashing of Panama, which, again, may only sound slightly more exciting than the Wales outing, yet it too proved to be an exciting showcase of one of the richest veins of footballing talent this nation has ever produced.
This week proved that fortunes for the long-suffering men’s national team are looking up. A group that just three short years ago was at one of the lowest points in its history, and has been stuck in the shadow of the dominant women’s national team for the last twenty years is showing some fight, and will be the team to watch in the years to come.