The United States men’s national team traveled to Portugal for a friendly on Tuesday sporting an inexperience roster lousy with youngsters. Despite ceding possession to the Portuguese for most of the match, the young American side earned a well-deserved 1-1 draw that saw a number of players prove they belong on the national team. These kids are gonna be alright.
First among those young standouts was 19-year-old Schalke man Weston McKennie. The Texas native scored in his debut for the USMNT on a superb individual effort that left fans excited about his potential.
McKennie also had a point-blank header go off the crossbar and several individual moves and passes that were fantastic. The prospect of McKennie and Christian Pulisic lining up next to each other had to have more than one American soccer fan salivating.
Fellow U.S. youngsters Cameron Carter-Vickers (19) and Tyler Adams (18) made their national team debuts, while Matt Miazga (22), Ethan Horvath (22) and Lynden Gooch (21) all played and showed they could belong in the squad for good. USMNT regulars DeAndre Yedlin (24) and Kellyn Acosta (22) also added to the youthful feel of the squad.
Portugal was sporting a few regulars, though it was hardly their best team. Still, if not for what the British would call “a howler” allowed by Horvath, the U.S. would have escaped Leiria with a win.
Yes, it was one game with an interim coach and against a squad stripped of most of its stars, but it was still fun. After nearly three years of bumbling, U.S. soccer fans want something new, something exciting and something to look forward to. On Tuesday evening, they got that with this group. After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, a dramatic shakeup is desperately needed for the USMNT.
The next phase of American soccer has begun. There is plenty of work to do, but there are new players in the pipeline to be excited about. A youth movement over the next 12 months could dramatically change the country’s fortunes moving forward. Hopefully Tuesday was just the first step in that process.