The United States men’s national team returned to action this month with two friendlies in Europe where we saw some impressive displays and some that were underwhelming. There was the 0-0 draw with Wales and then the 6-2 demolishing of Panama where numerous young Americans made their debuts. But after 180 minutes of action, who are the players trending up and who are those trending down based on their performances?
Sebastian Soto and Nicholas Gioacchini: Both strikers scored twice in the win over Panama and are trending in the right direction for Gregg Berhalter’s side — one that is short of striker options in the national pool. Both players are 20 years of age, showed a nose for the ball in the box and three of the four goals they scored were headers. The U.S., with talent on the wings and the ability to create crossing opportunities seemingly at will, need some aerial options, at least when it comes to depth, and these are two guys who made the most out of their opportunities.
Yunus Musah: Outside of Gio Reyna, this was the player everybody wanted to see. After coming out of nowhere to debut at the age of 17 for Valencia, he’s made noise in La Liga and earned the call-up. From there, he started both matches and formed quite the partnership with Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams. A slender, speedy player with some serious toughness, his technical ability to get by pressure and run forward into the attacking half with the ball could be a game-changer for this national team.
Richy Ledezma: With two assists off the bench in his debut, the PSV youngster showed his skill on the right wing in a variety of ways. Sure, he had a couple of nervy moments but he grew in confidence and took his assists very well. He’s not close to the point of pushing for consistent minutes yet, but he has all of the potential to become a key figure of a potential 2022 World Cup squad if he continues progressing. Keep an eye on him.
Matt Miazga: Simply a liability in defense. At times he is reckless, he loses his marker and just hasn’t fulfilled the potential he has. Whether he does down the round remains to be seen, but at this point he seems like nothing more than the fifth or sixth-best center back on paper, which isn’t saying a whole lot in this pool of talent. Give me John Brooks, Aaron Long, Chris Richards, Tim Ream (reluctantly) and Mark McKenzie.
Chris Richards: I think we would have seen Richards a whole lot more than the 10 minutes we did if he was more in the plans right now. It was disappointing to not see possibly the most talented center back in the pool play alongside John Brooks. That still might be the starting duo in central defense come the 2022 World Cup, and this would have been a great chance at seeing them together in a game environment. Whether limited minutes at Bayern Munich start to hurt him or not, here’s hoping he gets enough time under Hansi Flick this season to become a big part of the plans moving forward.
Konrad de la Fuente: Didn’t have a great debut, and it’s hard to see where he’ll find minutes consistently with the wing options this team has. He didn’t seem comfortable, his first touch was off and he simply wasn’t impressive at all, especially considering the rest of the USMNT’s wing options. Now, that’s not an indictment on him as a player, but he didn’t do much in his time on the pitch to create really positive vibes. He’s got the potential, and maybe soon he’ll get a shot with the Barcelona first team to show that on the professional stage.