Photo by ISIPhotos.com
BY ADAM SERRANO
Butterflies, nerves, tension.
These are usual emotions for a player representing his country for the first time. For Eric Lichaj's first cap with the United States in the U.S. team's 0-0 draw with Colombia on Tuesday night at PPL Park, these were just words. The Aston Villa defender felt right at home with the situation and his role with the team.
“No butterflies, I’m used to it, its my job to go out there and play so I’m used to all that pressure,” said Lichaj. ”Most of them go inside because we don’t have a natural winger so it gave me a chance to go inside more, we've been training together for a week so I’m fairly comfortable and know everyone’s tendencies."
Lichaj went 45 minutes appearing exclusively in the second half for the USMNT against Colombia. Entering for Jonathan Spector, the Aston Villa full back immediately added an attacking prowess to the right back spot. His forays forward got him into trouble, but the offensive pressure that he added was helpful to a U.S. attack that was stagnant all night.
The 21-year-old contributed to one of the best attacking chances of the night delivering a cross into the center for Jozy Altidore that put the attacker in a very good attacking position. Following the match, Bradley admitted that although it was Lichaj's first cap with the team, he liked what he saw from his young full back.
“Eric came on in the second half and we’ve seen throughout this camp that physically he’s got a great burst of speed and he’s strong," said Bradley. "He came in and acquitted himself very well in the second half."
The training experience with the national team was made a tad easier due to the prevalence of a number of players that he has experience playing with. In his debut, he was able to play in front of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, a back-up goalkeeper for Aston Villa.
Although there were a number of players to help his transition to the national side, the ever-confident Lichaj did not worry about his experience with the national team because of his time with Aston Villa.
“Spector and Guzan have helped my transition because I know them from England, but no one in particular tells you because we’re pros and we know what we’re doing," said Lichaj. "We’re professionals so we all know what we’re doing. Just little tweaks people will tell us but nothing major."
Lichaj will now turn his focus to Villa. He has been used exclusively in Cup matches for Aston Villa and is still searching for his first league appearance for the Birmingham-based club. He will have an opportunity to build upon his experience with the national team shortly as he returns to Villa.
“They’ll have seen my 45 minute half that I played, but we have a Carling Cup game against Burnley coming up," said Lichaj. "hopefully Brad and I will be able to get some time in that match.”