CARY, N.C.– As the fourth official prepared the board signaling Timothy Weah’s U.S. Men’s National Team debut, right back DeAndre Yedlin jogged over to the touchline to give the 18-year-old a high five.
When the board went up, Weah took his first steps in a USMNT jersey with the crowd at 10,000-seat Sahlen’s Stadium cheering in anticipation.
Before Tuesday, all most American fans knew of Weah was the interest he’s gained while playing at Paris Saint Germain in Ligue 1. Still, although it was a small glimpse of the future, Weah sent the crowd aflutter every time he got close to the ball.
Admittedly Weah was nervous when he made his first touch, a misguided pass on the left wing, but he quickly recovered.
“Of course. Coming into the first game for my country I was nervous,” Weah said. “The first pass was a bit off, but I told myself to chill out and get comfortable and that’s what I did and got a few tackles in, won a few balls, almost got an assist, I could only ask for so much.”
“He was nervous,” USMNT interim manager Dave Sarachan added. “He was real nervous, and he should have been nervous going into his first game against a team that we recognize as a good team. They gotta start somewhere, and this was a good debut for him to get in and get his feet wet. This was a big boy game tonight.”
Weah almost produced his first international assist late in the contest, but Andrija Novakovich’s shot went wide of the net.
All in all, the week in North Carolina that culminated with a brief cameo against Paraguay was deemed a success for the confident 18-year-old.
“I’m satisfied to be honest,” Weah said. “I played nine minutes and you can only do so much in nine minutes. I almost got my assist, unfortunately Andrija didn’t score. Overall, the main goal was to get the win and was to play for my team. Coming out here and making my debut in front of such amazing fans was a blessing and I just can’t wait to play more games and get more goals and assists. Part of the process, of course.”
Even before coming stateside for the March camp, Weah relied on players with experience like Yedlin, who at just 24 earned his 50th cap on Tuesday night.
“Congrats to DeAndre. He’s one of my best friends on the team and me coming in getting my debut is just a start and I think as a whole, as a team, it’s a new beginning,” Weah said.
Although Yedlin isn’t 25 yet, Weah looked up to the right back as one of his idols as he honed his skills.
“DeAndre is probably one of my best friends with Bobby Wood and all those guys,” Weah said. “He was just one of my idols when I was watching so just being able to come into the game, he’s giving me high fives as I come in , chilling with him after practice, it’s just been a really good vibe this week and I can’t wait to play more games with him and be on the pitch with him and go through thick and thin and hopefully in a few years qualify for a World Cup with him.”
For Weah and so many others in the USMNT squad, Tuesday was the start of something they hope becomes special over the next four years in the buildup to the 2022 World Cup.
Over the course of the week, Weah constantly called the camp the start of “the process”.
Although it won’t go down in the annals of U.S. history, Tuesday’s win could be remembered as the start of the development for a core with more potential than any collection of American teenagers.
“Coming out here and getting the win against such a good Paraguay team from South America, I feel that the sky is the limit for us,” Weah said. “We have so much to show the world and this is just the start.”