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Young USMNT ready for major step up ahead of Ireland friendly

It’s getting closer to the point where it starts to feel real.

The World Cup is officially just a few weeks away, and teams around the world are preparing for this summer’s tournament with one final round of tune-up games.

The U.S. Men’s National Team isn’t preparing for the World Cup, and that fact is starting to sink in a little bit more as the tournament draws near. Still, there’s reason for excitement, even if it requires a bit of a long-term view.

In the short-term, though, those long-term prospects get another chance to prove themselves this weekend to kick off a two-game European slate. It’s a major step up from Monday’s win over a weakened Bolivia side, as clashes with Ireland and France await.

While it’s easy to look ahead to Les Bleus a bit, the match in Dublin will be a major step up for a U.S. roster that’s average age is just 23 years old.

“They’re going to be strong opponents and we have a younger team, so we have to be ready and prepared,” said DeAndre Yedlin, one of few veterans with the group. “If anything, we just need to make sure we’re working hard. It’s always tough to play against a team that never quits. I think that’s something that’s in our DNA. We’ll make sure we do that at the very least and, on top of that, hopefully we get some wins.”

Winning in Ireland will be a difficult task. The Irish team also missed out on this summer’s World Cup, but Saturday promises to be a big occasion for other reasons. The match is serving as a send-off for defender John O’Shea, Yedlin’s former Sunderland teammate, who is set to step away from the team after his 119th cap.

The rest of the Irish roster is pretty close to full strength. Everton’s Sheamus Coleman remains one of the team’s leaders and he’s joined by a number of Premier League regulars like Shane Long, James McClean and Jonathan Walters. The Irish team is loaded with players scattered throughout England’s top leagues, giving the team significantly more experience then a young U.S. side.

Thus far, though, that young U.S. side has done about as well as many could have hoped. The younger generation, players like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Timothy Weah, and Josh Sargent, looked good through the opening matches of 2018. Following the match against Bolivia, that young core was supplemented with the additions of some notable veterans like Yedlin, Wil Trapp and Bobby Wood.

“It’s the same with the last camp as well,” Yedlin said. “It’s kind of weird being the so-called older guy, but it’s good to be back. It’s a hungry group, so I’m excited to play with these guys.”

“You get to know the guys a little bit more,” Trapp said, “And the chemistry is there, which is exciting.”

Yedlin says he expects some of his younger teammates to be nervous when they take the field in Dublin for a match that, for several will be their first real road test. That’s normal. The idea is to get settled in before realizing that it’s just like any other game, albeit on a different sort of stage.

That stage is exciting, according to Trapp. The next two games come against quality opponents, teams with plenty to prove. The U.S. has plenty to prove as well, and putting together a positive performance against Ireland would go a long way toward building a bit of confidence ahead of next week’s clash with France.

“The one team is preparing for a World Cup,” Trapp said, “So we know that’s going to be a very difficult task, but we’re here in Ireland knowing that it’s going to be difficult as well with a good opponent with a hostile crowd, which will be fun.

“You just know that we’ll have to stick together. We’ll have to continue to work hard and find ways for us to help each other be successful in the game.”

Comments

  1. This I like. Bolivia was basically playing their U23 team with a few older players sprinkled in; Ireland playing their A’s – and playing in Ireland – is going to be a very different thing. Ireland is ranked 31st in the world right now by FIFA…we’ll see.

    I think the Irish are going to be very shocked – and unhappy – how fast this young USA team is. Be interesting to see if their experience can cope with that.

    Reply
    • Most of the Irish squad play in the EPL or Championship I think they’ll be able to adapt pretty quickly to the speed. They did just play France and we ain’t that fast.

      Reply

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