The last time the U.S. Men’s National Team took the field, it was against France, the eventual World Cup champions, in a hostile environment in Lyon. The team played a strong defensive game and ended up battling Les Bleus to a 1-1 draw.
There are only so many things that can be taken away from a friendly where one team is tuning up for the biggest event in the sport and the other is just happy to be there, as was the case when the U.S. played their final summer match back in June. However, there is one think that the team learned from that game that can help them Friday night against Brazil.
“What we took away from France is that we can actually play against high level teams like that,” said midfielder Weston McKennie. “You know France won the World Cup. Going into this game we’re just really going to stick to our game plan and the confidence that we drew from those summer matches that we had will show in this match here.”
That match wasn’t the first time the USMNT did well against a high level opponent on the road in recent years. They famously scored back-to-back wins against the Netherlands and Germany across the Atlantic Ocean in the summer of 2015. They followed those wins up with a loss in the Gold Cup semifinals and a World Cup qualifying campaign that ended in disaster.
The France result also came after a rather disappointing showing a week earlier against a much weaker Republic of Ireland team, which couldn’t have installed any confidence in a side still trying to figure itself out.
However, the current USMNT squad certainly feels like this summer was different. They hope their strong performance against France in a hostile environment will have them ready to go against another global superpower in Brazil.
“Everyone’s up for it,” defender Eric Lichaj said. “After the last game against France, it was uplifting to show to a lot of those guys that they could handle the best and we’ll be trying to handle the best tomorrow as well. I think the guys are up for it and ready for it.”
“Everyone knows France won the World Cup and the guys have shown that they can play with them.”
One other difference from that match in France should be the USMNT’s mentality. Back in June, they focussed mostly on defending and keeping the French from blowing them away on the road. With the Brazil match being on home soil, the players are expecting to show a bit more of an attacking posture.
“It’s always nice to have a home crowd,” said McKennie. “I think going out and seeing that we have home support I think it will make a tremendous difference.”
The USMNT will certainly find out if their confidence is justified fairly quickly. Brazil is bringing much of their starpower with them to New Jersey on Friday night. Neymar, Willian, Roberto Firmino, and a large portion of the squad that experienced another World Cup disappointment will be there hoping to get their new cycle off to a hot start.