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Musah’s impressive debut offers glimpse of what USMNT stands to gain

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A total of six players made their U.S. Men’s National Team debuts on Thursday against Wales, and while Gio Reyna’s was the most highly-anticipated, the most impressive debut was delivered by Yunus Musah.

The 17-year-old Valencia midfielder looked right at home in the heart of the USMNT midfield, showing off the power, quickness and ball control that had Gregg Berhalter speaking so highly of him as a central midfield prospect

“(Yunus) showed real moments of quality on the ball,” Berhalter said after Thursday’s match. “Real composure for a 17-year-old getting the ball on a bouncy field a little bit, under pressure he’s able to deal with it and move out of it. I think maybe lacking a little bit of the final final movements, final ball, that we know he can do, but overall worked really hard and hung in there.”

Musah was the last player to arrive in USMNT camp after playing in Valencia’s win over Real Madrid last week, but his limited time with the team didn’t stop him from looking comfortable playing alongside Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams in central midfield, forming a trio that dominated the middle of the field against Wales.

“I think that he offers something on the field that not everyone can offer,” Adams said of Musah. “He’s a physical player, he’s quick, he can beat players on the dribble, very dynamic, and he was dangerous today.

“You could see what the limited opportunities that he had, that he was always willing to play the ball forward, turn and be aggressive.”

“It felt like we’ve been playing together for more than one game and also props to Yunus for coming in and showing the confidence that he had,” McKennie said. “It’s always different. Many people think that since you come from a big club that when you come into the National Team you can get away with the same things but it’s a different type of football, maybe they demand something different than what club football demands, so for him to come in and perform how we did it was a good start.”

The McKennie-Musah tandem in the dual 10 roles in Berhalter system was a much different combination than past pairing during Berhalter’s tenure as USMNT coach. The team had never fielded as dynamic and athletically-imposing a tandem in those roles before, and they combined with Adams to form a swarming trio of players capable of winning balls all over the field, while also providing the ability to spark quick counterattacks.

“When you see those three guys in midfield, I mean it’s amazing how much ground they can cover, how dynamic they are,” Berhalter said.

Whether or not that trio becomes a long-term option for Berhalter will depend largely on whether Musah chooses to commit to playing for the United States. Born in New York, but raised in Italy for nine years before moving to England, Musah is eligible for multiple national teams and Thursday’s USMNT debut did not cap-tie him.

Musah most recently represented England on the youth national team level, and his recent success with Valencia has boosted his profile to the point that England manager Gareth Southgate has had to address the possibility of losing Musah to the United States.

“It sounds as though he’s going to meet with America this time and experience that,” England manager Gareth Southgate said last week. “That doesn’t rule him out of being with us moving forward. So, we’ve just got to make sure that the boy and the family know that we think he’s a good player, that he’s on a good trajectory. We’re monitoring him. He’s been with us in the last couple of months and we’d very much like his future to be with us.”

Berhalter and the USMNT feel the same way, and as things stands, the U.S. program is benefiting from the opportunity to showcase its program to Musah, who is familiarizing himself with the young talents in the U.S. program who he could be teammates with for the next decade.

The 17-year-old still has plenty of time to make a final decision, but it only took him one game with the USMNT to show why Berhalter sought him out in the first place, and why he could be a game-changing addition if he ultimately decides to commit to playing for the United States.

Comments

  1. In the interest of flaming unnecessary flames, Christiano Rinaldo Jr. was born in the USA and is lighting it up for Juventus youth teams. He is 10 years old. CAP HIM!

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  2. Do anyone think Lletget is just a place holder? I sense he is a GB favorite which may cause Aaronson, Pamikal, Ladesma etc. not to make the final 23.

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  3. I’m glad USMNT was back in action!! I have to see more of Musah. It’s def hard for me to have an opinion only after watching a friendly and some club highlights. TBC

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    • I don’t remember either, though I would stipulate that Klinsmann was probably right about quite a few things that required a balanced international perspective as opposed to an “America first” bias that insisted on favoring MLS players and those who grew up in the US. (Even if he was not necessarily right about building team tactics or motivating players — his brief Hertha blowout is going to be hard to live down.)
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      If you’re concerned about American bluster and thinly disguised prejudice against foreign-born players, then I agree, even though I also understand the wish to support our homegrown talent.
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      But I don’t think any of that is likely to be decisive when young Mr. Musah decides whom he wants to play for. It’s his choice. If he has come up through the English system and played for its youth teams, and lived for a decade in Italy, it seems very unlikely that he would not say yes to one of those top teams if they simply asked him, because they both have much better chances in the World Cup than our wobbly team that didn’t even qualify last time. So I don’t think we ought to get our hopes up.
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      Nevertheless, if by any chance he somehow felt more welcome or comfortable in the US team, or sensed something of a rapport with other players like himself, who knows? Particularly being a player of African descent, it’s possible that he might welcome the chance to be on a team that explicitly stood up for racial and social justice. And it could simply be fun to play alongside other young players of the quality of Adams, McKennie, Reyna, Pulisic, Brooks, etc. I would really like to see the USMNT having fun together again, as I predict Pulisic will soon be doing with his expensive world-class teammates at Chelsea, if they can ever get their defense and their rotations worked out.
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      Whatever happens with Musah’s international commitment, it was indeed a pleasure to see him play, so let’s thank him for being open to the possibility.
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      One other note: I don’t think we should be too hard on Lletget. He had an awful injury, is languishing on a (currently) pathetic team where he can’t get much service, and leapt onto a plane despite Covid to help out the team when Sargent couldn’t come. It was probably too much to hope that he could also learn in the space of 2 days to be an effective false 9, but all credit to him for the good old college try. Even if he doesn’t end up making it to the top of the depth charts, why not cut Berhalter some slack for cutting him some slack? He could still be useful to the team (and allow some European-based players a rest) in the process of WCQ, Gold Cup, etc.
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      • Klinsman didn’t even know any domestic based players when he took the job. His prejudice was for players born away from the US, to the extent he chose Green over LD. He forced Bradley to play out of position during his prime years when he was playing for Verona, undermining him (that is old school jive, very european). He insisted on using tactics with 3 subs that he used when he had six subs…straight up stupid. His latest con saw him resign from Hertha Berlin after 76 days, giving up on his pledge to turn them around. He’s a lying con man loser as a coach. And on top of it all, he destroyed the American locker room, by far its biggest strength. I could go on…do you want me to? Do you really want to revisit Klinsmann the con man, and expose the naivete of his supporters, again? Let it go, stop trying to reinvent history. He was fired after 5+ years becasue he abjectly failed in his fake news promise to lead the USMNT to 2018 glory. He could have been martian and his results still = fail

    • W3ell, beachbum below is a good illustratioin of that. Most professional coaches around the world seemed to thi nk that the US was foosish to fire him and Arena did not improve on what Klinsman did. While people are entitled to their own opinions, not their own facts, so I feel a need to correct some things beachbum has said. Of course Klinsmann was acquainted with US players before he took the job. He ghad been offered the job before, but turned it down over the scope of contro9l he had, so he certainly followed the US players for the years after that. Additionally, he was a special adviser for several years to Arena when he was the coach of the Galaxy so that Klinsmnn would have been very familiar with MLS players generally . As far as favoring European based player, Klinsmann favored more talent over less talent. He brought in Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones who were crucial to US success in 2014. He played many MLS Americans and the matter of Landon Donovan has been litigated many times. Green was not a replacement for Donovan. As far as Bradley goes, that is another issue that has been often debated. Who did we have better than Bradley as a playmaker? No one ever came up with a better alternative and Bradley was a 10 in Holland, as I recall and he played all over the midfield in Europe.

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      • hi Gary, like talking to a politician re. facts with you. Early Klinnsman called in Bunbury to play in his Possession ‘system’, ridiculous set up to fail, called Rodgers becasue he knew him…others at the time noted his apparent lack of knowledge on the domestic players when he too over. His right hand man, Martin Vasquez…that was JK’s call both in Bayern and with the USMNT…becasue no way was he going to have anyone overshadow him like Low has back home in Germany for him. And both sides paid the price for his ego driven decision. That’s a big way he makes decisions…still, but Hertha denied him access to the everything he wanted, not played by the con man, tho Sunil got played. The result? A ridiculous eventual tactical decision, at home, to play his infamous ‘3-4-3’ in the epic loss to Mexico, at home in a quali. Look up the last time that had happened. Setting players up to fail? Another of his favorites. He sold it as his vision from the all powerful, him (he basically was for plenty of his USMNT time), that he knew best. I will not list the failures in that approach, and the time wasted to uncover that the players were what they were, not what he wanted them to be. Another ego driven screw up, as if he truly believed his will alone would prevail, instead of crafting game plans for qualis to qualify. BTW, Martin Vasquez is a great coach and has developed a ton of players in his career, I’m not dumping on him, I’m saying Klinsmann, again, played someone out of position becasue of his ego, and we all paid an ugly price for it. arachin does not get enough credit for holding it down selflessly after that train wreck.

  4. None of the potential in any young player or with pullisic and up and coming european players matter if we have a very bad low energy low motivating coach with literally no winning strategy.

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  5. I was very impressed with Musah against Wales. For a 17 yr old to come in cold, having never played with any of these players before, integrate and form such a Cohesive partnership with McKennie & Adams fter a day of training speaks volumes. It wasn’t perfect, but his style & ability complimented McKennie & Adams much more than some of the others Gregg has tried in the roll (Roldan & Lletget). He was not timid in the attack or defense, and had an uncanny understanding of where his new teammates were.
    IF he decides to switch to the US he’d be a welcome addition and an immediate upgrade to our 23. Based on the way he fit into the team against Wales he clearly has some natural on-field chemistry with some of our players. If he clicked with the players/coaches off the field as well, we should have a very good opportunity to secure his services going forwards.
    Hopefully he chooses the US and we get a chance to see this team at full strength in March.

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  6. besides the points in the article and discussed already, we need quality depth and he showed he can add there. It’s a long haul, we need a whole crew of midfielders who can play and that are versatile, and that can be effective in different ways and in different systems/tactics. Just 17, pretty cool. And Southgate’s comments, as if the USMNT are just a stepping stone on Musah’s trajectory and he, Gareth Southgate, is in control of the situation behind it all…I hope the USMNT take it just that way, no hiding from it but instead, in the locker room, look that one straight in the eye, Musah too, and crush its arrogance

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  7. Musah was impressive, hats off to him in coming. Hopefully we keep him and props to berlhalter. The kid will only get stronger too.

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  8. Pretty damn solid performance. At 17, first match with a completely new team- appears to be well ahead physically, mentally and technically in comparison to other options in the midfield. His ability to operate, turn in tight spaces was pretty impressive. Look forward to seeing what he can do with more space. Assume we adjust to each other and tactically as that last game with Reyna pinching inside, Lletget dropping down… everyone wanted occupy the same real estate.

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    • More space? We were playing with 5 mids, they were crowding each other too much. I like the kid but this past game didn’t show me if he can play with just another mid (dual 8s) or if GB is going to keep all 3 of them then Reyna needs to adjust, unless GB decides to go with a 4-4-2 formation and use only two forwards. One of the them has to be fast to keep defenses honest. It would be a lineup used by BB back in the 2010 WC.

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      • We were playing with 6 midfielders…so of course it was congested. Gregg’s tactics were once again off. Regardless the players found a way to perform fairly well, despite Gregg’s formation and player selections.

      • “More space? We were playing with 5 mids, they were crowding each other too much. ”

        Yeah… that’s… exactly what I just said. And I think the kid performed impressively in spite of the awkward tactics. Reyna could certainly have done better at finding space but the most glaring issue was a completely ill fit Lletget in there not someone adept at making runs- stretching the defense. That alone would have helped immensely. I certainly wasn’t expecting perfection considering all the new faces and only 2 days to prepare. Hopefully GB puts them in a little better position to succeed.

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