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Who is Yunus Musah? The New York-born Valencia teenager set for his first USMNT camp

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The most surprising name on the U.S. Men’s National Team roster for November friendlies against Wales and Panama belongs to a player who had just two days earlier scored his first professional goal, doing so in La Liga at the age of 17.

Valencia teenager Yunus Musah was born in New York, but grew up in Italy and England, representing England on multiple youth national team levels. There wasn’t much reason to envision Musah considering a switch the USMNT, especially after recently breaking through at Valencia, but what wasn’t known publicly before Tuesday is that the USMNT was actively scouting and recruiting him.

“We’ve been tracking Yunus for over a year and a half now,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We have a good connection with Valencia. We’ve had a lot of good contact with him, spoken at length to his family. What we see from him is a player that’s hungry. He’s hungry to make his impact. He has a connection with the United States and loves the direction the team is going in. He loves the young talent that he can be alongside.”

Musah has become a regular starter for Valencia in the new season, a beneficiary of the team’s financial struggles, which led to the club selling several players and turning to academy players rather than buying new players.

Musah has started six of the team’s past eight matches, and is coming off his best match to date, which saw him score the lone goal in a 1-1 draw with Getafe on Sunday.

Though he has operated predominantly as a right winger for Valencia, Musah youth career saw him play more as a central midfielder, which is where Berhalter sees him playing for the United States.

“With Yunus, it’s interesting because when you watch his games, he’s playing wide right in a 4-4-2,” Berhalter said. “He’s taking on the outside back and running by the outside back and he’s done a complete job defensively, but we still see him as a player that can potentially be better central. A box-to-box midfielder a little bit in the style of Weston (McKennie) in terms of covering ground, good speed.”

One of 10 uncapped players called into the USMNT camp, and one of two 17-year-olds along with Gio Reyna, Musah will have a chance to stake his claim to a prominent role in the central midfield pecking order, though Berhalter preached patience and made sure to point out how young Musah is.

“What we have to remember, and I think all of us are getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, is that he’s 17 years old,” Berhalter said. “We’re going to bring him into camp, probably centrally, and there’s going to be some growing pains, I can tell you right now, but he has so much talent that to me, it’s worth. It’s worth looking at that.

“Maybe Valencia are thinking he’s not ready to play centrally, but we’re ready for and we’re excited to see him and the impact he can make.”

Musah is currently eligible to play for England and Ghana along with the United States, but with England boasting one of the best collections of young midfield and wing talent in the international game, Musah could see the United States as offering a better opportunity for national team playing time.

The November friendlies won’t cap-tie Musah, so the camp and friendlies are more an opportunity for Musah to get a feel for the USMNT setup. It will also give Berhalter and his state a close look at the teenager, but the USMNT coach has already made it clear that he sees Musah having a bright future that made him worth actively recruiting.

“We see (Musah) as having a ton of potential,” Berhalter said. “And for us, it’s about getting him on the field with us, letting him experience how we work as a group, how we work as a staff, letting him experience the teammates and the team environment that we’re able to create.

“And then, all we can do is hope that in the end he chooses us for the long term,” Berhalter said. “He’s obviously chosen us now but there’s still a long-term implication that has yet to be decided.”

Comments

  1. “We’re going to bring him into camp, probably centrally, and there’s going to be some growing pains, I can tell you right now, but he has so much talent that to me, it’s worth. It’s worth looking at that.“

    I don’t get it. Why is he trying to break things? A top club in a top league that seems him every day thinks he’s best at wide right. Greg watches him for a few minutes collectively and calls him a center mid.

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    • Hmmm… I’m not sure. The fact that a 17 year old is being used as a wide player by his club during the first 2 months of his professional career tells me very little about how they view his ideal position. Is Reyna a wide player, just because that’s how Dortmund have initially eased him in?

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    • He played CM or AM for Arsenal and England’s YTs, Valencia has depth at CM not so much wide. Berhalter said they’ve been in contact with Musah for over a year they know where he plays.

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  2. There are a couple arguments/comments made in boards like this and/or by coaches that I get tired of.
    1) Rushing Youth Vs. Patience – I don’t care how young a player is. If club in a European league trusts a player enough to give them consistent minutes with their 1st team….They are likely good enough to get called into a USMNT Camp. I’m not suggesting that they be starters….but they are worth taking a closer look at, and trying them out in friendlies. If they’re with a youth team….than I agree it’s better to be cautious in calling them up.
    2) Versatility is a bad thing. This I completely disagree with in regards to a National Team player. With the limited number of roster spots for tournaments…having a couple/three players able to play multiple positions well, is a huge benefit. An example was Fabian & Cameron in 2014. Their versatility to cover multiple positions allowed JK to take a couple flyers/risky selections…someone like Brooks, Yedlin, & Green. All of whom paid dividends.
    With Reyna (CAM/Winger), Adams (CM/RB), Dest (RB/LB), Morris (Winger/CF)…it allows a coach to take a more specialized player and also allows more flexibility of formations.
    Frankly if this kid is good enough to be starting for Valencia @ 17 he’s worth giving a run out. If he’s a viable back-up to McKennie as an 8 while also challenging the Wingers (Pulisic, Weah, Uli…) than it’s even better.
    If Otasowie can Challenge our CDM’s (Adams, Yueill, Cardoso, Morales) while also challenging the CB (Brooks, Miazga, Richards, Long, etc…) than he’s another player that would make since.

    This camp is a bit of a hybrid…Mixing U-23 Olympic players (Cardoso, Otasowie, Ledezma, etc…) with what is essentially the core group of the Sr. USMNT (Pulisic, Adams, McKennie, Dest, Brooks). If these young players perform well….we’ll that much closer to moving away from our aging players (Ream, Bradley, Moralez, Jozy, etc…) and those who have under performed (Long, Roldan, Boyd, etc….).
    I’ll be particularly interested in how this very young, inexperienced team matches up against Panama. A sound win & performance against them will point to the fact we can move towards these young talents sooner rather than later without risking too much during WCQ.

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  3. Kudos to Berhalter and his staff for locating and targeting this young man. When I heard that Jonathan David of Canada was born in NYC I wondered why we hadn’t gotten him. If Musah is what Berhalter says, then I’ll forgive US soccer for failing to get David, who is now in France Ligue 1. As to what Musah’s position is, let’s worry about that if and when he is cap tied (which happens only if he plays in a meaningful tournament, as determined by FIFA, or signs the commitment for a change to the US).

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    • not sure how you expect to properly talent evaluate a player without properly understanding their positional value(s). or did we miss the dest lesson playing left back? roldan at RF? for that matter, given the danger of pigeonholing, you need to know where a player fits so he doesn’t get cut as the “5th best _____” when he could have been a bench option someplace else. it’s like a coach i had at one point who would only play me in one position for which i was worst suited. i was like you played me wide last year to win honors and don’t you see i am instead a fast wide player who played x, y, and z for the team before this? never got through his thick skull. i appreciate versatility but also give a marginal player their best chance to stick.

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      • Dest plays LB at Barca when needed and did at Ajax as well and since RB is a position of strength for the US and LB is a position of weakness it was worth a shot. Roldan was actually subbed in to change the formation with him playing as a RM but Mexico’s goal minutes later forced him back forward. I feel like most of your takes are perceived slights you felt you suffered as a player.

      • He is a 17 year old who will maybe play in his first USMNT game in a meaningless friendly. All you want to see at this point is if he has enough talent to make a difference at that level. If anything, if Berhalter does play him ( he may just want to see him in team practices), he should play him at a couple of different positions. This is a young kid who may make a difference in 2026,(unless he turns into a superstar, we probably won’t need him in 2022) so there’s plenty of time to figure out what his best position is and where he need him the most, which may be 2 separate things.

  4. i keep hearing this “won’t cap-tie” bid-ness. this is a prestige team — at least it used to be. i know dest reminded us this loophole exists but he then committed here without even shopping a second friendly. i’ve had one player — tchani — pointed out to me in decades who switched back out after a friendly cap — and if you know his history that didn’t go so hot — he has like 2 caps for cameroon. no, i like how the mids and forwards went on the selection because the far bigger real risk is losing them upfront and obviously — the rossi or subotic scenario — than the legalistic idea that players who are capped for us go bouncing back out of the fold. worst, you have people suggesting don’t race to give out friendly caps because there is a loophole when in practice a friendly cap has been enough 99.999999% of the time. and the reality is if you uncover a gem in the friendly then next chance you get they are playing in a tournament or qualifier that removes all doubt. i’m not a huge fan but dest in a friendly was followed by dest in regional play. done deal.

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    • speaking of arrogance as discussed below, there is a hint of incumbency bias and arrogance in many of the arguments that capping shouldn’t be rushed. that for a team with prospects but not yet lifted out people are a little too sure those already in the fold are superior. to me that begs the question. give them their camp and 10-90 minute friendly window and test it. know for a fact what you have or don’t have. there is kind of an arrogance in saying err on the side of not camping even at the risk of losing the player. and the fact mexico and chile were knocking at soto’s door hints we were not being objective about it.

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  5. GB musings… Musah is a super winger, but I’m such a great coach that, even though I’ve never worked with him, I know that I can force him into a differently shaped hole. Gio to the wing too. De la Fuente has the size to be a mobile centerback and Sargent probably would have really good hands as a keeper. During this pandemic, I have developed a great player pool who are playing successfully at big clubs. They all play in the wrong positions (oh yeah, get Adams out of central midfield and over there at right back where he belongs), but I will fix that. I’m counting on being the coach through 2026, because I really have a head for this game.

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    • i do think we need a specialist 10 creator but that really should be reyna, duh. as you say GB as with many others is trying to get cute on that one. and my response to your point would be that a coach with a brain would be brainstorming options to get as many of these good fast wide players on the field as possible. and that’s not backing turning him central. that’s he would turn some into wingbacks or shift the formation around. i don’t know if we have a really good 9 yet, many coaches might go in a donovan dempsey direction with them as either fast forwards or fast wings, and that would get 4 out there instead of 2. and if you convert someone to a left back that’s 5. or you can cry about where are my left backs and i have 20 people to play 2 pigeonholes.

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  6. Would be a big coup to get Musah. We need central mid depth and reinforcements, even though we have quality there. Good job by the federation.

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