Just a year ago, Yunus Musah was a New York-born midfielder beginning to break into the Valencia first team as a 17-year-old and an important member of the England Under-18 National team.
In November, Musah accepted an invite to the U.S. Men’s National Team camp in Austria and has since pledged his allegiance to the United States, officially becoming cap-tied once he steps on the field against Honduras in Nations League play on June 3.
Eligible for England, Ghana, Italy and the US, Musah being cap-tied confirms another successful dual-national recruitment for head coach Gregg Berhalter, but the match against Honduras in Denver is a first chance for Musah to reconnect with the country of his birth.
“I haven’t been back in New York since I was born,” Musah told reporters Wednesday. “I am actually going to stay there, see where I was born, see the area, and try to visit some places.”
By now the story of Musah’s eligibility for the United States is well known, he was born in New York City while his mother was visiting relatives, making him part of the promising wave of young American soccer players.
“Playing for the U.S. in front of fans is going to be a great experience,” said Musah, “I am going to enjoy it so much.”
Before returning home, the USMNT will face Switzerland in St. Gallen on Sunday, giving Musah another opportunity to build chemistry with his teammates.
Traditionally a right midfielder for Valencia, Musah has played exclusively in central midfield in his 4 appearances with the USMNT. In his debut against Wales last November, Musah was a natural fit next to Weston McKennie as one of the two attacking midfielders with Tyler Adams playing as the defensive midfielder.
Musah’s strength on the ball, ability to dribble at opponents, and passing touch make him a good fit in Berhalter’s possession-based system. where he has already staked a claim to a starting role.
“I love playing in a dynamic system,” Musah said. “Gregg wants us to be a hard-working team on and off the ball and be exciting and create.”
Musah’s impressive integration into the USMNT has also featured some natural connections with teammates, including fellow teenager Gio Reyna. The two have established a very clear connection
“He’s a great player, Whatever you need him to do, he’ll love to do it,” Musah said of Reyna. “That’s what makes it easy to play with him. You can just give him the ball and let him do his stuff.
“We’re young players, we’re exciting, we want to be exciting on the pitch. I think we both have the same idea of playing football.”
At the club level, Musah enjoyed a breakout season at Valencia, where he went from academy player to first-team regular. Though he struggled for minutes later in the season as more injured regulars returned to the squad, Musah still finished his first season with the first team posting an impressive 35 appearances in all competitions.
“It was a great season for me to find out for myself what I am about,” said Musah. “You learn a lot about yourself and in more of the down parts like making mistakes, losing matches, you know, being in a sport where you have to win matches, you have to be efficient.”
Berhalter will be banking on Musah using that newly-gained experience to continue developing into a force in the USMNT midfield. He is expected to feature in the upcoming Nations League, and has the talent to be a key figure when World Cup qualifying begins in September.
That is an impressive rise for a player who wasn’t even on the USMNT radar a year ago, and a player who only just turned 18 last November.
“It feels great to be doing this at my age,” Musah said. “You know it is a dream come true.”