October 8, 2021


'The trap is going to be us thinking we're great': USMNT fans, players must keep perspective amid highs and lows (Paul Tenorio, 10/08/21, The Athletic)

After the first two games in September, the pitchforks were out. Now, after two consecutive wins, the hype surrounding some of these youngsters -- like 18-year-old Ricardo Pepi, 20-year-old Brenden Aaronson and 18-year-old Yunus Musah -- is already crescendoing. 

What these four games have taught us about this team is that it is very much learning on the go. And that the growth isn't always going to be linear. There are going to be some downs beats that won't be as bad as they'll feel in the moment, and there are going to be some highs that won't stick, even if they seem like they should. 

It will be a constant challenge to find that equilibrium for a team trying to navigate the growing pains of youth. This World Cup qualifying cycle is meant to build the foundation of a group that can get the U.S. back to the World Cup and then compete in Qatar. And beyond even that, it's about then using that tournament to springboard into greater heights when the World Cup comes back to American soil in 2026. 

It can be difficult to fully grasp how young this team is, and how quickly this group is coming together. The U.S. played the youngest lineup in its history last month and then added another 18-year-old to the starting lineup on Thursday. Another teenager, Joe Scally, is starting regularly in the Bundesliga and seems destined for a call-up soon.

Just two years ago, Aaronson was a Philadelphia Union homegrown midfielder with a grand total of 25 career MLS games under his belt. SergiƱo Dest had just featured for the U.S. at the U-20 World Cup and played his first seven games for Ajax's first team. Pepi had just 212 first-team minutes to his name. Musah was an England youth international who had only played four professional games for Valencia's second team.

All of them are now starting together for this team and are expected to get the U.S. back to the World Cup.

Admittedly it was a group that failed to make the 2018 Cup, but it's still startling that nearly no one from that team matters to this one (except, arguably, Pulisic and Zardes) and for every player on the team the first World Cup game of 2022 will be their first ever. 

Posted by at October 8, 2021 7:33 AM