USMNT’s quest to fulfill potential begins against Wales

Al Rayyan, Qatar – It’s the moment they’ve dreamed about, worked for, waited so long for.

More than five years – 3,065 days – after the lowest point in the modern history of the United States men’s national team, when the Americans failed to reach the World Cup for the first time in more than three decades, a new, young, impossibly talented but The completely unheralded USMNT is finally set to return to the global stage in their Qatar 2022 opener Monday (2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) against Wales.

“When I came into the national team picture, we were on the verge of not qualifying,” said 23-year-old captain Tyler Adams, who made his international debut a month after the disastrous defeat in Trinidad. fate of the previous generation.

“We had no identity, no game plan. It was almost like you were going to a national team camp for fun. And although we’re enjoying the ride and having fun here, the last three A lot of hard work has gone into building our identity over the years.”

that identity is about to be tested The Americans’ first World Cup game since 2014.

For all their pedigree and promise and youthful enthusiasm – with an average age of just over 25, the US are the second youngest team in a 32-nation field – Greg Berhalter’s side have faced nothing close to the level of competition they finish Will happen over the next nine days (and possibly beyond).

The US meets England, one of the tournament’s favorites in their second match, then ends group play against dangerous, unpredictable Iran.

First up is Wales, a team that has waited even longer – a very long time – to get back to the pinnacle of the game. His only World Cup appearance was back in 1958. However, he made an impact by reaching the quarter-finals, and probably fancy his chances of advancing to the knockout stage of this tournament as much as the Americans do. They are a gritty, lunch-pail-carrying squad with some distinctive members including Aaron Ramsey and superstar captain Gareth Bale.

“We know Wales are going to be a highly competitive opponent,” Berhalter said at Sunday’s pre-match press conference. “We want to be an offensive team in this game. We want to be able to hurt them, but we also know they have strengths, and they have threats, and we want to be able to put them away.” “

As much as the USMNT must be mindful of the threats Wells poses, the main focus is on himself. While no one doubts the potential of the US team, which enters the World Cup for the first time with a roster filled with players employed by some of the most prominent European clubs, they also – apparently, given their youth – Sometimes showed a dangerous naïveté.

The opening window of World Cup qualifying last September is a good example. In the two games, the Americans had just two points. Although it was a marathon of 14 matches. And even with plenty of time to recover, it took the Americans until the final contest to book tickets to Qatar.

Here, they have just three games to earn enough points needed to survive the group stage. Starting slow will probably be fatal.

Yet Berhalter claims he is not overly concerned.

“I’ve seen a maturity with this group over the last three and a half years,” he said. “I see tremendous focus within the team. And I think that focus is going to help us go for success. And time will tell if we are capable of playing with the best teams in the world.

“It’s a talented group, a young group, but it’s also a group full of good character,” he said. “I’m watching the training. I’m watching it off the field. I’m watching how guys are interacting with each other. And I have to say that I believe this group is ready to play.” .. And a lot of it has to do with their mindset and their ability to support each other.”

US-Wales Preview

US-Wales Preview

Clint Dempsey and Alexi Lalas discuss the United States’ hopes at the World Cup.

With little separating the two sides, Monday’s outcome could hinge on some of those intangibles. It will be decided by willpower and skill. Bell said Sunday that he is fit enough to start, but he is not the only player America should be aware of. They’ll also have to keep a close eye on 6-foot-5 striker Kiefer Moore.

“Obviously, he’s amazing in the air, but he’s probably a little short on his technical ability and finishing around goal,” said Adams, who faced Moore earlier this season in the English Premier League. “We already talked about it in our scouting meeting. You know you have to be with him all the time. He’s a problem.”

Meanwhile, the USMNT could be without a pair of projected starters in central midfielder Weston McKennie and right back Sergio Daest. Both are healthy enough to contribute after minor muscle injuries, Berhalter said, but probably not for the full 90 minutes.

Whoever plays must act as if their World Cup depends on it. This match has been a long time coming for America, this is where they wanted to be. There is no such thing as a moral victory in the main event, there is no room for error anymore. Will this young USMNT accept the pressure or collapse under its weight? Lakhs of fans are about to go back home.

“The pressure is a privilege,” Adams said. “When you’re playing under pressure, it means it really matters to you, and it’s really meaningful.

Adams continued, “You’re playing for something much bigger than yourself.” “You’re playing for all the people in America who are watching and supporting you.”

That’s what they wanted. For better or worse, their big moment is finally here.

can not wait.

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for Fox Sports. Prior to joining Fox Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @by Doug McIntyre,

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