I can tell you exactly where I was on October 10, 2017.
It was an autumn evening in Atlanta, and the United States Men’s National Team needed to win the script as they played Trinidad and Tobago in Cuba. I remember images of the Ato Boldon stadium days before the game because of course it’s CONCACAF and I guess that sort of thing happens.
But there I was, at a packed Ri Ra Irish Pub (RIP) in Midtown Atlanta, confident at the very least that the USMNT would do their job. Simply put, a win would put him in the world championship.
It didn’t happen, obviously.
One of the images that will always stay with me, I think, is the shock and dismay on the faces of the fans gathered there. Granted, the United States of America is, of all places, not exactly the United Kingdom when it comes to the world game, but qualifying for the World Cup in a country of over 300 million is supposed to be a given, right? Especially after you haven’t missed it since 1986 and made it to the last 16 in a row in 2014, 4 years after one of the most dramatic moments in the team’s history took place in South Africa, which took you to your first round. : 16 out of 94, right?
If anything, the night brought us one of the most memorable televised moments in sports history. You know someone.
Fast forward to now and the USMNT is back at the World Cup. Let’s not pretend the journey there was smooth sailing either.
Of course, there were high moments. 4-1 defeat in Honduras Dos a Cero In Cincinnatibeating El Salvador frosty (and snowy) Columbus, draw at Azteca In perhaps the last US-MEX qualifier as it stands, Mexico’s Gold Cup final was absolutely sizzling (I was there) in Las Vegas thanks to Myles Robinson’s extra-time header and heroics from Ethan Horvath and Christian Pulisic. against in last year’s Concacaf Nations League final El Tri.
But then there were the lows. The loss to Canada (!) in Hamilton, the draws that should have been wins, and the general frustration of watching a team that just seemed out of ideas offensively. It was Robinson, who had made a stratospheric rise from Syracuse University standout to MLS Best XI defender and national team mainstay, lying helpless on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf, his Achilles ruptured and his place at center back paired with Walker Zimmerman. Qatar left in agonizing seconds. There were other injuries as well. not as serious as Robinson’s, but the kind that made you wonder if they could at least stay healthy long enough to at least make it on the plane.
But the US did, however imperfectly.
Even as I write this, it’s hard to believe that Christian Pulisic, who has been with the program for many years but just turned 24, is playing in his 1st World Cup. Four years ago, Captain America had to help the US attack in Russia. Instead, he had to watch it from home, ordinary viewers like you and me.
Since then, fresh, young faces have emerged.
Here is Sergino Dest, who just turned 22, one of the world’s up-and-coming full-backs, who trained at the famous Ajax academy but chose to represent the country his father immigrated to as a child.
Gio Reyna, the 20-year-old son of one of the most legendary players in United States history, is ready to make his own mark on the sport. He also plays with memories of his brother Jack, who lost his battle with cancer 10 years ago.
Here’s 22-year-old Timothy Weah, the son of another football great, following in his father’s footsteps and trying to improve her mark in the game. I’m not sure if he’ll end up being a head of state like his father, but we’ll see.
Younus Musah, almost 20, was born in New York but grew up partly in England, a youth international with the Three Lions before eventually changing his country of birth despite his choice of 4, yes, 4 countries.
Jesus Ferreira, almost 22, was born in Colombia, raised in Texas and exported from one of the best youth academies in the country. He has been in the hunt for the MLS Golden Boot for most of 2022. However, he likely won’t be in MLS for much longer.
Brenden Aaronson, who turned 22 last month, about half an hour outside of Philly, who also came through the MLS youth circuit, has been tearing it up in the league for a few years (scoring in his MLS debut…Atlanta United) and is now For an American coach in the Premier League. A real-life Wisconsinite who grew up around the game, not a fictional one from Kansas who was once a successful college football coach.
Josh Sargent, almost 23, a red-headed Midwesterner who moved to Germany at 17 and is the father of an 11-month-old child who should be in the USWNT’s consideration in time for the 2043 Women’s World. Cup.
The names I just mentioned. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Raina, Musah, Joe Scully (19) could feature in 2038 after the ‘old’ boys like Jeddy Robinson, Christian Pulisic and Matt Turner have hung up on them. Heck, Pulisic, along with Tyler Adams, Robinson and Weston McKenney (and maybe even Sargent, Dest and Ferriera) should have enough tread on their tires in 2034 to make one last go around. But more eyes will be on that 19-24-year-old core of USMNT fans than, say, the late 20s/early 30s to mid-30s guys in the group, who attract their share of haters and critics. Will this moment be very enlightening for young people? Is the hype justified? From the perspective of the entire team, including the bigger players, did Greg Berhalter get the roster right?
As I write this, which is the early morning of November 20, 2022, there are still many questions to be answered about the United States Men’s National Team as it prepares for its opening match against Wales on Monday. the country in its 1st World Cup since 1958 but features one of the sport’s greatest players in Gareth Bale. I guess we’ll be one step closer to knowing their answer around 4pm ET on Monday (roughly midnight in Qatar) when we’ll either be celebrating a win/hard-fought result or agonizing over a loss to England. on black friday.
Either way, a new chapter will be written. No one is sure yet how it will end. Let’s hope together that it’s quite happy.