Three years ago, when the USMNT was collapsed in Trinidad and Tobago, long-term hope felt difficult to find. There needed to be a new generation of players, but beyond a young Christian Pulisic, there weren’t many fully-formed youngsters to choose from. The player pool was either experienced players who had been part of the Trinidad failure or hopeful younger players who didn’t seem good enough.
It’s much easier to have long-term optimism now. The players from Pulisic’s generation (and younger) have proven to be very good, and are making legitimate waves in the biggest European circles. They’re not playing in MLS — some developed here, but now they are now in Europe’s big five, contributing in big ways.
Pulisic paved the way
Pulisic, for his part, has continued to lead the charge. He is a major player for Chelsea, as you may have noticed, and will play a big role this season under Frank Lampard as Chelsea look to make a run with new signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner. He returned from a hamstring injury on Saturday, making his season debut in a seven-minute cameo off the bench against Crystal Palace.
Americans making noise at Barcelona
Two Americans are part of the first-team setup at FC Barcelona. (That’s a sentence I wouldn’t have expected to write three years ago.) Sergino Dest, a 19-year-old right back who was a starter for Ajax last season, chose Barcelona over Bayern Munich. He signed a five-year contract to be part of Barcelona’s future, and will get to be teammates with Lionel Messi for what seems like it will be Messi’s last season in Catalan.
Joining Dest in Barcelona is Konrad de la Fuente, a 19-year-old winger and Miami native. He trained with the first team throughout the preseason and made the bench in Barcelona’s season-opening 3-0 win over Celta Vigo. De la Fuente isn’t as highly-touted as the transfer target Dest, but new manager Ronald Koeman seems to have a high opinion of him.
USMNT’s midfield making major impact
The US’s midfield is in good hands. Tyler Adams is a Champions League starter for Red Bull Leipzig. Weston McKennie will perform a similar role for Juventus. McKennie was the subject of many a transfer rumor over the summer, and ended up going to the Italian giants to play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
At Borussia Dortmund, Giovani Reyna has emerged as a superstar. Reyna is 17 and is putting up big numbers for Dortmund — he had three assists in his team’s recent win over SC Freiburg, giving him a goal and four assists on the season.
Young defenders also earning first-team time
Center back Chris Richards, who like McKennie is a product of FC Dallas’s academy, is making the bench for Bayern. His manager, Hansi Flick, praised him recently. Antonee Robinson is taking the “American full back on a mediocre Premier League team” label from DeAndre Yedlin; Robinson went 90 in Fulham’s League Cup loss in midweek. He is competing for the same minutes as veteran US national teamer Tim Ream.
A first for USMNT starting XI?
The Washington Post’s Steven Goff counted 14 Americans who are in the first team mix with big five European clubs. We don’t know how all of these players fit with the national team, but surely Gregg Berhalter is having a good time trying to figure that out. When World Cup qualifying starts — whenever that may be — the US will be able to run out a lineup filled with players from top-tier European clubs.