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Why US football is set for success with a priceless generation 

Giovanni Reyna in action against Wales last week, the day before he turned 18.
Giovanni Reyna in action against Wales last week, the day before he turned 18.
Mark Pitman
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Modified 17 Nov 2020, 21:12 IST
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The United States (US) claimed a convincing 6-2 win over Panama on Monday to complete a constructive November month that could mark the start of a new and exciting era for the country's football team.

Following on from their goalless draw against Wales in Swansea a few days before, Gregg Berhalter's team fell behind against Panama in Austria but responded in the style expected from a young and talented group of players with the hunger to succeed on the international stage.

The next generation of US football stars has already arrived

Christian Pulisic will be a key figure for the US during the next decade.
Christian Pulisic will be a key figure for the US during the next decade.

Christian Pulisic was absent against Panama because of an injury. However, even the absence of the influential Chelsea midfielder failed to dampen the excitement around the team's exciting and young roster.

Prior to the friendly international against Wales, the US last played back in February, where a young and largely experimental side defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in California. A few months ago, the side had claimed a comfortable 4-0 win over Cuba with a more recognisable lineup.

The enforced break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic allowed the US football association to create a blueprint for the team moving forward. They finally had the opportunity to implement those plans over the course of the last week, where the hype and excitement about the team's young players appeared justified.

Giovanni Reyna (18), Sergino Dest (20), Weston McKennie (22) and Yunus Musah (17) were the players who impressed me as I watched on the from the media tribune at a wet and windy Liberty Stadium in Swansea last week.

The weather conditions failed to dampen their youthful enthusiasm for what they had become a part of.

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Promising young stars could shape the future of US football

Sergino Dest has already impressed for Barcelona this season.
Sergino Dest has already impressed for Barcelona this season.

Having already played for Ajax Amsterdam and Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League as well as in the recent El Clasico for the Catalan club against their rivals Real Madrid, Sergino Dest is no stranger to the big stage.

An exciting and dynamic full-back, he has the pace and versatility to emulate the achievements of Dani Alves at the Camp Nou.

Competing against the Barcelona youngster in La Liga is Valencia's Yunus Musah. Still just 17, the attacking winger has turned his back on England for an international career with the US, and it already appears that their style of play and tactical system could suit his game.

It is clear that the strategy from Gregg Berhalter for this team is to attack in pace and in numbers, but that leaves a vulnerability in defence that was exposed by the nature of Panama's two goals on Monday.

The goalless draw with Wales last week marked the start of a new era for US football.
The goalless draw with Wales last week marked the start of a new era for US football.

The clean-sheet against Wales offered more to the experimental selection of their opponents than a solid performance from the US backline. But the US manager is playing to the strengths of his team and maximising the talent and potential at his disposal.

In on-loan Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie, the US have a player who could compete with Christian Pulisic for the title of talisman. A busy and creative figure in the midfield, Schalke 04 are unlikely to see him wear their shirt in the Bundesliga again, considering McKennie's bright start to life at Juventus.

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Weston McKennie has all the attributes needed to succeed for club and country.
Weston McKennie has all the attributes needed to succeed for club and country.

Why Giovanni Reyna is the crown jewel of US football

The attacking talent of US is headlined by the man who only turned 18 the day after the friendly draw against Wales.

The son of former US football star Claudio Reyna, Giovanni Reyna already plays with a confidence and maturity that belies his young years; the audacity of his clever free-kick against Panama could be the first of many more goals for his country.

In possession, facing Giovanni Reyna is a daunting prospect for defenders. He is physically strong and has close control and an arsenal of tricks.

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His young age means that his temperament will need to catch up with his talent as he exhibits flashes of frustration at times, but at Borussia Dortmund, there are few European clubs better at handling such prodigious ability.

Giovanni Reyna in action for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
Giovanni Reyna in action for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.

And that is a key point, and one that is consistent throughout the main players of the US football team.

With the exception of the physical Sebastian Lletget, who plays his football with LA Galaxy, this is largely a European-based team that is not restricted to one or two countries but spread across the continent: Italy, Spain, France, Netherlands, England, Belgium and Portugal.

The biggest challenge for Gregg Berhalter will not be in developing and maximising the potential of this squad but in assembling this group into a team that could play with one identity that represents his vision for US football.

The US head coach made his name in Major League Soccer with Columbus Crew SC, but his players have a broader outlook from their eclectic mix of club football.

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Creating a unique identity from a continental mix - the challenge ahead for US coach Gregg Berhalter

Gregg Berhalter must unite his US football squad to create an identity in his own vision.
Gregg Berhalter must unite his US football squad to create an identity in his own vision.

To unify the US football team will be difficult because the quality and talent that the young players mentioned above have could propel them to the highest level of the European game.

US football cannot afford for their star players to see international football as a step down from their clubs. Big decisions will need to be made to ensure that the US football association holds its respect as an association as much as they hold for the flag.

The emphasis on playing with a positive 4-3-3 formation will be encouraging for players like Giovanni Reyna and Weston McKennie, but results and success will ultimately depend on ensuring how the defensive frailties highlighted in moments against Panama are addressed as early as possible.

Yunus Musah, in action for Valencia, is still just 17 years old.
Yunus Musah, in action for Valencia, is still just 17 years old.

A new era has begun for US football, and Gregg Berhalter has been entrusted to deliver and succeed with the most talented generation to have emerged in decades, possibly all time.

Berhalter's own position will remain under continuous review to ensure that this opportunity is not wasted, and the pressure of expectancy could quickly become apparent as the side return to regular international game-time.

The pressure is already on Gregg Berhalter to deliver success with this generation.
The pressure is already on Gregg Berhalter to deliver success with this generation.
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The early indications are positive, and this US football side has every chance of success, as it can field some of the most exciting young talents in the European game.

These are the players that most international managers can only wish for, and Gregg Berhalter finds himself in a privileged position that many will envy him for.

Published 17 Nov 2020, 21:12 IST
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