Christian Pulisic. Jordan Morris. Paul Arriola.
All three played their part in the USA’s 4-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday and all three have given Jurgen Klinsmann a welcome selection headache between now and their next 2018 World Cup qualifier on Nov. 11 against Mexico.
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Youth is on the rise with the U.S. national team and it’s not just about those three aforementioned starlets. Think about the likes of Lynden Gooch starring at Sunderland, Caleb Stanko who got a late cameo in Jacksonville on Tuesday and Kellyn Acosta who started in the win against St. Vincent and the Grenandines last Friday.
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All of a sudden there seems to be a new wave of young players Klinsmann knows he can pick and they won’t let him down.
Over the past two games 17-year-old Pulisic has dazzled with his skills, goals and assists and his star power is clear, but the emergence of Morris, 21, as a contributor, plus Arriola, 21, showing composure off the bench to score in each of his two USMNT appearances and Acosta, 21, able to slot in at left back, shows Klinsmann’s youngsters can now help out when needed. In fact, plenty of them are pushing the experienced players for roster spots.
Pulisic’s displays will grab plenty of the headlines, and rightly so. As Nick Mendola correctly pointed out following the USA’s win on Tuesday, this kid is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. He’s on a par with Landon Donovan but he’s playing and scoring in the Bundesliga at the age of 17. Donovan wasn’t doing that.
The Pulisic hype-train left the station a long time ago but others are ready to step up.
Speaking after the game to reporters, U.S. national team veteran Tim Howard is delighted to see the youngsters breaking through.
“We added some young players to the fold. Well, maybe they were part of it but they’re getting opportunities now. They make us a little more dynamic. We’re shifty. We’re able to press. It’s been a good change for us.”
Even the likes of Emerson Hydnman, Gedion Zelalem and Cameron Carter-Vickers will be looking over enviously at others getting a chance with the national team. There time to shine will come too but what we are seeing now is youngsters step up and prove they’re as good, if not better, than the guys who are currently on the fringes of the starting lineup. That has to be promising for the USMNT coaching staff.
A bullish Klinsmann is now ready to take on Mexico with a deeper, vibrant squad after his side finished top of Group C in the fourth-round of CONCACAF Wolrd Cup qualifying. That has set up a tasty clash with Mexico in November which U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati has already confirmed will be in Columbus, Ohio. That’s right, the venue for four-straight Dos a Cero wins for the U.S. over Mexico.
Klinsmann likes where the U.S. is at right now.
“Now going into hexagonal with a big chest, saying, ‘OK, let’s take on Mexico in the first game,’ with a lot of confidence and respect, obviously,” Klinsmann told reporters. “We see ourselves on the right path.”
The path has always been to develop young players and despite speed bumps along the way (that defeat to Guatemala away) finally there are signs of promise from the youngsters on the U.S. roster, as we saw in the last two World Cup qualifiers.
Facing Mexico will be a whole different ball game for any these youngsters, if selected, but with friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand next month the U.S. can give the likes of Pulisic and Co. some more minutes to see just how far along they are in their development.
You have to put the U.S. wins over the past five days into perspective but the one thing we learned, overall, is that these kids, they’re more than alright.