The United States men’s national team will keep a spring friendly close to its European-heavy best roster when Gregg Berhalter’s men meet Northern Ireland in Belfast on March 28.
The Norn Iron will play in between UEFA World Cup qualifiers while the USMNT continues to ready for the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals, 2021 Gold Cup, and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
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It’s always interesting to see how a match announcement is framed by the opposition, and Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough calls the USMNT a “growing nation.”
“It’s a shame we can’t get a bouncing, fervent national statement at Windsor Park,” Baraclough said (video above). “[MLS is} a league that’s growing, as we know, with high-profile players within the game are going there, moreso with David Beckham taking Inter Miami as a team. … The Americans feel they are a growing nation and will be a power for years to come. A strong USA team in football will be important.”
Berhalter issued the following quote via a U.S. Soccer press release:
“This is a good opportunity to work with our full group before the Nations League Final Four in June,” Berhalter said. “We’ve been excited about the progress our players continue to make with their clubs, and now we have another chance to strengthen our group ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying later this year. Northern Ireland is a very competitive team and brings a different set of challenges in the way they play. We look forward to a great experience.”
Northern Ireland is led by steady Premier League experience including Leicester City’s Jonny Evans and longtime Southampton man Steven Davis. Newcastle’s Jamal Lewis, Leeds’ Stuart Dallas, and Man United teen prospect Ethan Galbraith are also eyebrow-raising names.
They captured some imaginations at EURO 2016 when goalkeeper Michael McGovern’s heroics helped the team into the Round of 16, surging as high as a program-best 20th in the FIFA rankings under Michael O’Neill (now at Championship side Stoke City). They lost to Switzerland in the 2018 World Cup qualifying playoffs.