USMNT vs. Wales: Storylines to watch, Gio Reyna’s debut, the Brooks and Richards defensive pairing and more

The United States men’s national team will be back in action for the first time since February when the red, white and blue face Wales on Thursday in an international friendly in London. It’s one of the most highly-anticipated friendlies for the U.S. men in recent years thanks to the promise of so many youngsters seeing the pitch. Despite Christian Pulisic missing out due to injury, it promises to be a fun one. Kickoff is set for 2:45 p.m. ET, and here are the storylines to keep an eye on.

Gio Reyna’s debut

Reyna, the best American prospect since Christian Pulisic, and one who might even have a higher ceiling, is expected to make his debut for Gregg Berhalter’s side. The Borussia Dortmund rising star, who just agreed to a contract extension with the club, is expected to play significant minutes in his first game with the senior team. Technically savvy and with a fantastic vision for setting teammates up, he is the future engine in attack for the side, but the future may be now. The 17-year-old, who turns 18 on Friday, is gifted on the ball with immense close control and the ability to quickly play pinpoint passes to break the backline. He has already created 11 chances and notched 4 assists for Dortmund across the Bundesliga and Champions League this season. We’ll have to see how the attack looks around him, but expect him to see the majority of the ball in the middle where he can do maximum damage.

The dream center back pairing

The center back position for the USMNT for most of the last decade has felt like John Brooks and some average player next to him. Tim Ream, Matt Miazga, and a host of others have all had their chances and none have been consistently good enough to solidify themselves as a key contributor. So could it be time for Chris Richards of Bayern Munich? The 20-year-old is fully in the club’s plans moving forward, so much so that Bayern resisted offers to loan him out this season, and he’s delivered. He’s got the versatility to play at right back, but his natural position is as a central defender. He is quite different than Brooks, less of an imposing physical defender but better on the ball and, given his young age, more potential to further develop over the next few years. If the Brooks-Richards pairing gets a runout, even if it’s only for half an hour, it could be a good glimpse at the potential starting duo at the next two World Cups. 

Soto’s revival to continue?

Remember Sebastian Soto? No? Ok. Way way back at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup Soto notched a couple of braces and seemed set to have a fast start to a strong career. That feels like ages ago.. Things turned sour at Hannover and resulted in him joining Norwich City before going to Telstar of the Dutch second division on loan. 

But five goals in seven games, including two on his debut, has him feeling good again and firmly in Berhalter’s plans for these next two games. 

After flirting with the Chilean national team recently, he seems committed to the United States men’s national team, but this camp will go a long way in determining ultimately what he does. 

If he gets some minutes and can deliver, he could really see his stock rise in a position of need for the U.S. 

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Other new players to watch

There are a total of 10 players in the squad that haven’t played with the team. Whether it’s former England youth player Yunus Musah of Valencia or Johnny Cardoso of Internacional, this is a great chance to also get in the good graces of players who are eligible to play for other countries. Both Musah and Cardoso have become regular starters at big clubs in the countries in which they play, inevitably generating lot of buzz about their potential.

Playing in this match does not cap-tie players to the United States, but it’s a start towards getting there. 

Here are all the players who could make their debut:

  • GK Chituru Odunze, Leicester City
  • CB Richards, Bayern Munich
  • MF Cardoso, Internacional
  • MF Richie Ledezma, PSV
  • MF Musah, Valencia
  • MF Owen Otasowie, Wolves
  • MF Reyna, Dortmund
  • FW Konrad de la Fuente, Barcelona
  • FW Nicholas Gioacchini, Caen
  • FW Soto, Telstar


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