Despite missing out on the FIFA World Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team has called up the nation’s best and brightest for a friendly against Bolivia in Philadelphia on Monday night. In the buildup to the Memorial Day contest, the Americans have been training on Penn’s campus.
Though superstar midfielder Christian Pulisic is yet to join the squad, Rhodes Field has played host this week to players from big-name clubs including Paris Saint-Germain (Timothy Weah), Tottenham (Cameron Carter-Vickers), Chelsea (Matt Miazga), Manchester United (Matthew Olosunde), and more.
The 22-man roster is remarkably young, with an average age of 22. In fact, only one player at the camp played for the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil — Julian Green, who scored the famous volleyed consolation goal against Belgium. While most of the aforementioned players spent their seasons on loan or with youth teams, they reflect the sense that, looking to the future, this squad is brimming with talent.
“You don’t get many opportunities to watch the young guys, and that’s the purpose of trying to bring them together,” acting head coach Dave Sarachan noted.
It’s only fitting, then, that they spend their week on a college campus. Sarachan — former coach of Cornell men’s soccer — said it was terrific being able to come back to Penn and use its fields, which he said were in top shape.
But the players have been doing more than training while in Philadelphia. On Tuesday night, some of the squad went to a Phillies game, which was a first for some of the foreign-based players.
Olosunde noted at Wednesday’s open practice that he was thrilled to be back so close to home. A Trenton, N.J. native, the Manchester United full-back got the chance to visit his family.
“It feels great. I got to see my parents as soon as they landed, so it’s been really welcoming to be here in such a warm environment,” Olosunde said. The national team call-up was a welcome start to his summer — Olosunde expected neither the call-up nor the chance to see his family in Philadelphia.
For Pulisic and Miazga, the game also represents somewhat of a homecoming. Pulisic, from Hershey, Pa., and Miazga, from Clifton, N.J., will both have family in attendance at Talen Energy Stadium on Monday. Especially for the American-raised, foreign-based players in the squad, the chance to spend some time stateside is always welcome.
“Nothing beats being back stateside,” Miazga said. “I was back here for Christmas, but there’s nothing like good old America!”
All eyes will turn to Pulisic when he joins the team camp on Friday after parting ways with the Borussia Dortmund squad for the summer. The superstar is widely expected to dazzle in his Pennsylvania debut, but a number of young Americans will have their chance on Monday night. In particular, PSG’s forward Timothy Weah, who is the son of Ballon d’Or winner and Liberian President George Weah, could steal the show if given the chance.
For now, the Red, White, and Blue will enjoy their time at Penn and in Philadelphia. They’ll endure three more tough training sessions at Rhodes Field before Monday’s friendly against Bolivia.