The USMNT will brace themselves for one of the most defining matches in recent years when they face Wales in an international friendly on Thursday.

The aftermath of the United States elections earlier this November saw the country once again become the subject of riots, protests and a layer of uncertainty. But on Thursday, soccer fans across the country will have one reason to get collectively excited about as the USMNT lock horns with Wales at the Liberty Stadium.

This game might only be an international friendly for a Welsh side, who have a key UEFA Nations League fixture against Ireland coming up on Sunday. But for their rivals across the Atlantic, it might spark the start of a new era as head coach Gregg Berhalter prepares to unleash some of the country’s next-gen superstars.

Indeed, the United States’ team heading into this week’s set of friendlies might just be the most exciting one yet in the nation’s footballing history, with the list including players like Giovanni Reyna, the shining jewel of the Borussia Dortmund side while FC Barcelona’s very own Konrad de la Fuente and Sergino Dest were also called up.

These are all young players who have already shown what they are capable of with their respective clubs and are looking to make a mark at the international stage. In fact, only three players in the US team are aged 26 or above, so it will be interesting to see how Berhalter looks to build the team despite such inexperience.

As for Wales, Thursday’s friendly will give them the opportunity to rest some of their key players before they brace themselves for the Ireland clash in the UEFA Nations League. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at these two sides ahead of their friendly this midweek.

Tactics & Team News

Wales

Jose Mourinho has been quite vocal about the fitness of Gareth Bale and how Tottenham are trying to ease him back into first-team football. So we are unlikely to see the Welshman starting this midweek, paving the way for FC Schalke’s Rabbi Matondo to operate as the wider attacking player along with Daniel James while the attack could be led by Tyler Roberts.

None of these three players has been a regular fixture in the starting eleven for their respective clubs so they will have a point to prove this midweek, though unfortunately, they will be missing out on the services of Aaron Ramsey. The Juventus midfielder has backed out from the squad due to a minor injury.

Ramsey’s absence means we could potentially see Jonathan Williams operating in the number ten role. Matt Smith and Dylan Levitt ought to occupy the pivot positions in the middle of the park.

Meanwhile, in defence, Ben Davies is a favourite to start after being benched by Mourinho in the game against West Brom. He will operate at left-back, with Chris Gunter, hoping to make his 100th appearance for his country during this international window, starting on the opposite flank.

These two will look to aid the central defenders in Tom Lockyer and James Lawrence while the absence of both Wayne Hennessey and Adam Davies should see Danny Ward starting in between the sticks.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ward; Gunter, Lockyer, Lawrence, Davies; Smith, Levitt; Matondo, Williams, James; Roberts

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United States

Berhalter has a lot of decisions to make, as far as his team selection is concerned. Giovanni Reyna is almost destined to receive his first start for the national team, at the age of just 17, though he might not be partnered by ex-Borussia Dortmund sensation Christian Pulisic, who is still recovering from his fitness problems.

Instead, we might see Valencia wonderkid Yunus Musah, who has recently chosen the US over England. Though a central midfielder by trade, Musah could operate alongside Reyna and potentially, Konrad de la Fuente. These three will look to provide support to lone striker Timothy Weah, although Sebastian Soto is also an option for Berhalter.

The away side doesn’t have a variety of options in central midfield so we are expecting Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams to feature in the double-pivot. Sebastian Lletget, who is the only MLS player in the current camp is a potential alternative, along with Owen Otasowie of Wolves.

Defensively, Berhalter has a strong foundation in John Anthony Brooks and Tim Ream. However, Bayern Munich wonderkid Chris Richards is making strong waves and though he may not start in this fixture, the youngster could be involved in the next friendly against Panama.

Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson, meanwhile, are pretty much-guaranteed starters in the wide defensive roles, with Zack Steffen starting in goal, ahead of Ethan Horvath and Chituru Odunze.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Steffen; Dest, Ream, Brooks, Robinson; Adams, McKennie; Musah, Reyna, la Fuente; Weah

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Key Stats

  • The sides have met just once, with the USA winning 2-0 in a friendly on May 26, 2003 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California.
  • Similar to the USMNT, who will tackle the Concacaf Nations League Finals, 2021 Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifying in 2021, Wales is also using Thursday’s friendly as preparation for three different competitions.
  • Wales have lost just one of their five matches played in 2020. They are unbeaten in the last two fixtures, keeping clean sheets in both.
  • The USMNT is on a three-game winning streak, having beaten Canada (4-1) and Cuba (4-0) in November 2019, before getting the better of Costa Rica in February 2020 (1-0).
  • The Welsh national team has won seven of their 11 fixtures since 2019 (D3 L1).

Player to Watch

Giovanni Reyna

There are a number of young players worth looking forward to, for the away side but none quite matches the enthusiasm surrounding the potential national team debut for Giovanni Reyna this week.

The 17-year-old has already become one of the stars in the Bundesliga this season, having featured in all of the league games for Borussia Dortmund. His performances in the final third have already kept the likes of Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard out of the starting lineup and so the youngster will also be looking to kickstart his international career on a positive note.

For Wales, Reyna’s dynamic movements and the ability to find through passes in behind the backline could cause problems, especially with the fidgety Weah leading the attack.

Prediction

Wales 3-1 USA

The United States are undoubtedly heading into this game with a lot of confidence and excitement. But, their lack of experience could prove to be costly against a Wales team who have done well on the international stage in recent years. We are expecting a comfortable 3-1 victory for the home side.

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