The attacking threats for the U.S. U-17 team were well-established heading into the World Cup, thanks to a torrid second-place finish in CONCACAF qualifying and a Nike Friendlies Championship that served as coming out parties for the likes of Josh Sargent, Andrew Carleton, Ayo Akinola, and George Acosta. More of a wild card, Timothy Weah was a player that most often came off the bench for one of the aforementioned players. His speed and work rate were clear to see, and he could clearly finish off a play, but it remained to be seen whether he was a significant upgrade over any of the starting front four.
The World Cup is as good a time as ever to answer that question. Coming back from a shocking 3-1 defeat to Colombia and the knowledge that the senior USMNT would miss the World Cup for the first time in their lives, the U.S. U-17s trounced a Paraguay side that had yet to lose in the competition 5-0, with Tim Weah turning in a star-making hat trick. So how did we get from Weah, the substitute, to Weah, the main attraction?
Some might say it’s in his blood. It’s well-known that Weah is the son of George Weah, the only African to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award, and some would argue the greatest African to ever play the game. The elder Weah led his native Liberia to the Africa Cup of Nations twice, the only two times the country has qualified for the tournament, during its brutal civil war. He also missed out on the 2002 World Cup by just one point, falling to Nigeria’s Super Eagles. After stints with Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Marseille, George eventually retired and turned his attention to politics. He won the preliminary round of voting for Liberian presidency, and will go head-to-head with former Vice President Joseph Boakai in a final vote for president. Not one to shy away from the spotlight, Tim Weah’s father certainly can provide any inspiration his son might need.
Some might say it’s a result of his club. The younger Weah just signed his first professional contract with Paris Saint-Germain, and has lit up PSG’s youth ranks playing both as a winger and a striker. Not one to shy away from the stylish, Weah’s pace and confidence has already made him a formidable attacker with the French side.
Accordingly, The Guardian named Weah to its annual list of the best prospects in the world, ahead of Sargent and Akinola, who usually started before ahead of him with the U-17s. After today’s performance, it’s hard to say they were wrong.
Or maybe all of this comes from Weah himself. Armed with a strong personality and stronger work ethic, head coach John Hackworth prizes Weah’s attitude and desire to constantly approve in every training session and game. The youngster has the physical and mental tools to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. And he knows how to have a little fun as well.
Fast, strong, and technically sound, Tim Weah has the goods for the U-17s, and his developmental trajectory just in the past few months looks steep enough to propel the U.S. even further in the World Cup. They’ll need it, as both possible opponents for the quarterfinals, England and Japan, have extremely talented sides capable of winning the tournament. Something tells us Weah won’t shy away from the challenge.