It’s not a very exciting time to be a fan of the US women’s youth national teams. Things feel very incoherent at the moment, from lackluster performances to losing faith in the coaching system to overall not really trusting US Soccer to fix anything. But despite it all, the young players in the program persevere, and 2019’s young player of the year has been persevering for a while, competing at pretty much every level in the youth program, which includes a longer stint than usual with the U-20s because she started with them so young and getting a callup to the senior team in 2017 at just 16 years old.
That’s right: USSF’s young player of the year is Brianna Pinto, and she’s not done yet, since she also got invited to Vlatko Andnovski’s year-end identification camp, which was stacked with a mix of young NWSL players, some vets, and promising college talent. So we’ll be looking for any development out of that on top of Pinto’s hard work with the U-20s and her 11 goals and six assists in 27 games for North Carolina.
First, enjoy this highlight reel put together by her dad, Hassan Pinto, combining proud dad energy, the clean version of All The Way Up, and Brianna’s top shelf skills.
It’s a pretty good summary of Pinto’s strengths: she’s a fast midfielder with good vision who can drift or crash into the box as necessary, and has that nice sense of developing play that has Kansas City Shuffled plenty of defenders into oblivion with one sharp pass.
In 2019, the U-20s have been not good. They’ve often relied on great individual effort to lift tired, repetitive systems of play. They lost to Japan, Germany, and France and their wins were narrow 1-0 victories, excepting a 4-0 blast against Sweden in La Manga this past March. Pinto’s other young player nominees were Trinity Byars , Naomi Girma, Casey Murphy, and Allyson Sentnor, all of them the type of player you can rely on for huge individual effort. That’s kind of how the US youth system is.
Pinto is still quite young, playing in her sophomore year with UNC. And we’ll see if she lands in the NWSL upon graduating. By the time she graduates, the USWNT will be turning their thoughts towards the next World Cup, and the gauntlet of upcoming 2022 games that will undoubtedly winnow the playing field. How will Pinto fit into a senior team system that is already bursting at the seams with extraordinary midfielders? Will Andonovski (presumably still head caoch at this time) start preparing her for the next cycle’s transition, when we’ll get the usual bunch of post-WC/Olympics retirements? Or would you rather see Pinto feeding Christen Press right now, her quick, intelligent passing maximizing Press’ ability slash through space at the goal?
So the youth system is kinda yuck right now. But Pinto is all right. She might be more all right if she shifts under Andonovski’s more thoughtful umbrella rather than Dorrance’s power-is-power umbrella. For now we can watch that highlight reel again and sing along, except for the swears.