When the United States Men’s National Team headed to New Jersey to take on 5-time World Cup champions Brazil, it signified the start of the new World Cup cycle. With the team still seeking to establish a new core of players to move forward after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and still seeking a new permanent manager, there were many questions surrounding the program entering the first match against Brazil. There were mostly younger players on the team, with the roster having an average age of 23. Still, there were still some veterans mixed in with the youth that American interim manager Dave Sarachan wished to evaluate.
Sometimes, a score doesn’t tell the tale. Sometimes, you need pictures to tell the full story of the night and the performance of the team. So, take in some pictures from the match from Joshua Ganzermiller, a diehard fan of the team who was a photographer for this match and chronicled some of the high moments for the USMNT both on the field and in the stands.
It starts with warmups, where Bobby Wood was hoping to have a good night against Brazil. The 25-year-old Hawaiian struggled last year with Hamburger SV and is looking to get a fresh start with Hannover 96. Here, he warms up before the match.
Paul Arriola and Julian Green were also starting for the USMNT, and they both were mentally preparing for situations where they could have a scoring opportunity.
MetLife Stadium was a sea of yellow, with the exception of one section in the endzone that was red, white, and blue. The American Outlaws attended in full force, and while most were excited to see some of the younger players compete for the first time in person, they were amped up and ready to cheer the USMNT onto victory.
The national anthems are played, and as the Star Spangled Banner begins, the American Outlaws unveil a giant flag in their section to show the players that they were representing.
The starting XI for the USMNT: (back, left-right) Zack Steffen, Weston McKennie, Antonee Robinson, John Brooks, Matt Miazga; (front, l-r) Wil Trapp (captain), DeAndre Yedlin, Paul Arriola, Julian Green, Bobby Wood, Tyler Adams.
The guys look determined and ready to play, but one can’t help but see the smile of John Brooks, who is back in the USMNT lineup for the first time since a friendly against Portugal back in November 2017. Injuries sat him down for the tail end of World Cup qualifying and all of the 2018 friendlies, but he’s back healthy and playing well for Wolfsburg. He’s clearly thrilled to be back on the international stage.
This was the first USMNT match since Clint Dempsey announced his retirement from soccer, and fans were paying tribute to Deuce. Dempsey 8 and Dempsey 2 jerseys could be found all over the place, and at 8:00, fans held up mini Deuce Faces and chanted his name to show how much he is loved by them.
One of the biggest success stories on the night for the Americans was the play of Matt Miazga. He was all over the place and really stood out as a bright spot on defense. Brazil could throw just about any world class player at the American back line, but Miazga was determined to show that he could play with the best.
Neymar dazzled at every turn on the night, and most times he had the ball at his feet, the crowd would rise to their feet. But, while everyone else was star struck, Miazga was focused on the ball. Neymar won this battle, however.
Neymar won this one as well:
However, Miazga was not to be denied on the night, making an exquisite tackle later on the Brazilian superstar and winning the ball. You have to appreciate hustle and play like this, and Matt Miazga showed a lot of this during the match. It’s no wonder he was named the SSFC Community Man of the Match.
Antonee Robinson also earned positive reviews for his performance. Do we possibly have a permanent solution at left back with Robinson out there? Not only did he look good on defense, he pressed the issue on offense, consistently going at the Brazilian defense trying to make something happen.
Tyler Adams held his own in the midfield and really showed he belongs on the international stage. The 19-year-old wasn’t wide-eyed and was aggressive in making plays.
Wil Trapp once again was the captain and while he didn’t have a terrific game, he was still more than capable at the holding midfield position. Sometimes, he went for the spectacular, but most of the time he was content on jumpstarting a stagnant offense with quick, crisp passes.
Tim Weah came on as a substitute in the 2nd half and showed immediately why he’s a kid that you need to watch. He wasn’t scared of Neymar, Marquinhos or Thiago Silva, because when he’s not with the USMNT, he’s playing with those guys at Paris Saint-Germain. He was very active with the ball, and wanted desperately to make something happen. While he didn’t get a goal, he definitely had a few opportunities inside the attacking third. Weah is going to be a force, and he showed something against Brazil that doesn’t appear on the stat sheet: he has fire, determination and the will to become one of the great USMNT players we’ve seen.
Zack Steffen didn’t have his best night at the office, but goalkeepers rarely do against Brazil. Still, he’s the clear #1 goalkeeper and he played like the job was his to lose. You have to like that in a player: fight like hell to win a job, then fight even harder to keep it. While he allowed 2 goals on the night, neither were his fault. He would subsequently rebound with a great performance against Mexico 4 days later, but this shot is the look of a determined keeper and one worthy of wearing the #1.
John Brooks was happy to be back out on the field once again for the USMNT, his 2017 and most of 2018 derailed by injuries that kept him away. The team certainly missed him, and his play for the most part made us glad to have him back. Could he and Miazga be the top pairing at centerback going forward? Their play against Brazil would serve as wonderful evidence that it is.
Finally, DeAndre Yedlin. He entered the match as one of the veteran presences on the team, despite being only 25 years old. Playing weekly at right back in the EPL for Newcastle, he’s also counted on to anchor the defense on the right side while still providing attacking pressure down the flank. He also did his best to hold off players like Neymar and Philippe Coutinho, a player he was very familiar with defending on Saturdays and Sundays in England. The fight that Yedlin always brings to the field is something that the USMNT needs going forward, and his leadership will be very welcome on a young team.
On the night, the 2nd half was much better than the first for the United States. The final score may have been 2-0 to Brazil, but there was a lot that left fans with a positive spin on the effort. All night, the American Outlaws chanted loud and proud to encourage their team amongst a crowd fully dominated by Brazil yellow. They may not have seen the USMNT get a result, but there were smiles at the night as they saluted their team.
After the postmatch handshakes, the players walked to the end of the stadium where the supporters were to applaud their effort and thank them for their support. But one things stands out about this final picture: every player has their head up, they’re still confident, they’re not wavered by the 2-0 loss. They acknowledge the effort of the supporters, but they’re focused on pushing forward, moving onward to the next match and the next opportunity to improve as a team. This is why the future is bright.
The USMNT would use the lessons learned from this match against Brazil to put on a great performance against Mexico and earn a 1-0 victory in Nashville 4 nights later. The Kickoff Series is off and running, and the new World Cup cycle is in full swing. The guys look like they’re ready to continue, ready to take the next challenge thrown at them, and respond with the fire and determination that has them at this point. We’ll see them next month in Tampa and East Hartford, and the fight will continue.
We’d like to thank Joshua Ganzermiller for the photos that told the story that was USA versus Brazil. For more of his soccer portfolio, check out the Supporters Eye Photography Instagram account.