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Philadelphia Union’s Fafa Picault enters USMNT camp full of confidence

CHESTER, Pa– Fafa Picault became the fourth U.S. Men’s National Team eligible player to eclipse the double-digit goal mark in the 2018 Major League Soccer season with a pair of tallies in the Philadelphia Union’s 5-1 win over Minnesota United on Saturday. 

The performance was a perfect representation of how much the 27-year-old winger has further developed his game since joining the club at the start of the 2017 season. 

Picault, who has 17 goals over his two seasons with the Union, is headed to Florida to meet with the USMNT after earning his first call-up since May 2016. 

He sees the call-up as an honor and Picault enters with plenty of confidence after continuing to achieve the high expectations he’s set for himself. 

“It feels good. Again, it’s stuff I expect from myself, but it just solidifies why I was called up,” Picault said. “I know everybody was saying that I couldn’t score all year and blah, blah, blah. Now I’m at 10 so I’m feeling comfortable and confident going into camp. Obviously I have to do my job over there, but it’s no stress, no pressure. Keep doing what I do. I’m confident and happy and honored to go into camp.” 

Picault’s played with a chip on his shoulder all season due to the criticism surrounding his lack of finishing at the start of the season and the slow start the club got off to. 

The 27-year-old has more than silenced his critics since the start of June, when he ended a 10-game goal drought in MLS and started to erase a bad opening to the season that began with a three-game suspension for a preseason incident with Orlando City’s Pierre da Silva. 

Since scoring on June 2 against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Picault’s produced the majority of his goals on the road, including a crucial game-winning goal that ended the Seattle Sounders’ nine-game winning streak on September 19. 

Unlike some of the younger players entering USMNT camp, Picault has a defined skill set and role, and it’s one that will benefit Dave Sarachan’s side in the October friendlies against Colombia and Peru. 

Picault is a pure winger who is able to get behind defenders with his speed. He’s improved with his one-on-one skill on the ball and the finishing speaks for itself, as he proved once again on Saturday night. 

With Christian Pulisic withdrawn from camp with a calf issue, the USMNT needs as many attack-minded players in the midfield setup as possible.

Picault’s direct competition for playing time will be Kenny Saief, Timothy Weah and first time call-up Jonathan Amon, while Julian Green might play a role on the flank if he isn’t slotted into the No. 10 role. 

The inclusion is extra special for Picault, as he grew up in Florida and played for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the lower leagues of American soccer. 

Although it’ll be a great occasion to celebrate, Picault is approaching Thursday’s friendly in Tampa against Colombia just like has the entire club season. 

“It’s nice because I’ll have a lot of people from home probably coming up,” Picault said. “But at the same time, it’s business and it’s soccer. The purpose is not to go on a field trip to see family. It’s to go in and represent my country. My main focus is to get integrated with the group and do my job as a player.” 

 

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