EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The opponent features some of the biggest names in the world, from some of the biggest clubs in the world. No doubt some of the young U.S. men’s national team roster played them in FIFA, watched them on TV.
But when Neymar and Thiago Silva and Philippe Coutinho and Douglas Costa march out onto the field at MetLife Stadium to no doubt thunderous applause on Friday night, the young Americans will likely not be intimidated.
That, according to interim USMNT coach Dave Sarachan, is a positive of calling in a roster with the average age of 23 against a Brazil side ranked No. 3 in the latest FIFA rankings.
“The good thing about youth, in some ways, is they approach it with not a lot of fear,” Sarachan said at a Thursday morning press conference.
That was also the case in June when the USMNT played eventual World Cup champion France to a 1-1 draw in Lyon in Les Bleus send-off match.
“That’s an environment that is hard to replicate,” Sarachan said. “Our guys handled that pretty well.”
However, while they absorbed substantial pressure in that match, the USMNT is looking to be a bit more aggressive at home, even if there will be more than a few Seleção jerseys in the stands.
“Obviously when you play against a team like France, nerves can set it and you kind of say if they have the ball, let’s sit back and see what we can do and take our opportunities wisely,” New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams said. “Anytime we’ve played at home now you have a bit more confidence to be on the front foot. Obviously playing against Brazil, it’s not going to be an easy opponent, but we’re hungry to prove we can get out there, we can score goals and we can create chances.”
Added Sarachan: “We know that Brazil has weapons and likely will have more possession than us, but what I’d like to see is a team that has the confidence to play and take chances and take risks against a team that can punish you if you don’t do a good job with that.”
The U.S. has played Brazil 18 times previously — losing 17 times. The lone victory came in the Concacaf Gold Cup when the tournament featured invited squads and that was 20 years ago.
“They’re really good, they’re deep, they have a history, they have a culture that develops players at such a high level,” Sarachan said of Brazil. “When you look at this roster, and you look at the caps, the clubs, the ages and all the rest, at the end of the day, pound for pound, they’re as good as any soccer playing country on the planet.”
The most talented player on the USMNT is not here as Christian Pulisic is sidelined with a muscular injury. Tired from the end of the German Bundesliga season, the 19-year-old Dortmund midfielder didn’t play against France and Ireland last June.
“From our standpoint, not having him here is disappointing,” Sarachan said. “But I think the next opportunity he’s a part of things I think he’ll jump right in and we won’t feel as though he’s been disconnected from the group.”
But there are players who have played in pressure-packed situations in the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga and in Ligue 1, including Tim Weah, a teammate of Neymar’s at Paris Saint-Germain.
“These games, they build confidence. Playing against World Cup winners … we played our butts off like it was a final for us and tied France 1-1,” Weah said. “These games are completely important to this group because it’s something to build on in its growth and that’s what we need. We need to jell together because we do have new guys coming in each camp, the squad is just getting younger each camp.”