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First six matches of World Cup qualifying have clarified which USMNT players can be depended on – The Athletic

One minute into the game against Costa Rica, it was clear that we were going to learn something about this U.S. men’s national team.

At home in a crucial World Cup qualifier, against a team that was a huge underdog, the U.S. stunningly fell behind 1-0. Coming off of a flat, disappointing defeat in Panama, the U.S. now was in a hole against the Ticos.

There was no way to know how the U.S. players on the field would react. The starting XI had an average age of 22 years and 61 days, the youngest-ever team in U.S .World Cup qualifying history — a recurring theme in the first six games of this cycle. 

All six games have presented a new chance to understand something more about this current U.S. national team. Almost all of the players in this pool are going through this for the first time. Twenty five players have made their World Cup qualifying debut over these games. No player in the starting lineup on Wednesday had ever played in a World Cup qualifier before September.

And yet, like last month in Honduras, this young group showed it could take a punch and fight back. 

Over the next 35 minutes after Costa Rica’s shocking opener, the team put together their best stretch of soccer in this qualifying cycle so far and seized control of the game. Sergiño Dest’s brilliant goal tied it in the 25th minute, and in the second half Tim Weah’s scorching shot lifted the U.S. to a much-needed win. 

The result once again calmed the brewing panic around the U.S. and pushed them back to the top two of the qualification table behind only Mexico.

“That (average age is) basically unheard of in international football,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said after the game. “If you go look at the Germanys, the Frances, Brazils. They’re basically playing 28-year-old, 29-year-old teams.

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