The last time the United States men’s national team played in the World Cup, the team had a noticeable German accent: five players from that 2014 squad grew up in Germany, as did their head coach.
But that was then. In the eight years that have passed, the team has developed an English cadence.
Three current US national team players were born in England. A fourth spent a significant part of his teenage years and received most of his football training in the country. And even Christian Pulisic – the face of the team, a Pennsylvania native nicknamed “Captain America” – spent one of his formative years in Tackley, a small village near Oxford, England.
England’s influence on Team USA has been mutually beneficial for both team and players, although it has caused some chaos in their home lives before the countries meet in a much-anticipated Group B showdown. Friday night.
“With my family, half of them want us to win,” said Cameron Carter-Vickers, a central defender born in Southend-on-Sea, on the southeast coast of England, “and half want England to win.”
Both Carter-Vickers and left-back Antonee Robinson were born in England and lived there their entire teenage lives (both have American fathers). Striker Gio Reyna was born in Sunderland and lived in England until the age of five when his father, Claudio, played in the Premier League.
Midfielder Yunus Musah was born in New York, but never lived there. His family lived in Italy until he was nine, then moved to England. Musah, who is of Ghanaian descent and now plays in Spain, speaks four languages. But his English makes him sound like a Londoner.
Musah represented England’s national youth teams more than 30 times before moving to the United States after a period of intensive recruitment by coach Gregg Berhalter and his team.
“I made the decision because I was born in the United States, that was one of the big reasons, and having this opportunity at such a young age was something I was going to take,” Musah said this week.
Multiculturalism is not a new feature of the American men’s team: the United States is a nation of immigrants and football, especially in the 20th century, was often seen as an immigrant game.
But the German and English flair of these recent teams also has more intentional underpinnings. For players growing up in countries with strong footballing traditions and highly ranked national teams, like Germany and England, the road to training for the World Cup can seem overwhelming. For those who qualify, then Team USA, despite their promise, may offer a slightly more open road. The Americans are the second youngest team at this World Cup and are clearly in a period of rebuilding.
The German influence of the American team eight years ago, for example, was no coincidence: the team’s coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, was a former star player for Germany and considered his country a originated as a pool of overlooked talent.
At the 2014 World Cup, the United States had four German-born players on their roster (John Brooks, Jermaine Jones, Timothy Chandler and Fabian Johnson) and one American-born but German-raised player (Julian Green).
Reyna said he never considered playing for another country, although he is also eligible for Argentina, England and Portugal. Musah, Carter-Vickers and Robinson have admitted to harboring childhood hopes of representing England before experiencing changes of heart depending on circumstances.
Robinson, for example, was going through a tough time as a teenager in the youth program of Everton, an English club, feeling as though his talents were being overlooked while his teammates were recruited by England. The United States’ bid to represent the country at Under-18 level came at a crucial time in its psychological development.
“I’ve seen Everton’s favorite guys get called up for England and all that, so being called up for the United States made me feel 10ft tall and boosted my confidence a lot,” he said. -he declares. “They kind of inspired that hope in me as a player at the time, so that was a no-brainer.”