International Soccer

5 young stars set to shine for USMNT

In their last international friendly before Copa America 2024, the U.S. Men’s National Team will face Brazil in the Allstate Continental Clásico, where five young stars will have the opportunity to impress Gregg Berhalter after a shaky performance against Colombia.

With the Copa America just two weeks away, the USMNT is using their two international friendlies as a tune-up before they play Bolivia, Panama, and Uruguay in the Group Stage of the tournament. For the first time since 2016, the historic competition is back on U.S. soil, and the Stars and Stripes could get the rare chance to lift the Copa America trophy in front of a home crowd.

The hopes for the USMNT are high this summer, especially after winning the CONCACAF Nations League just three months ago, but a disappointing 5-1 loss to Colombia on June 8 raised plenty of questions about Berhalter’s squad.

Fortunately, the squad has a chance to redeem themselves at Camping World Stadium on Wednesday, June 12, as they clash with Copa America favorites, Brazil.

Here’s five young stars for the USMNT who need to step up and show their quality against Brazil.

Colombia v United States

Colombia v United States / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

1. Folarin Balogun

Folarin Balogun

Colombia v United States / Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/GettyImages

Folarin Balogun might have only committed to the U.S. in May 2023, but the striker already has three goals in his 11 caps for his country. Coming off a productive first season for Monaco, the 22-year-old seems poised to translate his success from Ligue 1 to his national team.

In fact, Balogun was one of the best players on the pitch for the U.S. against Colombia. He not only set up Tim Weah’s goal with a perfectly timed through ball, but also had a shot cleared off the goal line in the first half.

The USMNT will rely on Balogun to challenge Brazil’s central defense, featuring Real Madrid’s Éder Militão, with his speed and powerful right-footed shot if they want to avoid another lopsided score line.

2. Joe Scally

Joe Scally

Colombia v United States / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

USMNT’s starting right-back, Sergino Dest, tore his ACL back in April, ruling him out of Copa America 2024. The injury is a blow to the Stars and Stripes’ backline, but Joe Scally is stepping into the role and gets another chance to show what he brings to the team against Brazil.

The Borussia Mönchengladbach defender will have his work cut out for him against the speed of Vinicius Jr., who just helped Real Madrid win the Champions League. By facing the predicted Ballon d’Or winner in just his 11th appearance for the U.S., Scally could prove to Berhalter and the fans that he is the right replacement for Dest.

3. Malik Tillman

Malik Tillman, Kevin Castano

Colombia v United States / John Dorton/ISI Photos/USSF/GettyImages

Although Berhalter prefers to start Tim Weah on the right wing, Malik Tillman gives the manager an exciting option to test out against the Selecao. Tillman had a breakout year with Eredivisie’s best, PSV, scoring nine goals and tallying 10 assists in his 28 league appearances.

Since Weah played a full 90 minutes against Colombia, Berhalter could give Tillman a chance to show the creativity and skill that earned him a contract with PSV until 2028. The 22-year-old is capable of providing a much-needed spark to the USMNT’s sometimes stagnant, unproductive attack.

Giving the winger significant minutes against Brazil, one of the most talented squads in the Copa America, will help Tillman form chemistry with Balogun and Christian Pulisic up front.

4. Ricardo Pepi

Ricardo Pepi

Jamaica v USMNT / John Dorton/ISI Photos/USSF/GettyImages

Ricardo Pepi brings depth to the striker position for the USMNT. Although Balogun will likely get the start come June 23 against Bolivia, Pepi’s inclusion in the squad cannot be ignored, and should be utilized against Brazil.

Despite failing to log significant minutes for PSV in the 2023/24 season, the 21-year-old still registered nine goals and three assists across all competitions, proving he does not need 90 minutes to show up on the score sheet. In fact, the No. 9 has 10 goals for the U.S., almost all of them coming as a substitute.

After only playing 18 minutes against Colombia, Pepi could challenge Alisson in the Allstate Continental Clásico as long as he is given the chance.

5. Johnny Cardoso

Johnny Cardoso

Colombia v United States / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

As Berhalter manages Tyler Adams’ return from injury, Johnny Cardoso will get more playing time against Brazil. The midfielder made a few detrimental mistakes against Colombia, including a poor giveaway that led to Los Cafeteros’ third goal, but he also showed signs of his Real Betis brilliance in the first half.

Cardoso will have his shot at redemption against Brazil. The 22-year-old can show his defensive prowess against the likes of Rodrygo and Endrick, helping his backline by regaining possession and intercepting passes before threatening balls reach the superstars up front.

The Allstate Continental Clásico kicks off on Wednesday, June 12, at 7 p.m. ET.

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