United States men’s national team play only their second soccer international of the calendar year when they face off against Wales in a friendly at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea on Thursday (2.45pm ET; TV: live on FS1, UniMas & TUDN).
USMNT played their one and only previous match of 2020 back in February, a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in an encounter between domestic-based squads. An early second-half penalty from debutant Ulysses Llanez was the difference between the two sides.
Gregg Berhalter’s side should have been involved in the final stages of the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League this summer, but the decision to postpone those fixtures in the midst of the global pandemic means that Thursday’s match will be their first with a full squad that includes European-based players since November 2019.
In fact, with the MLS playoffs ongoing, Berhalter has selected a wholly European-based squad for Thursday’s match and next Monday’s encounter with Panama in Austria. It is a very young group, with an average age of just under 22 years old, and 10 of the 24 players selected have never previously been capped by the senior national team. This may have an impact on our concluding Team USA vs Wales predictions for this preview.
Giovanni Reyna, son of former national team midfielder Claudio Reyna, is the standout amongst the potential debutants. The 17-year-old burst onto the scene at Borussia Dortmund during the second half of last season and has been regularly involved in the early running of the new campaign. Yunus Musah has received unexpected minutes at Valencia in Spain, while Chris Richards has made a couple of appearances at German giants Bayern Munich.
The US have more players at top European clubs than at any other time in their history, with Sergiño Dest and Weston McKennie now at Barcelona and Juventus respectively following summer moves, and Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) also turning out for Champions League teams.
It is an exciting group for Berhalter to work with. Although there will inevitably still be a strong MLS contingent in the squad when he again has all of his players available to choose from, there are a number of players in the group for these two fixtures who will likely force themselves into the reckoning before the USA’s involvement in the qualifying process for the 2022 World Cup gets underway in September 2021.
Berhalter has said that he is happy to get to work again after such a long pause and is looking forward to the challenge offered by a Wales team who the US have only ever met once before, a 2-0 victory in San Jose back in 2003.
Thursday’s match begins a triple-header of fixtures for Wales during this international break, but it is the least important of the three. They currently head their UEFA Nations League group, one point ahead of their remaining challengers Finland, and with promotion to the A set of groups on the line, their primary focus will be their final two fixtures of that group against the Republic of Ireland and the very same Finland.
Wales’ build up to the fixture has also been disrupted by the absence of head coach Ryan Giggs from the camp due to an ongoing allegation of assault against him. His assistant Rob Page takes temporary charge in his place.
In normal circumstances, Wales are a solid side. They have lost just one of their last 11 internationals, winning seven of them. They have also kept seven clean sheets in that time. They try to keep things tight in defence and sneak a goal or two going the other way.
With star players like Gareth Bale likely to be rested, it will undoubtedly be a somewhat weakened Wales XI that takes to the field at the Liberty Stadium. There may even be space for the three potential debutants, particularly outfield players Brennan Johnson and Josh Sheehan, to claim their first caps.
In that scenario, and not withstanding some of the nagging deficiencies they have shown during Berhalter’s time in charge, especially against defensively minded opposition, Team USA should have the necessary talent to emerge victorious from Thursday’s fixture. So our Wales vs United States predictions and betting picks verdict is: