After impressing in his US men’s national team debut during Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Morocco, is a start in order for striker Haji Wright?
That’s a commanding “yes, absolutely” from Charlie Davies before Sunday’s friendly vs. Uruguay at Sporting Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Park (5 pm ET | FOX, Univision, TUDN).
Against Morocco, the one-time LA Galaxy academy player subbed on at halftime for FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira, the early MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi leader, and scored a 64th-minute penalty kick that captain Christian Pulisic earned.
“You know what you’re going to get from Jesus Ferreira,” Davies said on Extratime's latest episode. “You don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get from Haji Wright, so this is a test. You want to test some of these new players.”
Did Haji Wright stake claim for USMNT's starting No. 9 job?
Wright was one of three debutants against Morocco, with NYCFC homegrown product Joe Scally and Bayern Munich attacker Malik Tillman the others. All had bright moments against a fellow World Cup-qualified nation that dominated their AFC (Africa) group, and now another test comes against Conmebol’s (South America) third-place country that booked an automatic Qatar 2022 ticket. La Celeste are ranked No. 13 in the world.
Wright also impressed USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter, who noted the 24-year-old has “had a different path than most have had but he’s here now and that’s what counts.”
“It’s not easy to come into the game and be expected to make an impact, but you could see that he was strong and I think the cooperation with his teammates led to some really nice attacks,” Berhalter said after the Morocco match. “We’re going to continue to work with him to get him where we need him to be.”
That unorthodox journey has Wright coming off an impressive season at Antalyaspor in the Turkish Süper Lig, tallying in their last seven matches and netting 14 goals on the season. He’s on loan from Danish club SønderjyskE and spent time at both Holland’s VVV-Venlo and Germany’s Schalke 04 earlier in his career.
WATCH: Haji Wright buries PK on USMNT debut
He featured in a May 2019 camp early into Berhalter’s tenure and is a former US youth international teammate of those like Weston McKennie and Pulisic, the latter of whom unselfishly handed Wright his PK opportunity against the Atlas Lions.
“It’s not the goal. It’s the movement, the play and the relationships with the other players,” Davies said. “To come in as a newcomer, get your first cap, but have it feel like you’ve been there the whole time, I think that speaks volumes in terms of how he was received because these are all his former teammates with the youth national team. It was almost like, ‘Ah, we’ve got another brother in the locker room.’”
Added Extratime's David Gass: "I thought Haji Wright was really good in this game and I thought the best aspect of his game was his connection and his ability to help create for his teammates. His touch was clean, he’s creative with his touch, layoffs that were curled at the right speed to the right foot and then create for him."
Does Wright’s strong showing mean that Ferreira’s on the outs? Not at all, the Extratime crew agreed. But chances to impress before Group B play arrives at the World Cup are few and far between, and Ferreira’s qualities are well-known with 3g/4a across 10 caps.
“I think it was also good to see what Jesus Ferreira looks like against top competition,” Davies said. “You’ve seen what he does in MLS, you’ve seen what he does in World Cup Qualifying. You want to see what he does against top, quality competition in the World Cup.”
One thing’s for certain, though: The USMNT’s No. 9 competition is wide-open. For more from Extratime, check out their latest episode here.