US men's national team gives glimpse of the future in return to action vs. Wales

Weston McKennie - USMNT - United States - holds off a Wales player

It's hard to know how exactly what to take away from the US men's national team's 0-0 draw in their Thursday friendly with Wales, considering it was the group's first match in over nine months, and they only had a couple of training sessions together before kickoff.

Still, Thursday's match provided a glimpse of the future of the program, with six players making their senior-team debuts on a roster where the average age was just over 22. 

On the day, the US never found a goal that could have delivered a win, and the lack of chemistry between players that are still learning each other's games was evident, especially in the attack. On his postgame video call with media, head coach Gregg Berhalter acknowledged the lack of fluidity on the attacking end was probably the biggest thing the group needs to work on as they continue to train, while agreeing that the performance of his midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and 17-year-old Yunus Musah was perhaps the biggest takeaway on the positive end.

"Offensively I think we need to continue to improve, we need to continue to threaten the backline, we didn't do that enough in this game today," Berhalter said. "But we saw enough to be pleased. Six guys made their debut today, it was a really young team, young group of guys and really proud of them and the performance.

"There were a couple that we got, that we drew up, a couple attacks you could recognize as US men's national team attacks, but not enough, not nearly enough. It's about the principles and we're still learning the principles, we're still learning some of the main areas, how we want to hurt the opponent, how we want to take advantage of the opponent's weaknesses. And in this game, I don't think we did that enough. Sometimes if you notice the spacing got jumbled up, guys were on top of each other, it was too compact at times, we were moving too high. So, a number of problems, but when you see those three guys in midfield, it's amazing. It's amazing how much ground they can cover, how dynamic they are, and I agree it was something to behold today."

Full highlights: USMNT 0, Wales 0

McKennie and Adams are both players with MLS roots, with McKennie starting his ascent to Juventus in the FC Dallas academy, and Adams a former homegrown product of the New York Red Bulls.

On Thursday, you could make an argument for either one of them as the USMNT's Man of the Match, with McKennie showcasing his dynamic traits as a defender and passer that spearheaded his rise to the Italian giants and Adams playing a crucial role in controlling the tempo and cutting out attacks in the midfield. 

"I think Weston had a strong game, I think he really did," said Berhalter. "Defensively, winning balls, he almost did everything besides make that final pass and make a goal. I think everything else was really, really solid."

Added US goalkeeper Zack Steffen: "I think Tyler played well, I thought he worked really hard in the defensive role. I think he found some good spots when we had the ball. We're still trying to get to know one another and figure out how we want to play but I think he was very energized tonight. He wanted the ball and when he was on the ball I think he did a good job. I think Wales did a good job to limit our chances, but for the first time playing together in a long time, I thought Tyler controlled the midfield pretty well."

All told, it was an intriguing first glimpse at some of the young faces that stand to act as the future of the program.

Anticipation has been building around the Yanks during their lengthy layoff, as more players latch on with high-profile European clubs. The young Barcelona duo of Sergino Dest and Konrad de la Fuente started Thursday's match, while 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund attacker Gio Reyna also made his senior-team debut. 

Adams said he believes that this is just the start of seeing that experience at top-level clubs pay off in international play, even as plenty of work remains to be done.

"We have a lot of guys coming from different areas, guys that are playing with top players in the world, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, so they're going to bring their knowledge that they're learning and obviously the way that they're developing in their club environment," Adams said. "And when they can bring that here and continue to help others, that's a huge bonus for our team. None of these guys have egos, and that's what's going to make us good down the line is that we're united and we're going to play for each other no matter what."