Who will start in goal?
Caretaker coach Dave Sarachan wasn’t tipping his hand, but FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez is hopeful he gets the chance to prove his value against the likes of AC Milan’s Andre Silva or Valencia’s Goncalo Guedes, who were both starters in Portugal’s 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Friday.
“It is a great opportunity, not just for me but also for the whole team,” Gonzalez said before Sunday’s training session at Cidade do Futebol in Lisbon. “It is a totally different US team and that gives us a chance to showcase ourselves and I think it is going to be a great match.”
After a season in Dallas which saw him lock down the No. 1 job, starting 29 of his team’s 34 regular-season matches, Gonzalez is now one of five players on a young team seeking his first USMNT cap.
But the 2017 campaign also came with some adversity as FC Dallas, last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners, narrowly missed the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. That’s something that motivates Gonzalez, who’s been working hard with USMNT goalkeeper coach Matt Reis over the past week.
“It’s more working with my feet – I think that’s an aspect where I have to improve,” Gonzalez said. “I need to work throughout in and out of the field and that’s going to help me out a lot. I can definitely improve.”
Despite not yet registering a cap, the 22-year-old was already in the spotlight this year, after his decision to represent the USMNT over Mexico, a switch officially approved on June 29. He was then added to the USMNT roster for the knockout stages of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. "It was that change between two rivals, which is always difficult. But at the end of the day I think I made the right decision. I thank my family and everybody that helped me out with that decision.”
If Gonzalez plays against Portugal, he will have an opportunity to cement a place as part of the youth movement that is currently hoping to lead US Soccer past the disappointment of missing the 2018 World Cup and provide hope for a more promising future. On his quest for stardom, he will certainly try to emulate his favorite goalkeeper, Spain’s and Manchester United’s David De Gea.
And one of the good signs of having so much youth? Nothing scares them, including facing the world’s third-ranked team, who happen to be without star Cristiano Ronaldo.
“It doesn't bother us [that Ronaldo is not with the team],” Gonzalez said. “And if he was there, it is just another national team. You never know what happens in soccer.”