The US men’s national team is gearing up for their 2022 FIFA World Cup debut against Wales on Monday, November 21.
After failing to qualify for the 2018 edition of the tournament, the American side is finally back on the international stage. Gregg Berhalter’s team concluded the Concacaf cycle in third on the table, managing 25 points in 14 to place behind Canada and Mexico and clinch the final slot.
“Three years, four years of just working up to this moment,” midfielder Weston McKennie told reporters in Saturday night’s matchday one press conference before the USMNT’s training session at Al-Gharafa Stadium.“I think all the guys are ready to go and the staff is ready to go and put a good game plan together. So hopefully we execute that and get the three points on Monday.”
Weston McKennie suffered a quadriceps injury in late October that sidelined him in the weeks leading up to the international tournament, adding to the team’s concerns. He featured sporadically for Juventus from September to November, nursing a couple knocks.
But the player has since confirmed he feels good heading into Monday’s match.
“The week has gone good,” he said of this injury. “I came in at a pace that was controlled by Juventus and by the national team, they were both working together to make sure that I’m 100% fit here. So I came and did a couple of days of just maintaining and keeping it under control. And yeah, we played a friendly game the other day and I felt good, felt ready to go.”
McKennie referred to the USMNT’s scrimmage with Al-Gharafa SC on Thursday as the “friendly”, though team officials insist the match stands as a “training exercise.”
“It was a great scrimmage. We definitely got a lot out of it defensively, offensively. Finishing attacks was great. Obviously we had a couple goals in there, to get the guys confident in front of the net,” said defender Aaron Long.
Several USMNT figures added the scrimmage was necessary to build momentum, after failing to see time on the pitch. Sergino Dest, another player that faced injury concerns before heading to Qatar, boasted Thursday’s importance by revealing he felt fatigue in his last competitive match with AC Milan.
“Personally I’m feeling good. Of course after the last [AC Milan] game I had a little bit of fatigue [but] right now it’s going well,” said Dest. “I’m ready to play. With the team, you know, we’re really high for the game, we’re all really concentrated. Yeah, the game against Wales is really important, so we’ve got to get everything out of it on the pitch.”
The players’ sights are set on Monday’s match, a make or break moment for the USMNT before taking on England and Iran. But the team remains confident.
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“We know that we’re a strong team and inside of our bubble, we try not to let anything inside,” said Long. “So just limiting distractions from the outside as much as we can and focusing on ourselves and focusing on this first game against Wales.
“We understand that this is a dream of ours and to live in the moment and to not take it for granted. But to also know that we’re not playing for just ourselves or our team or our coaches or our families – we’re playing for a whole nation. So we have that responsibility on us.”