| 12.8°C Belfast

USA can become genuine World Cup contenders, predicts Northern Ireland coach Austin MacPhee


Spot on: USA’s Christian Pulisic scores his side’s second goal of the game from the penalty spot

Spot on: USA’s Christian Pulisic scores his side’s second goal of the game from the penalty spot


Spot on: USA’s Christian Pulisic scores his side’s second goal of the game from the penalty spot

Northern Ireland coach Austin MacPhee believes with the new Pep Guardiola-inspired model employed by American soccer chiefs the United States could become World Cup contenders in the future.

At Windsor Park last night Northern Ireland faced the USA at senior level for the first time and watching on television the Green and White Army will have witnessed a young visiting team playing in a style that has become common across Europe.

Gone are the days when the Yanks tried to spank others with a physical game. They had some success with those tactics reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2002 with the powerful Brian McBride and Landon Donovan leading their attack and captain Claudio Reyna adding some poise. MacPhee believes they may go further down the line and make it to the last four like in 1930.

Borussia Dortmund's Gio Reyna, Claudio's son, is now one of the big hopes moving forward with USA building towards the World Cup finals in 2026 when they expect to make a huge impact.

MacPhee, currently coaching with Danish side FC Midtjylland, is highly knowledgeable about football Stateside having coached there over the past 15 years and played at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington where popular teen drama Dawson's Creek was filmed.

He continues to keep a close eye on how the country is developing its football and was looking forward to catching up with the USA's Josh Sargent at Windsor last night having given the Werder Bremen star and his parents career advice when he was a teenager.

"I find it fascinating how soccer in the United States has to compete with the other sports and how it tries to do that," says ex-Hearts coach MacPhee.

"Soccer is a billion dollar business in America. The biggest competition the American team has is within its own country. Can it get the best athletes playing soccer from a young age? If they do that I've no doubt in my lifetime they will be in the last four of the World Cup.

"Their model is to find these best athletes, make them play soccer at a young age and get them to Europe because they are getting the best quality of athletes and the best development.

"America used to play men's football very directly, very physical and aggressively, when you had players like Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey, and their teams that have done well in World Cups have been good defensively.

"Things have changed. When the Barcelona team of Pep Guardiola started dominating football and Spain did the same what the States did was mandate in Academy football that every team played 4-3-3.

"They have players in their squad from Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Werder Bremen, Chelsea, Valencia, Red Bull Salzburg, Hoffenheim, Manchester City and Leicester and there's hardly a player over 25 there. Whether they get through at these clubs and play 100 games is a different matter of course.

"It seems they are building long-term and on the evidence that I've seen they are about total football playing from the goalkeeper and through the lines of the pitch and everyone takes the ball and they are fast and dynamic.

"I will be interested to see how this team turns out and to see if they can compete in the latter stages of the World Cup in 2026 or even 2022. One thing about their qualification group is that they should qualify.

"It is a lot tougher for us to do that because we go into groups with Holland and Germany or like this time Italy and Switzerland."

Belfast Telegraph

Top Videos