Against Paraguay, the MNT’s next generation started to earn its stripes and the three players to earn first caps against La Albirroja made their presence known on the pitch. Marky Delgado, Andrija Novakovich and Tim Weah’s contributions on the evening shone rays of sunshine on the future of the U.S. team.
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“It was definitely a special feeling,” Delgado said. “I really tried to soak it all in, every second of it. From the crowd to taking my first step on the field with the jersey, it’s an experience that I’ll never forget.”
A historic 2017 season as an important piece of treble-winning Toronto FC propelled Delgado to his first MNT invite in January. His return this March earned him his first cap as a starter against Paraguay.
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Delgado facilitated the USA’s most dangerous chance of the evening when he delivered a perfectly-placed long ball to a streaking Tyler Adams. Adams took it in stride on a run towards the net and drew the penalty that set up the game-winning goal.
Prior to this month’s camp in Cary, Novakovich wasn’t a well-known commodity in U.S. Soccer circles. The second-leading goalscorer in the Dutch second division, he earned his first cap as a 77th minute substitute for Bobby Wood. Novakovich stands out with his six-foot-four frame, and Paraguay’s back line took notice as he made some dangerous attacking runs.
“It was a very proud moment, very honored to wear the stars and stripes,” Novakovich said. “I was lucky enough to get on today and make my debut. I believe in myself. I was just happy for the opportunity to show what I can do in training and in the games. You want more and you just got to keep doing your best.”
Novakovich’s most threatening chance came on a ball from 18-year-old Tim Weah, the MNT’s youngest player in Cary. After he made his debut into the Paris Saint-Germain first team last month and turned in a standout performance in last fall’s FIFA U-17 World Cup, Weah entered camp as one of the program’s most exciting prospects.
Before he entered the match in the 86th minute, Weah warmed up on the sideline as a nervous wreck. Upon entering in the 86th minute, he made a little bit of history as the first player born in the 2000s to appear for the MNT. Though he only logged a few minutes, the PSG attacker impressed in the composed cameo appearance as he nearly notched his first career assist to Novakovich. He hopes the brief debut serves as just the launch of a long rise with the MNT.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” Weah said. “It’s a great feeling getting to play my first game for my country at such a young age. There’s a lot of nervousness coming on to the field, but after that first pass, I was like ‘I’ve got to calm down, I’ve got to chill out, I’ve got to play my game. I’m just hoping that I get more call-ups and that it’s a great future for U.S. Soccer.”