For many members of the U.S. men’s national team, Saturday’s marquee friendly match against Germany isn’t just a rare and valuable opportunity to test themselves against a four time World Cup champ.
It’s also about bragging rights among friends.
The ties between this USMNT and their counterparts on Die Mannschaft run deep.
“Leon Goretzka for instance was like a big brother to me when I was coming through the ranks of Schalke,” American midfielder Weston McKennie told FOX Sports Wednesday during a Zoom call with reporters. “It’s going to be nice to be able to see him and play against him as well and maybe be able to say some bad words to him in German.”
Like McKennie, defender Chris Richards left FC Dallas’s academy for Germany as a teenager, moving in his case to mighty Bayern Munich. He was there for four years, playing alongside all five of the Bayern players on the roster German manager Julian Nagelmann — Richards’ final coach at the club before he left for Crystal Palace of England’s Premier League in 2022 — picked for Saturday’s exhibition and another versus Mexico next week.
“The one I’m probably closest to is Jamal Musiala,” Richards said of the electric young German attacker. “We came through the academy together, the second team, and then eventually into the first team.”
McKennie and Richards are among nine players on U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter’s 23-man squad who either currently play in the Bundesliga or used to. (It would’ve been 10 had Malik Tillman, another Bayern product, not been forced to withdraw with an injury.)
Gio Reyna could face as many as four Borussia Dortmund teammates on Saturday. Christian Pulisic got his start with Dortmund and now plays with German center back Malick Thiaw at AC Milan. Brenden Aaronson is spending this season on loan from Leeds to Union Berlin, which sent a pair of players to this German side.
The familiarity between the teams extends even beyond the players. Berhalter spent much of his playing career in Germany and still speaks the language fluently, while Darcy Norman, the USMNT’s head performance expert, was on Germany’s staff when they won the World Cup in 2014.
Then there’s the long history of German-Americans representing the U.S. The latest is Berlin-born defensive midfielder Lennard Maloney, who is hoping to make his international debut Saturday against the country he’s lived in his whole life. Maloney would also become the first Heidenheim player to earn a senior cap for any national team, but even he knows several of the German players from his time with Dortmund and German youth sides.
For all the U.S. players with links to Germany, those associations only provide added motivation to win.
“I spoke to Jonas Hofmann a couple times and of course we both want to beat each other so bad,” said USMNT and Borussia Mönchengladbach defender Joe Scally, who spent his first two Bundesliga seasons manning ‘Gladbach’s right side with Die Mannschaft winger Hofmann. “It just definitely gives you a better feeling in the locker room with a bunch of German guys where you can kinda, you know, brag.”
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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