USMNT players with ties to England in the spotlight ahead of the inter-team World Cup match

USMNT players with ties to England in the spotlight ahead of the inter-team World Cup match

DOHA, Qatar – If things had been a bit different, four Americans might be playing for England on Friday night instead of trying to beat them.

Yunus Musah, Antonee Robinson, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Gio Reyna were born or raised in England, making them eligible to represent the Three Lions. But each, for different reasons, chose to play for the United States.

“You have to go where you feel at home,” said Robinson, who has lived in England his entire life but was eligible to play for the USMNT because his father grew up in the United States.

“They never called me to England. … So getting called up to the US made me feel 10 feet tall. It boosted my confidence a lot,” Robinson said. “When I got the call from the men’s team, it was obvious to me. They inspired that hope in me, so yeah, it was a no-brainer.”

Like the country they represent, the USMNT has always been a melting pot. There are children of immigrants and those whose families have been in the United States for generations. Some know nothing more than the United States, while others were born or raised in other countries. Some have been citizens since birth, while others have parents or grandparents who provided the connection.

No matter how they came to be American, however, they are all equally red, white, and blue.

Wales defender Ethan Ampadu slide tackles American defender Antonee Robinson during the first half of Monday’s match.

“I talked about the youth player groups and how it’s a tight-knit group and how it’s like a brotherhood. When the boys return to camp, it’s like they’re back with their family. That helped a lot of the guys,” USA coach Gregg Berhalter said of the draft speech that made players eligible to represent multiple countries.

“Being a part of something special, that it’s not just a profession or that we’re not mercenaries, that we enjoy it and that we feel absolutely honored to represent our country, was a huge selling point.”

A player’s ties to another country are often more of a curiosity, another detail that helps provide a fuller picture of who they are as a person and as a player. But for Musah, Robinson, Carter-Vickers and Reyna, their connections to England became much more interesting after the World Cup draw, when England and the USMNT finished in Group B.

“That was very good,” Musah said, smiling. “That will be a very special game for me.”

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Musah was on Gareth Southgate’s radar, having made his way through Arsenal’s academy and representing England’s youth teams at almost every level. But he didn’t learn of Southgate’s interest until after the fact, while Berhalter was in frequent contact with him and his family after Musah moved to Spain to play for Valencia.

Although Musah said he was initially conflicted when choosing between countries, he was also eligible to play for Italy and Ghana, due to what England had given his family, ultimately he simply felt more comfortable with the USMNT.

“I never looked back,” he said. “I have always been very happy with my decision.”

Robinson played in Everton’s academy and recalls the disappointment of seeing his teammates called up to the England youth teams when he, struggling with injuries, did not. The confidence he gained from the USMNT’s interest in him, along with finally being healthy, had a profound impact on his game, and Robinson ended up being named Everton’s Under-18 player of the year.

The faith that the USMNT showed in him, and that England did not, has not been forgotten.

“I want to win every game, but I want to beat England more than anyone else, I think,” Robinson said.

Reyna’s father, Claudio, played for Sunderland when he was born and spent the first four years of his life in England. (He even had a Manchester accent for a while.) But the USMNT captain’s son said he never considered himself anything other than American, and he never entertained the idea of ​​playing for England.

Or Argentina or Portugal, where he also had eligibility.

“My focus is completely on the United States,” Reyna said. “The connection to England is always going to be there because I was born there, but apart from that, there’s nothing else.”

Carter-Vickers never received an England call-up, but he’s not sure it would have made a difference to the shirt he wears now. His father, Howard Carter, played on LSU’s 1981 Final Four team and was a major influence on his son’s interest in sports.

However, other family members might have tried to influence him, if his entrenched interest on Friday is any indication.

“Half of my family wants us to win,” Carter-Vickers said, “and the other half wants England to win.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USMNT’s World Cup match against England carries extra weight for some players

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