GLENDALE – The U.S. Men’s soccer team kicks off it’s 2019 campaign on Sunday night against Panama at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. It will mark the start of the new year and new era, with new Coach Gregg Berhalter coaching his first game.
“This is the starting point for all of it,” said Berhalter at the USMNT workout on Wednesday at GCU. “If we look down the road in 2022 and playing in the World Cup, which hopefully we are. It all started in January.”
The U.S. squad is young, mostly made up of MLS players. It’s fitting because the Valley is trying to make a push to land an MLS franchise and hoping for a good showing from fans on Sunday night in Glendale.
“When you look at some of these new MLS soccer markets, they’ve exploded. You look at Atlanta and the amount of crowd they’ve been able to get. Orlando has been really good,” said Berhalter. “I think for Phoenix, I’ve heard so many good things about Phoenix Rising and the fans have strong support for the National Team.”
Arizona’s chapter of the American Outlaws, the support group of the National Team, is planning to big contingent on Sunday night. The group will also make an appearance on Good Morning Arizona on Friday. The state has come a long way since Aaron Long started his pro career at FC Tucson in 2013.
“Unbelievable what they did last year. I know they’re an aspiring U.S. market,” said Long, a defender who plays MLS for the New York Red Bulls. “We weren’t in PDL the year I was here. We were trying to get in PDL and then from that get to the USL, and do so good and to try to make an MLS push. So happy for them and ownership, and guys I know on Phoenix Rising.”
Sunday will also be a homecoming for Corey Baird. The U.S. forward played spent a year in the developmental academy for Real Salt Lake. He now plays for the club and was the MLS Rookie of the Year.
“When they (USMNT) was here five years ago I came to that game,” said Baird, a midfielder who played college soccer at Stanford. “It’s cool to not be in the stands, possibly be on the field. Really hoping for a packed house.”
The game between the United States kicks off at 6 p.m. local time on Sunday. You can watch the game on ESPN 2.