Coming off Ligue 1 title, Weah ready to push for more silverware with the USMNT
May 29, 2021
TIM WEAH IS NOW on the very short list of American players who have been a part of a championship winning team in one of Europe’s “Big 5” leagues as his OSC Lille squad outlasted perennial favorites to surprisingly win Ligue 1. For the New Yorker, however, the title was even more significant because it followed a lost season in 2019/20 where he barely played due to two serious hamstring injuries.
Weah, 21, ended up finishing the season playing in 28 out of Lille’s 38 games in the league. He made seven starts and played a total of 867 minutes while scoring three goals. He scored another two in the Europa League.
Now coming back into the United States national team for the Nations League, Weah is eager to apply what he has learned this past season.
“Last year I was severely injured with a hamstring injury and I didn't get much playing time,” Weah said. “I kind of missed out on the whole season. Now coming back in, feeling 100% fit, just getting a couple games under my belt and getting my groove back, and fortunately we were able to win the title this season. That was a huge boost for me coming into camp. I am feeling great, confident. I just can't wait to get going.”
This past season was about Weah getting back into the routine of playing on a regular basis again. Putting 2019/20 behind him was a difficult process and it took the help of a big support group he has in many different areas.
“Mentally it took a toll on me just because I had goals set and I knew what I wanted to accomplish when I signed there,” Weah said. “Not doing that took a toll on me. I was at a state where I just didn't want to do anything. But with the help of family, coaching staff, the national team, my club team, I got back on my feet, and started to work on the things I needed to get better at. I came into this season really positive, just knowing I wanted to take my game to the next level, and improve as a player. I feel like I got a couple of opportunities to play this year. I am getting my feet back. Winning the league was the cherry on top.”
Now in camp, Weah has been training as a winger and this is slightly different compared with where he played at Lille which was mostly as a No. 9 center forward – or up top in a 4-4-2 formation.
Versatility has been one of Weah’s biggest strengths and he is quick to point out that due to having missed almost an entire season, he is still finding himself as a player and finding a true position he will settle into. But he also insists he likes the wing because it gives him a chance to create goals more than when he is the No. 9.
Thus far in-camp he has been training with Gio Reyna on the opposite wing.
“Personally, my favorite positions are on the wing. People are shocked when I say this, but I love playing the No. 8 or the No. 10 because I love when everything is in front of me. I hate playing with my back to the goal. Those are a couple of my favorite positions. But I've been playing at the wing [with the U.S. team]. Gio and I, we've been doing our thing on the wing - so it's going to be super interesting to see what we have to offer to the team.”
“It's been great adapting to coming inside and getting the ball because personally, if you watch my games, you know I don't really go 1v1 all the time,” he added. “I like to come in and just play football. That's what I enjoy with this group. As a winger I come in an connect with my midfielders, connect with my forwards. I am huge on playmaking so No. 10 and No 8 are great positions. Playing on the wing, you're allowed to play-make as well. And I also love scoring, so getting to do both is also great. Personally, I am just trying to learn every position I can.. I am still finding myself because I missed out on a big year. I am still finding positions.”
Being back with the national team has always been very important for Tim Weah who has represented the United States at the U-17 and U-20 World Cups. He has always elected to represent the U.S. internationally despite that his father was arguably the greatest ever player to play for an African nation and is currently the president of Liberia. Playing at the Nations League will permanently cap-tie Weah to the United States program.
Looking around the current landscape of the U.S. team, Weah is still on the younger side but he’s no longer near the youngest on the team. There are the team’s veteran in John Brooks, Sebastian Lletget, Matt Miazga, Tim Ream, Zack Steffen, and DeAndre Yedlin. There are also those in his generation but slightly older than him in Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Jackson Yueill. But now there are those younger – including Brenden Aaronson, Sergino Dest, and now Justin Che and Matthew Hoppe.
The team is gaining experience but is still a very young team. Despite that, he understands the pressure on them as young players but still feels the team is ready.
“We have guys like Justin Che coming into camp and he's 17, even I feel old and I just turned 21,” Weah said. “Even I feel old with a couple of these guys. It's great to have a super young team. I think they balanced it out well with the young guys and a couple of the older guys coming in. A lot of the younger guys are starting to play some real football and getting into big clubs. Especially Justin, he's on the verge of getting signed by Bayern. It's super good to see those things.”
“I would say it's a lot of pressure because the fans and the federation want us to qualify,” he added. “I feel that coming in off the season a lot of these guys had - a lot of guys winning cups and all that - the fans are going to want to see something. We're just going to have to show it. I think the boys are ready. This week has been great. Everyone is fit. Everyone is in, enjoying themselves… I think everyone is super motivated to go out there and win one for the national team.”