Musah eager for long-awaited American homecoming at the Nations League
May 25, 2021
THE PAST YEAR has been a memorable and eventful period for Yunus Musah. The midfielder made his professional debut for Valencia in La Liga, signed a new contract with the Spanish club through 2026, played regularly, and decided to commit his international career to the United States after playing for England’s youth national teams and also being eligible for Ghana and Italy.
As big as that year has been, the coming weeks will also be packed with professional and personal milestones. While he now has four caps with the United States dating back to his debut in November, he has already made the roster for the Nations League and next week he will formally become cap-tied to the program when he makes an appearance in the tournament.
But that is not all, when he travels to the United States following Sunday’s friendly away against Switzerland, he will return to the country of his birth for the first time since he left.
“I haven't been back in New York since I was born,” Musah said from Switzerland with a smile. “I am actually going to stay there, see where I was born, see the area, and try to visit some places.”
On top of that, next week will give Musah the chance to play in front of fans for the first time since becoming a professional. While Valencia as afforded him the chance to play against elite teams such as Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, and Barcelona – it is entirely possible that Musah’s second game in front of fans could be part of the intense United States – Mexico rivalry.
“I can't wait to play in front of fans,” Musah said. “Making my debut season without fans, that was a bit annoying. Scoring my first goal without fans, that was annoying as well. Playing for the United States, in front of fans, that's going to be a great experience. I am going to enjoy it so much.”
Musah, 18, has been sharp for the United States thus far in his first caps but his first professional season with Valencia had a lot of ups and downs, which is typical of a teenager playing at one of the highest levels of the game. He started a lot in the opening months before playing mostly off the bench in the second half of the season.
When the 2020/21 La Liga season concluded, Musah made 17 starts, 15 substitute appearance for a total of 32 appearances and 1533 minutes – scoring one goal. It wasn’t always easy and he didn’t always play well, but for Musah, the experience was invaluable.
“It's been a great season to find out who I am about, for myself, by playing a full season in La Liga,” Musah explained. “There were so many ups and so many downs, you learn more about yourself during the down parts - like making mistakes, losing matches, being in a spot where you have to win matches, being efficient. You have to learn a lot about yourself. For my first season to play so much, I got so much information about who I am and I am going to look to take this information to next season. I played so many games, made so many mistakes, made so many good things happen, I am just going to try to improve next season.”
Musah enjoys the system Gregg Berhalter uses for the U.S. team and it best uses his talents because unlike at Valencia, he gets to play his preferred central midfield role with the U.S. team. This allows him to get more involved in the game on both sides of the ball. Adjusting to the U.S. team, as a result, has both easy and enjoyable.
“We play a dynamic system,” Musah said of the U.S. team. “Gregg wants us to be a hard-working team as well off the ball. With the ball, we should be exciting and create stuff. Like Gio, he's a player you see doing exciting stuff time and time again. I want to be a part of that… Luckily, I've already played a lot of midfield in my career as a young player. So, when Gregg tells me to do certain things, it feels natural to me. It's not too hard of a system that Gregg wants me to play. It's a system I already play. I feel that it just suits me. It's challenging, of course, because he wants the best out of us. At the same time, it's not really hard coming into this group. Everyone wants to help. Everybody is helping, making it easy for me.”
The upcoming week will certainly be exciting for Musah who well take part in a long-awaiting American homecoming. He was born in New York City but left when he was only a few months old. From there he lived in Italy followed by England.
This trip will coincide with him becoming tied to the United States program. He played for English youth national teams and began to hear from Ghana’s federation at the start of the season after his debut – while having never heard from Italy. He had a lot of options and his fine with letting them all go at this point and lock in his future at the international level.
“It feels great,” Musah said. “It's a dream come true. I never dreamed about this. I always want to give my best, now luckily, I get to go after my dream and I will try to give my best representing the U.S…It's overwhelming and I am enjoying it so much. I always try to give my best and I try to improve. This is amazing. It's something I dreamed about. I am enjoying it.”