Now an American citizen, DC United's Nyeman holds USMNT ambitions
July 28, 2021
ONCE ONE OF the most prestigious clubs in the league, DC United hasn’t been a contender in MLS in years. While the team is still not back among the league's elite, it is trending in the right direction in 2021 under a new coaching staff combined with productive signings and an impressive core of young players from within its academy.
Moses Nyeman, 17, has been a consistent contributor to DC this season and has appeared in 14 of the team’s 15 games while also making seven starts. He has long been considered one of the team’s most promising academy products and while he made his debut in 2020 along with 10 other appearances, he has raised his game to another level in 2021 and has shown glimpses of his high ceiling.
Sunday’s 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls has put DC United to eighth place and within two points of a playoff spot. It’s a huge turnaround from where the club was in 2020 when it finished in 13th place.
“It's a good start,” Nyeman told ASN. “It's definitely far from where we want to be. But it's a good start right now and I'm satisfied with it. But there's still more to be done. I'm willing to keep working to get to where I'm trying to go… I get hard on myself for making simple and small mistakes, but I think it is good right now. I've talked to my coaches and they say there has been some great improvement. I just have to keep learning from all the mistakes I've made and keep progressing.”
Things are clearly better in the nation’s capital as there is a sense that DC United is on the right track. Last season was poor and the club finished in 13th place in the 14-team Eastern Conference. Towards the end, long-time coach Ben Olsen was fired and the direction of the club was unclear.
In the offseason, DC United hired Hernan Losada away from Beerschot in Belgium’s top tier. A recently retired former player, Losada brought with him an energetic, fast-paced, and high-pressing system that was physically demanding. DC United struggled at the start of the season from the demands of the Argentine manager, but eventually responded. Now in midseason, he has the club climbing the standings.
“He has a very good personality,”Nyeman said of Losada. “Him being a recently former player plays a big part in that, as a coach right now. He knows everything we're going through and he can relate. Playing under him is a good experience. “First of all, he puts the player wellness or physicality first above everything else, because without that, you can't really do anything. And he's always willing to go the extra mile to explain something or to get you to where you want to go... And that's one of the part of the traits I like about him.”
It has been an intense year for Nyeman. In addition to making strides with DC United, he has also had other accomplishments on and off the field. On a personal level, he became an American citizen and acquired a U.S. passport. Born in Liberia, Nyeman moved to the United States in 2013 and promptly joined D.C United at the U-12 level in 2015. From there he steadily progressed through the organization - starting in the academy and into the USL with Loudon United, and now as a first team regular.
His new American citizenship means a lot to him on many levels – with just one being his long-awaited eligibility to play for the United States internationally. Earlier this month, Nyeman was invited by U.S. national team head coach Gregg Berhalter to train with the U.S. team ahead of its Gold Cup opener.
“It was an overwhelming feeling to it to finally be a citizen,” Nyeman said. “I wouldn't say it was a long process, because I'm very fortunate to have gotten it now, and I think the national team played a big role in that…Today I have it and I thank them for that because it was a very it was an overwhelming feeling to it to finally be a citizen.”
As for training with the U.S. team, Nyeman admits it was a career milestone to at least be involved with the team at this age.
“It was phenomenal,” Nyeman explained. “I don't really know what to say - I was surprised. I was astonished. I can't even imagine being in the national team at this time. So I knew that one day, by God's grace, I was going to play for the national team. But to start at this level and right now, even though it wasn't playing for them, just to get involved with them - it was a blessing for me. The overall experience was great. Just the staff they have, they have always been keeping tabs on us and just making sure that we're on the right path to getting where we want to go when it comes to the national team. When I got there, everything just changed. It was something different from the club. Just playing with a club, it was completely different. It was it was great for me.”
As big as the year behind him as been, the next few years should see Nyeman make even more important strides in his career. The upcoming few months entail the DC United playoff push but it will also likely see the start of the start of the 2023 U-20 cycle.
That team will be centered around the extremely promising 2003 birth year that looks to be one of the best classes coming out of MLS. Nyeman is one of the core members of this class of players that also includes Ricardo Pepi, Cade Cowell, DC United teammate Kevin Paredes, Caden Clark, and Justin Che.
Nyeman has been involved with U.S. youth national teams many times before but hasn’t been able to participate in official games. Now that he is a citizen, he is eager to finally become fully integrated - that could start with a big role with the U-20 team.
“A lot of familiar names, but it's going to mean everything,” Nyeman said. “Maybe one day we get to play on the national team - myself and all of us on the same team, but having to experience that before actually getting on the national team - it is just going to make it a lot better. We have a very good group and a very competitive group. I will be I'll be happy if I'm part of that, and I would like to be part of it.”
Of course, there is the talk about many of these top players moving to the top leagues of Europe and MLS has become a hot bed for young talent the past few years. Nyeman is already on the radar of clubs and wants to eventually make a move but he also enjoys being part of the younger generation that is helping enhance the spotlight on the league.
“I just thank the guys who paved the way for us and without them, this process would be a lot harder,” Nyeman said. “There's going to be attention as long as you play good football. I'm just going to embrace it. Of course, I won't let it get over my head, but I’ll use it as a motivation. If people or scouts are talking about you in Europe, your name is going all over the place. There's something good that you're doing. You have to keep your head down and keep working so that's not where it stops.”