During the US Men’s National Team’s last round of friendlies, there were moments when the team on the field included midfielder/left back Kellyn Acosta on the wing. Goals were hard to come by, as was speed on the flanks.
Meanwhile, Fafa Picault was in the midst of his second consecutive strong season with Philadelphia Union. A wing player with elite speed that can play on both sides of the pitch, Picault knew he could help the Americans. He just needed to get that call.
Today, it came.
“I got a call from John Fleischman,” Picault told me today. “I knew what it was about so we started speaking and he invited me back to camp. I was really relieved and excited. Ready to get back over there and see some familiar faces and some new faces and get to work.”
There had been rumors that the USMNT was interested in bringing Picault back into the fold after a two year absence. The winger’s last and only national team appearance came back in May 2016 when he entered as a substitute during a 3-1 win over Puerto Rico.
Over the past two seasons, Picault has been one of the most productive American wingers in Major League Soccer. He has followed up last season’s seven goal/four assist output with eight tallies and three helpers in 2018, and he has firmly entrenched himself as the Union’s starting left winger with both his offensive production and defensive work rate. Late in a September match against Seattle Sounders, Picault made a stunning full-field sprint to close down the ball and score a game-winning goal.
Notably, Picault’s production has come as the far-sided winger in a right-sided Union attack. While only getting about 8% of the team’s touches during his time on the pitch, Picault has still managed to be incredibly productive and act as a continual threat up the left side.
As for what he plans to do in this US camp, which includes matches against Colombia and Peru, Picault said he just wants to be Fafa. “ I think if you're going to camp it's because there's a quality shown in you that maybe somebody doesn't possess. It's important to be yourself and not try to be a different player now that you're in a different setting. Just show who I am and show what difference I can make on a team at an international level.”
His other goal? Show he belongs in the American team for this World Cup cycle. “It's a question of not just going there and being a part of it but earning my place and keeping one,” he said. “I've put in a lot of work, especially since coming to Philly in the past two years, and I feel like I've earned it.
“But now it's time to show some more.”