On August 13, 2021, Joe Scally had his coming out party.
Facing Bayern Munich in his first Bundesliga start, the then-18-year-old full back was virtually flawless. He quieted German star Leroy Sane, battled with iconic striker Robert Lewandowski and, ultimately, helped underdog Borussia Monchengladbach earn a 1-1 draw.
Scally\’s life hasn\’t been the same since.
On that day, Scally went from academy star to World Cup hopeful. And, over the course of the year or so since, he\’s had moments where he\’s looked ready to shine in Qatar.
\’This last year,\’ he says, \’it\’s been crazy.\’
He\’s had his highs, featuring 33 times in all competitions for a very competitive Gladbach team while earning his first looks with the U.S. men\’s national team. He\’s also had his lows, including a midseason dip in form and a humbling performance against Uruguay in his second USMNT cap.
With the World Cup looming, though, Scally is still very much in the mix for a spot with the U.S. that, just one year ago, looked so, so out of reach.
\’Every player whose country is in the World Cup wants to perform just so they can be there,\’ Scally says, \’so every game you always give 100 percent, but it feels like now everyone\’s giving that 110 percent just to show the little different edge that they\’ll have, to deserve to be there because we all know World Cup is the biggest stage and every player\’s dream to play in.
\’If someone can be there when their country\’s there, they\’re going to give everything to hopefully be there.\’
With both the USMNT right back and left back positions accounted for, Scally\’s biggest asset is his versatility. Scally is comfortable playing on both sides of the defense, having played at left back last season while now featuring primarily on the right.
Antonee Robinson is firmly solidified as the starter on the left with Sergino Dest on the other side. Veterans like DeAndre Yedlin and Reggie Cannon look set to battle for that backup right back spot, while there\’s a bit more competition to be the second left back in the squad.
Scally started on the left against Uruguay earlier this summer, but had a difficult time in what was his biggest test with the national team to date.
\’My last camp in June was a very good camp,\’ he says. \’I was very proud of myself. The way I went into it, I was very, very focused and ready.
\’I didn\’t play my best game against Uruguay but, you know, it happens. I\’m focused right now on the club and to try my best to be in the starting lineup.\’
The USMNT is primarily made up of players a lot like Scally: young, hungry and both experienced and inexperienced at the same time.
Yes, Scally has a year of Bundesliga games under his belt, which is something that would be unprecedented for an American youngster just a half decade ago.
But, at 19, he\’s still very new to the professional game as he looks to seal a spot among the USMNT \’veterans\’ that are hovering around age 23 or 24.
One of the big bonding activities? Golf, with Scally saying a mini-USMNT tournament helped him find his place within the team.
\’Me and Christian [Pulisic] won,\’ he says. \’We played a par three course so it wasn\’t a real course. Everyone\’s pretty good, to be honest, like everyone can hit the ball. No one really hits grounders.
\’The real surprise is Brendan [Aaronson]. His first shot was in the ground and then after that, he just kept hitting the green. It was so funny, but we\’re all on a similar level.\’
Over the next few weeks, Scally will have to raise his level on the field. The USMNT will convene one final time before the World Cup roster is announced for friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia.
That Japan friendly will come in Germany, and may present Scally with his last chance to impress Gregg Berhalter before the final 26-man squad is announced in October.
Until then, his focus will be helping Gladbach remain near the top of the Bundesliga. Through three games, the club has seven points, putting them second in the table.
Next up for Scally and Gladbach is a match against Bayern Munich. Nearly a year after having his breakout moment against Bayern, the teenage defender will have a chance to show how far he\’s come by replicating the feat.
This is a new Bayern, though, even if the end result likely remains the same: a Bundesliga title. This time around, Scally will likely face off with Sadio Mane, a player widely seen as one of the best in the world at his position.
\’I\’ve always watched him with Liverpool,\’ Scally says. \’We all have and he\’s a great player. Every time we watch him play, he does something special, whether it\’s a goal, assist, or dribbles past two or three guys. So first, I\’m excited to play him, excited to see what I can do against him.
\’I know our whole team is ready. We\’ve studied everything. We watch these guys every weekend, so we know we know what they do.\’
Over the next two-and-a-half months, Scally will look to show what he can do. One crazy year will now boil down to a few weeks as Scally fights for his World Cup place.
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