U.S. midfield under the lens vs. Brazil, Tim Weah looks to mimic the rise of teammate Neymar

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The U.S. men's national team will face Brazil on Friday at MetLife Stadium in their first match since the conclusion of the 2018 World Cup. The match will mark caretaker manager Dave Sarachan's seventh game in charge, and he'll be hoping his youthful side (average age 23) will show well against a Brazil team featuring Neymar and Philippe Coutinho.

Here's what to watch for.

1. U.S. looking for progress from young midfield

The Americans' 1-1 draw with France last June was encouraging on some levels, given the pedigree of the opposition and the youthfulness of the U.S. team. The defense and the goalkeeping of Zack Steffen stood out, but France dominated the match territorially, and over the course of the match the play of the U.S. midfield was uneven.

With that in mind, the U.S. is hoping to show more fluency when it has the ball. That amounts to a massive challenge for U.S. midfielders such as Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Wil Trapp.

"I think we just look at being stingy, being difficult to play against," Trapp said. "We know that Brazil brings different challenges than France did, than Ireland did. But also building upon: How can we be more dangerous moving forward, scoring goals? Yes, we scored in France, but we also look at it as an opportunity where we could have been better attacking."

Sarachan stressed that his side would need to find "the right balance" between attack and defense, and while Brazil's roster isn't comprised completely of A-team players, there is still more than enough talent to trouble the U.S. defense.

"You look at the quality of their players in terms of breaking down players 1v1, they can go from zero to 60 in an instant just on the amount of game-changers they have on the field at any one moment," Trapp said.

2. Weah hoping to follow in the footsteps of club teammate Neymar

It was eight years ago that Neymar made his international debut against the U.S., scoring his first international goal in a 2-0 win at the same venue where Friday's match will be held. That no doubt will provide an inspiration for his club teammate and U.S. forward Tim Weah.

Yet a look at the lineups from that day reveals a cautionary tale as well. The other Brazilian goalscorer was Alexandre Pato, who at the time was just 20 years old but already on the post-Milan downside of his career.

Despite scoring his first Ligue 1 goal last month for Paris Saint-Germain, Weah is at a point in his career where he's not nearly as hyped as Neymar was back then with Santos. But being the son of a former Ballon d'Or winner -- and current president of Liberia, George Weah -- carries with it a unique burden.

"I can't imagine that's an easy thing," Sarachan said. "But he comes off as though he's trying to be his own self and find his own way, and that's a pretty mature way to look at things."

Weah's comments hint strongly at a player with his feet firmly on the ground, able to tune out any outside noise.

"Whatever I do, there's always going to be hate, always people saying, 'He's not as good as his dad,'" he said earlier this week. "I just stay focused on my game. Right now, the national team is the most important thing to me, and that's what I'm focused on. Whether my name is Weah or something else, I always want to give 100 percent."

Of course, Neymar isn't the only club teammate Weah will be facing, as Thiago Silva and Marquinhos will also both be suiting up for Brazil.

"We actually had a chat with all three of them before I came to camp," Weah said earlier this week. "We laugh about it all the time, we joke about it. It's a really cool vibe with all those guys, they love me, I love them, and they're like my brothers. This is my first time being opponents with them, so it's going to be a great experience."

But then, Weah couldn't help letting some youthful exuberance seep out.

"I hope they're ready for us. We're going to be a challenge for them," he said.

3. For Brazil, no time to ease off

The match will be Brazil's first since the disappointment of its World Cup quarterfinal exit to Belgium, and while there is a tendency to shrug off post-World Cup friendlies, there is plenty of work to do for Brazil's manager, Tite.

The 2019 Copa America is less than a year away, and with Brazil hosting the tournament, the usual pressure to perform well is ratcheted up a level or two. For that reason Tite -- who after agreeing to stay on with the Selecao is eager to see what he can do over a full cycle -- will be looking to get some answers. In particular he'll be looking to see if inexperienced national team players like Arthur, Fabinho and Richarlison can become long-term options for Brazil.

But Tite will have plenty of familiar faces at his disposal as well. Beyond the aforementioned Neymar and Coutinho, Brazil's squad is loaded with 2018 World Cup participants. Thiago Silva will anchor the defense, Real Madrid's Casemiro figures to feature in central midfield, and the likes of Willian, Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa will all be available in attack. Given the youthful nature of the U.S. team, that presents a formidable challenge indeed.