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UNC soccer: Eric Lichaj captains USMNT against Bolivia

The one time Tar Heel led a young American team to a 3-0 win in Philadelphia.

Soccer: International Friendly Men's Soccer-Bolivia at USA Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The United States men’s national soccer team isn’t exactly in the best of spots right now. They did not qualify for this summer’s World Cup. As the rest of the world is preparing for that, the US is basically rebuilding.

That rebuilding has amounted to using a lot of young players, which they did in their Monday night game against Bolivia. The oldest player in their squad for the Bolivia game was former Tar Heel Eric Lichaj.

Lichaj is just 29 years old, and since leaving UNC in 2006, has spent over a decade playing for various professional teams in England. He’s spent the last five seasons playing for Nottingham Forest, who currently reside the league just below the English Premier League.

The former Tar Heel isn’t the most experienced player on the international level, evidenced by the fact that he had only made 14 prior appearances for the US prior to the Bolivia game. Lichaj scored a goal and helped the USMNT along the way to their Gold Cup title win in 2017, but hasn’t had an extended breakthrough with the team.

However, he was one of the more experienced players in the roster for the game against Bolivia. That was probably one of the reasons he ended up being named captain for the match.

Lichaj led the team for their 3-0 win over the South American nation. By all accounts, the defender wasn’t tested much, but the team was already up three goals when he exited 15 minutes before the final whistle. Lichaj received mostly solid reviews for his performance in the game.

Due to missing out on the World Cup, there’s still a year before the US will take part in any genuine competitive matches. Not to mention, the current USMNT manager, Dave Sarachan, is an interim and probably won’t get the full-time job. Whether or not Lichaj ends up being part of the next manager’s plans remains to be seen. He may very well be out of the fold by the time the next Gold Cup and 2020 World Cup qualifying come around.

However, he’s gotten to captain the USMNT, which is an honor not many (if any) other former Tar Heels would have gotten a chance to do. He has that honor, and an extremely good dog.