US Men Lose 2-1 to Serbia, Sat on TNT vs Colombia 7:30 pm
I thought the youngsters really looked good tonight. Brendon Vazquez was exquisite up top scoring the lone goal for the US, Zendejas showed why Mexico and the US are vying for his services as the Club America man had multiple opportunities up top. I thought Morris was very good at the dmid slot. Cade Cowell showed his pace and had fantastic delivery on the left wing (hitting the post twice). I thought Jones was incredibly dangerous at the right back slot when he came in providing a # of great runs and good crosses in. The US just couldn’t quite capitalize in the 2nd half but we certainly out possessed (63%), outshot (20-11) and completely dominated the 2nd half even if Serbia scored the lone 2nd half goal on stupid mistake by the 19 year Neal giving up the 2-1 loss. Great to see 18 year old GK Gaga Slonina start in the net – he made a couple of nice saves including this (What a Save by Gaga). Brandon Vasquez Cincy FC Man Scored the lone US Goal. I love that we started and played the youngsters tonight.
US Starter’s Wed Night
Gomez, Neal//Zimmerman //Gressel
CFC Goalkeepers Wed night 1/25 Badger Field House Facility is Closed due to Snow.
US Men Tonight 10 pm vs Serbia on HBO Max, Sat on TNT 7:30 pm
The US Men will return to action tonight with a new bunch of young players on the roster. This B/C line-up will be interesting to see especially as exciting newcomers like Paxton Aaronson (Brendan’s brother) formerly from Philly Union gets a start along with Paxton Pomykal in the midfield. Mexican-American center forward Alejandro Zendejas or Cincy’s 2022 revelation Brandon Vazquez should get the start up top with either Cade Cowell, or Emmanuel Sabbi on a wing. I am hoping he goes young on the edges defensively with Gomez on the left and Vancouver’s Julian Gressel on the right side. We’ll probably have Aaron Long and Zimmerman in the middle though Sam Rogers or John Tolkin could get a start there alongside. Either way a bunch of talent here from the former U20 Men’s National Team players. Serbia is good – but like the US will not be bringing many A team starters. It all kicks off at 9 pm tonight with a solid pregame show on HBO Max, Universo & Peacock the kickoff at 10 pm from LA and the 30 plus minute post game show after. Sat night the game vs Colombia starts at 7:30 pm with a 6:30 pm pregame start. In other US news – rumors have American midfielder Aaron McKinney headed to Elland Road to join Leed’s United States of America along with fellow American’s Brendan Aaronson, Tyler Adams and coach Jesse Marsch. Also the controversial US winger Gio Reyna scored this game winner for Dortmund this past weekend and had an interesting celebration and he scored again today. I think its 1-1 tonight.
Shane’s Line-Up for Tonight
Tolkin, Rogers //Zimmerman //Gressel
Johnson or Gaga
The full USMNT roster
Goalkeepers (3): Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati), Sean Johnson (free agent), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea)
Defenders (8): Jonathan Gómez (Real Sociedad), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution), Aaron Long (LAFC), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy), Sam Rogers (Rosenborg), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)
Midfielders (6): Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Alan Soñora (free agent), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers)
Forwards (7): Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough), Emmanuel Sabbi (Odense), Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati), Alejandro Zendejas (Club América)
USWNT Wins 5-0 Down Under readies for She Believe’s Cup in 3 weeks
The US ladies dominated from start to finish on Friday night at they dominated New Zealand 5-0 in what could have been a name your score game. US youngsters like Ashley Hatch, Veteran Rose Lavelle (WoM) lead the way with a brace but US Youngsters Ashley Hatch, and Taylor Kornieck scored along with of course Mallory Pugh now Swanson. Sofia Huerta and Sanchez each added assists along with Lynn Williams and Rose Lavelle as the US completely dominated from start to finish. Casey Murphy did start and goal and had a save on the night a Girma and Cook held down the middle of defense. We’ll see who is added in Feb as the She Believe’s Cup gets underway in mid Feb. full hightlighs) ???
Games to Watch
Of course the US vs Serbia tonight at 1o pm on HBO Max or Peacock leads the way, Madrid Derby in Copa Del Rey Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid at 3 pm on ESPN+, along with Nottingham Forest at Man United at 3 pm on ESPN+. Friday we get Man City vs Arsenal (with American Matt Turner in Goal) in league cup action at 3 pm on ESPN+. The Weekend features FA Cup action all on ESPN plus including Wrexham (TV show) vs Sheffield United on Sun at 11 am, Lufton Town (Horvath) – Coach Juergen Sommer’s old club vs Grimsby Town at 10 am on Saturday along with Leeds United @ Accrington Stanley at 7:30 am.
Carmel FC 2010 Boys is extending tryouts this winter for the Spring Season.
Contact the Ole Ballcoach at firstname.lastname@example.org if your son was born in 2010 or 2011 and interested in working out with us.
ANY CARMEL DAD’S CLUB PLAYERS & CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse –REGISTRATION READY for Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Register NOW, gather teammates and be ready to play! Visit: https://form.123formbuilder.com/6349623/winter-players-league-session-2-registration-form
GAMES ON TV
(American’s names in Parenthesis)
Weds, Jan 25
2:30 pm ESPN+ WErder Bremen vs Union Berlin (Pfuk)
2:30 pm ESPN+ Ausburg vs Mgladbach (Scally)
3 pm ESPN+ Nottingham Forest vs Man United League Cup
3 pm ESPN+ Barcelona vs Real Sociadad Copa Del Rey
10 pm HBO Max, Peacock USA Men vs Serbia
Thur, Jan 26
3 pm ESPN+ Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid Copa Del Rey
Fri, Jan 27
3 pm ESPN+ Man City vs Arsenal League Cup
Sat, Jan 28
7:30 am ESPN+ Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson) @ Accrington Stanley
9:30 am ESPN+ Hoffenheim vs MGladbach (Scally)
9:30 am ESPN+ Hertha vs Union Berlin (Pfuk)
10 am ESPN+ Lufton Town (Horvath) vs Grimsby Town FA Cup
10 am ESPN+ Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs Sunderland
10 am ESPN+ Bristol City vs West Brom (Dike)
12:30 pm ESPN+ Sevilla vs Elche
1 pm ESPN+ Preston vs Spurs – FA Cup
3 pm ESPN+ Man United vs Reading FA Cup
7:30 p TNT USA Men vs Colombia
Sun, Jan 29
8:30 am ESPN+ Brighton vs Livepool FC Cap
11 am ESPN+ Wrexham vs Sheffield United FA cup
11:30 am ESPN+ Leverkusen vs Dortmund (Reyna)
2:45 pm beIN Sport Reims vs PSG
Thu, Feb 16 She Believes Cup
7 pm Fox Sports 1? USWNT vs Canada
Sun, Feb 19
3:30 pm Fox USWNT vs Japan
Wed, Feb 22
7 pm FS1 USWNT vs Brazil
The 13 U.S. debutants you need to know in January friendlies ESPNFC Bill Connelly
USA kicks off 2026 World Cup journey amid in-fighting, uncertainty
Amid U.S. men’s soccer turmoil, Anthony Hudson tries to keep team on course LA Times
With Berhalter in limbo, US men begin camp under Hudson
Who is Anthony Hudson? What to know about USMNT’s interim manager
5 players to watch during USMNT’s January international friendlies
Giovanni Reyna scores outrageous winner in Bundesliga return (video)
10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 21
Three talking points from the Premier League weekend
Kane ignored illness to earn share of Spurs goal record
Harry Kane scores historic beauty as Tottenham wins scrap at Fulham
Arsenal silence doubters with statement win over Man Utd
‘Incredible’ Odegaard fulfils potential to fuel Arsenal title bid
Ten Hag says Man Utd must ‘change mentality’ after Arsenal defeat
Arsenal vs Manchester United player ratings out of 10
Guardiola hails ‘incredible’ hat-trick hero Haaland
Stalemate as Leeds frustrated by Brentford
Klopp sees small steps of Liverpool progress in Chelsea stalemate
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USA vs. Serbia, 2023 friendly: What to watch for
It’s the first match of the year for the USMNT, with several fresh faces looking to shine. The United States Men’s National Team begin the calendar year when they step on the field tomorrow to take on Serbia in their first of two January Camp friendlies. The USMNT is using this camp to welcome several new players into the national team fold, with 11 players participating in their first national team camp. That includes several youngsters who could factor into the player pool for years to come. They’re taking on a Serbia team that they’ve only seen once before, which was January Camp 2017. The USMNT want to be aggressive in controlling the game and for each of these young players to show that they should be in the equation for USMNT rosters down the road. With Anthony Hudson assuming the coaching duties for this camp as U.S. Soccer evaluates its coaching candidates, we expect an intriguing matchup between these two teams.
Temporary USMNT head coach Anthony Hudson called in a 24-man roster for this camp:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati), Sean Johnson (Unattached), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea FC)
DEFENDERS (8): Jonathan Gómez (Real Sociedad), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution), Aaron Long (LAFC), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy), Sam Rogers (Rosenborg), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
FORWARDS (7): Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough), Emmanuel Sabbi (Odense), Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America)
L (1-3) – Netherlands – 2022 World Cup Round of 16
W (1-0) – Iran – 2022 World Cup Group B
D (0-0) – England – 2022 World Cup Group B
D (1-1) – Wales – 2022 World Cup Group B
D (0-0) – Saudi Arabia – Friendly
L (2-3) – Switzerland – 2022 World Cup Group G
D (3-3) – Cameroon – 2022 World Cup Group G
L (0-2) – Brazil – 2022 World Cup Group G
W (5-1) – Bahrain – Friendly
W (2-0) – Norway – UEFA Nations League
What To Watch For
Establish possession. The midfield has consistently been the key for moving the ball forward in the USMNT’s favored 4-3-3, and a lot is asked of them. The first thing the midfield needs to do is establish possession and show they can hold it for long stretches as they slice through the Serbian defense.
Take your shot. This has a dual meaning, as the USMNT needs to put shots on frame. It’s been the biggest concern for our national team over the past year. However, for the several players who are in their first camp, it’s about using this opportunity to leave a lasting, positive impression.
The veterans need to lead. There are 5 World Cup veterans – along with Paul Arriola, who narrowly missed out on the World Cup – in this camp, and they need to be the guides for the rest of this young squad. It will only help the newcomers adjust to what’s happening on the field.
With it being Anthony Hudson’s first match in charge of the USMNT, it’s unclear who he will be looking at or what his strategy will be. Because the team has mostly been in a 4-3-3 with 2 midfielders essentially playing as 8s, we will likely see this lineup start against Serbia:
Sean Johnson is the favorite to start in goal, with Jonathan Gomez at left back and Julian Gressel at right back. The centerback pairing that many fans are familiar with, Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman, returns to the back line.
In the middle, Kellyn Acosta operates as defensive midfielder, while Paxten Aaronson and Paxton Pomykal (this combo may need a nickname) will try to move the ball forward into attacking positions. Up front, Paul Arriola will occupy the right side, with Cade Cowell on the left wing. Brandon Vasquez will get the opportunity to see what he can do at the 9.
This should be an affair where both teams get on the board. Let’s call it a 1-1 draw.
5 players to watch during USMNT’s January international friendlies
Sanjesh Singh Mon, January 23, 2023 at 10:00 AM ESTIn this article:
5 players to watch during USMNT’s January friendlies originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The future is now.The United States men’s national team is gearing up for two international friendlies against Serbia and Colombia, but because it’s not recognized by FIFA on its international calendar, the Stars and Stripes’ marquee players abroad will not be involved.Instead, the USMNT will get the chance to analyze a new batch of youngsters as the 2026 FIFA World Cup cycle gets underway. Out of the 24 players called up to the roster, keep an eye on these five:
GK Gabriel Slonina
The USMNT’s No. 1 goalie has become 28-year-old Matt Turner, a former New England Revolution star who is now producing quality performances with Arsenal in a backup role. Developing young goalies has been an issue with the program, but there’s hope that Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina could be one for the future. The 18-year-old emerged for the Chicago Fire the last two seasons, leading to a $15 million transfer to Chelsea last summer (he stayed with Chicago for the remainder of the season on loan).This past season, the 6-foot-4 goalie logged 12 clean sheets in 32 games played and saved 64.6% of shots he faced, a solid rate for someone his age. He could be one to watch to make the 2026 World Cup roster.
LW Cade Cowell
You can never go wrong with deploying speedy wingers, especially those who are direct and want to take on defenders in one-on-one situations. Think Christian Pulisic, for example, the nation’s best winger. Whenever he collects the ball on the left flank, he’ll turn towards the goal and try to make a play with his right foot. That’s essentially the mold Cade Cowell has.The 19-year-old forward is starting to become a pivotal player for the San Jose Earthquakes and has been rumored for a potential move to Europe soon. What makes him enticing? He’s already six-foot tall and weighs over 170 pounds. Combine that with his blazing speed and there’s a unique profile in him that’s rare to find. It’s possible that with his build, he’ll eventually convert to a center-forward. But for now, refining his skills out wide and improving his final product is key. Anytime he has the ball, he’ll get you on your feet. January could be a crucial turning point in his development, especially considering his Mexican background could’ve seen him represent El Tri instead.
CAM Paxten Aaronson
If this last name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Paxten Aaronson is the younger brother of Brenden Aaronson, who broke out with the USMNT last year thanks to his impressive play upon moving to Leeds United of the English Premier League.Paxten still has a long way to go to crack the main core of the U.S., but he recently moved from Philadelphia Union to Eintracht Frankfurt of the Bundesliga, a club that has a knack for polishing and growing under-the-radar youngsters.
The 19-year-old usually plays in a central attacking midfield role and is currently touted for his playmaking abilities. At 5-foot-9 and 139 pounds, Aaronson definitely has some bulking up to do, and figuring out his long-term position is another crucial step. The decline of pure No. 10s means he’ll need to sort out if he’s a winger, false nine or a box-to-box midfielder, which is a similar identity crisis Brenden is still undergoing.
#9 Brandon Vázquez
The USMNT’s striker woes going into Qatar were a hot concern, and it has stayed that way afterward following their lack of goals scored. But maybe Brandon Vázquez can break that trend. Vázquez of FC Cincinnati is coming off the season of his life. The 24-year-old bagged 18 goals and eight assists in 33 appearances last season, playing a massive role in the team’s run to the postseason. He’s a classic No. 9, a relentless finisher inside the box. He ranked in the 90th percentile in non-penalty goals and 89th in non-penalty expected goals, per Football Reference, compared to other forwards outside of the world’s top-five leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France). If his teammates can feed him in dangerous areas, the goal-assist output should follow.
LB John Tolkin
Antonee Robinson’s health status going into Qatar was a genuine worry for the USMNT because the left flank looked much less dynamic without his energetic overlapping runs to support the attack. Beyond him, the U.S. didn’t have the same level at left back. John Tolkin could change that. The 20-year-old left back with the New York Red Bulls put up another solid season under more playing time. In 31 games, he helped offensively with one goal and three assists with his runs into the final third, and ranked in the 83rd percentile in shot-creating actions, per Football Reference. Defensively, he ranked 99th in interceptions and 92nd in tackles, with his versatility allowing him to also line up as a wingback or defensive midfielder. It’s an intriguing profile if he continues his upward trajectory, and maybe we could be treated to Cowell and Tolkin both playing simultaneously on the left flank. Let’s see if any of these five players can show flashes of becoming vital international figures going forward.
U.S. could hand out 13 debuts in friendlies vs. Serbia, Colombia: The new names you need to know
4:29 PM ET
- Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer
- There’s no such thing as a meaningless, consequence-free national team match. It remains an honor for the players involved, there are a few FIFA ratings points on the line and have you seen Twitter during a U.S. men’s national team match? The existential dread gets all over the furniture even in the most mundane of settings.That said, the coming friendlies for the men’s national team — against Serbia in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, and Colombia in Carson, California, on Saturday evening — are as close to consequence-free as it gets.
- Hudson: ‘Difficult’ time to take charge of USMNT3dAssociated Press
- Sources: McBride out, Berhalter in flux for USMNT4dSam Borden
- The Berhalter-Reyna rift explained: What it means for U.S. Soccer going forward7dKyle Bonagura
It’s a long time until the next World Cup, only two players on the 24-man roster belong to a club in Europe’s major leagues (Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina and Paxten Aaronson, whose respective journeys with Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt are only beginning), and only five players were on the U.S. roster in the recent World Cup in Qatar. The roster is made up primarily of players with MLS and Scandinavian clubs, and neither Serbia nor Colombia are bringing their respective A-teams to town either. Oh yeah, and the U.S. doesn’t have a manager at the moment. Maybe you’ve heard?
Still, the friendlies are opportunities to watch some intriguing, younger players making their national team debuts and attempting to leave an impression for later. With respect to both veteran stalwarts like Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola, and younger players looking to make their second appearances in a U.S. shirt (Cade Cowell, Jonathan Gomez, Paxton Pomykal), let’s focus on the debutants.
Thirteen of them are seeking their first caps in the coming days; let’s welcome them to the party. (Note: Within each position group, the players have been “ranked” in order of my own personal excitement/curiosity level.)
- Position: Center-forward
- Club team: FC Cincinnati (Major League Soccer)
- Age: 24
When the camp invitations were announced last week, you could almost hear a chorus of American fans yelling “FINALLY!” in unison. Even with the U.S. struggling at the No. 9 position last year, Berhalter didn’t seem to give Vazquez, 2022’s breakout star in MLS, much of a look.
A late bloomer of sorts, the 24-year old scored 19 goals for FC Cincinnati, and while he strikes a profile similar to many American forwards — solid shot quality, iffy shot quantity, only a little involved from a passing standpoint — he’s been more proficient at that style than anyone else in the player pool of late. He’s 6-foot-2 and solid in the air (six of his 19 goals were headers, including two from set pieces), and after flirting with the idea of accepting an invitation to the Mexican national team if it came about, he finally gets his shot with the U.S.https://www.youtube.com/embed/qDeXUml-3Os?wmode=transparent
Vazquez might be too old to be considered a genuine prospect, but he’s only now entering his prime and could command both a larger role with the national team and a role with a European club in the years to come.
- Position: Right-wing
- Club team: Club America (Mexico‘s Liga MX)
- Age: 25
To date, Zendejas’ story has been punctuated by controversy. After making more than 30 appearances for U.S. junior teams, the El Paso-via-Juarez native made two appearances for Mexico in friendlies without filing for the requisite one-time switch. Mexico was recently fined and ordered to forfeit those two friendlies (no great loss, but still), and now it appears Zendejas is filing for a one-time switch back to the U.S. to make it worse.
It’s a muddy story, but Zendejas brings a bold presence to the national team. He has scored eight goals in 22 Liga MX appearances for Club America this season, and six of them have come from at least 13 meters out. He prowls the edge of the box, searches out dangerous opportunities — he’s got three assists from 27 chances created, and he’s drawn 49 fouls — and, if there’s an opening, launches one at the net.
The U.S. have loads of options on the wings, and many of them are younger than Zendejas. But he has blossomed over the past two seasons — he’s now got 19 goals and five assists since the start of 2021-22 — and he has a major opportunity to make an impression this week.
- Position: Center-forward/right-winger
- Club team: Odense (Denmark‘s Superliga)
- Age: 24
His parents are from Ghana. He was born in Italy. He grew up in Ohio. He signed a youth contract in Spain. He has made his professional mark in Denmark.
Sabbi’s backstory is dizzying, but he has slowly crafted a solid portfolio. With first Hobro and then Odense, he has scored 23 goals with nine assists over about 98 90s in Denmark. He missed quite a bit of time because of injury in 2022 but returned to score twice and record two assists in just four matches in the fall. (The Danish Superliga halts play in mid-November and resumes in late February.)
Sabbi’s a bit of a tweener; he’s strong enough to play forward even though he’s only 5-foot-10, and he’s a good enough passer to play on the wing, but he might not quite boast the speed of others in the player pool. He’s intriguing all the same. And if or when he steps onto the field in California, he would become the 10th player from the American 2017 U-20 World Cup team to earn a cap.
- Position: Attacking midfielder
- Club team: Eintracht Frankfurt (German Bundesliga)
- Age: 19
With his combination of intensity and creativity, Brenden Aaronson, 22, earned both a steady role within Berhalter’s squad and made his Premier League and World Cup debuts over the last year. His little brother might somehow be more frantic, more bold and more creative.
In 450 minutes with the Philadelphia Union last year, mostly as a super-sub, Aaronson scored once and created five chances, but most of his work was done in pushing the ball into dangerous areas. He was a pressures machine, he completed 83% of his passes into the attacking third, and he made 63 combined progressive passes and carries — about 12.6 per 90 minutes. He’s a busybody, and he joins an Eintracht club who are both interesting and optimistic in attack.
It’s an exciting fit, but before he can make his Bundesliga debut, he will make his national team debut.
- Position: Central midfield
- Club team: Unattached/free agent
- Age: 24
The “FINALLY!” chorus might not have been as loud about this one, but … finally! I have been personally curious about Sonora — the younger brother of another national team candidate, Joel — for a while. He might be the best free-kick taker in the U.S. player pool, and he’s a first-team member of the Try Stuff All-Stars.
Over the past two seasons with Argentina‘s Independiente, Sonora scored 10 goals with six assists from 63 chances created in league and Copa Sudamericana play. In nine shot attempts from direct free kicks, he put four on target and scored twice, from distances of 20 and 28 meters. He wasn’t asked to contribute much from the perspective of ball pressure, which makes him very much unlike the current first-choice U.S. midfielders, but he makes things happen, and he finally gets a chance to impress. (He might join an MLS team soon, too.)
- Position: Defensive midfield
- Club team: Columbus Crew (Major League Soccer)
- Age: 21
Granted, he’s only 2½ years younger than Tyler Adams, but if you’re looking for a candidate to profile as the next Adams, Morris might be your guy. The Crew member turned 21 in November, and while he played an attacking role at times, he was mostly asked to cover massive ground, Adams-style, from a defensive midfield role.
He averaged about 6.0 ball recoveries and 12.3 defensive interventions per 90 in 2022 while completing 88% of his passes (89% in the attacking third) and creating 13 chances. Obviously the Adams role in the U.S. starting XI will be filled by Adams, when healthy, for the foreseeable future. However, Morris checks a lot of boxes and could end up playing a major role when Adams is unavailable.
- Position: Left-back
- Club team: New York Red Bulls (Major League Soccer)
- Age: 20
The U.S. is loaded with exciting young fullbacks. Incumbents Antonee Robinson (25) and Sergino Dest (22) are only beginning to approach their prime, Borussia Monchengladbach‘s Joe Scally (20) should force his way into the next manager’s plans, and Arminia Bielefeld’s George Bello (21) has already made seven caps. But it might not be not too late for Tolkin to carve out a niche, too.
The Jersey-born Red Bull was a calming presence for a frantic team, averaging both 1.3 chances created and 13.3 defensive interventions per 90. He ended up with a goal and three assists, and the CIES Football Observatory just named him the most promising defensive left back in the game. Not bad.
- Position: Left-back/right-back
- Club team: New England Revolution (Major League Soccer)
- Age: 25
A bit of a latecomer to the national scene, Jones has done everything he can to make up for lost time. After a full four seasons at Michigan State, he aced the MLS combine ahead of the 2019 SuperDraft and was picked 11th overall at age 21. He recorded nearly 1,400 minutes in his rookie season, and his minutes have increased every year since.
Playing mostly on the left for the Revolution, he has scored four goals with 12 assists from 81 chances created over the past two seasons, and while his defensive numbers aren’t quite as strong as some of his peers — he’s more Raphael Guerreiro than Reece James at full-back/wing-back — his speed is noteworthy. And his versatility could make him attractive to the next U.S. manager, whatever style said manager attempts to establish.https://www.youtube.com/embed/NQ0kZa7KfVI?wmode=transparent
- Position: Center-back
- Club team: Los Angeles Galaxy (Major League Soccer)
- Age: 19
Neal’s camp invitation was perhaps a bit of a reach considering he has played only four minutes for the Galaxy’s senior team, but he has been allowed to develop slowly for the Galaxy II team in the USL Championship. Despite his age and the general maturity requirements of the position, he has thrived.
Over three seasons and nearly 4,000 minutes, he has won 59% of his duels and 62% of aerials, and his passing numbers have been strong for the position. He’s 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders, though his 170-pound frame could hold a bit more weight. Regardless, his potential is blindingly obvious, and his invitation is an acknowledgment of that.
- Position: Center-back
- Club team: Rosenborg (Norway’s Eliteserien)
- Age: 23
Like Sabbi, Rogers is a fun addition from the Scandinavian leagues. A product of the Seattle Sounders academy and the Tacoma Defiance, the 6-foot-3 Rogers played for the U.S. in the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship and ended up on loan with second-division Norwegian club HamKam in 2021. After HamKam earned promotion, manager Kjetil Rekdal took the job at Norwegian heavyweight Rosenborg and brought Rogers along.
Rogers has blossomed in Trondheim, bringing both defensive intensity and solid passing to the table. The U.S. have a lot of high-potential center-backs around Rogers’ age — among others, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Miles Robinson are both only 25 — but his development has clearly been noticed.
- Position: Right-back
- Club team: Vancouver Whitecaps (Major League Soccer)
- Age: 29
The German-born veteran began his youth career with Greuther Furth in the German Bundesliga, but he elected to take an American path to the pros: He came to the U.S., played for Providence in college and has now played important roles for Atlanta United (2017-19), D.C. United (2020-21) and Vancouver (2022). He earned his American citizenship in November, and though he might be running a bit late in his trajectory — he’ll be 32 at the next World Cup — he gets a chance to make an impression.
Gressel is a safe defender who can play as either a right-back or in more of a wing-back role, and he pasted together a unicorn of a stat line for Vancouver last season: He was one of only 17 MLS players to produce at least two goals, nine assists, 140 progressive passes and 140 progressive carries. Of the 17, he was the only one with more than 290 defensive interventions. He was everywhere.
- Club team: Chelsea (English Premier League)
- Age: 18
- Club team: FC Cincinnati (Major League Soccer)
- Age: 22
The three goalkeepers Gregg Berhalter took to Qatar in November will turn 37 (Sean Johnson), 32 (Matt Turner) and 31 (Ethan Horvath) either right before or during the 2026 World Cup. Zack Steffen, with his 29 U.S. caps, will turn 31, too. Obviously goalkeepers age more gracefully than other players, but now’s a good time for the next generation of U.S. keepers to present itself.
Johnson was invited to January camp, but the two other keepers, Slonina and Celentano, are particularly intriguing. A former Indiana Hoosier, Celentano was solid for FC Cincinnati as a rookie in 2022, but Slonina, nearly four years his junior, has made more MLS appearances (34 for the Chicago Fire), earned a $10 million transfer to Chelsea and doesn’t turn 19 until May.
Slonina’s huge (6-foot-4) and aggressive, and while you don’t want your keeper having to make too many athletic, big-time saves, he’s more than capable.
He will turn 22 right before the 2026 World Cup, and one assumes that of any debutant on this list, he is the most likely to be a part of the U.S. roster when the World Cup rolls around. Matt Turner performed well in Qatar and earned his own big-club transfer (to Arsenal) recently, but Slonina will get a chance to displace him in the years to come.
United States team not in ‘nice situation’ ahead of friendlies – Anthony Hudson
6:09 PM ETKyle BonaguraESPN Staff Writer
But, Hudson said, that’s professional sports. Adversity comes with the territory and it’s up to him and the blend of mostly high-potential young players and World Cup veterans to make the most of its annual January camp and a pair of friendlies against Serbia and Colombia on Jan. 25 and 28, respectively.”it’s been a dream for so many of them — so many of us, but mainly the players,” said Hudson, who was on Berhalter’s staff as an assistant in Qatar. “They set out with a big, lofty ambition, not just to go [to the World Cup], but to go there and represent themselves in a way that people would sit up and take notice of the team.””So when all this happened, I think it was [a feeling] of shame. It’s sadness because all the attention has gone away from that. All the good work and it’s been shifted in another direction.”Until U.S. Soccer hires a permanent coach, it will be difficult for everyone to move on completely without acknowledging the state of flux. Especially with an ongoing external investigation into a 1991 domestic violence alternation involving Berhalter, which was brought to the attention of USSF general manager Earnie Stewart by Danielle Reyna, the mother of star winger Giovanni Reyna.
“I’ve said yes to doing it for now and then my next huge responsibility is to the players,” Hudson said. “Because we can’t get all our players from overseas because they’re not available, historically, this camp opens up a space for new players to come in.
“We’ve seen there’s 30-odd plus players that have made their first or second cap in this window in the past and gone on to represent [us] in the World Cup.”Among the players that could fit that profile is goalkeeper Gaga Slonina. The 18-year-old recently completely a move to Chelsea from the Chicago Fire FC and has pledged his international future to the U.S. despite being eligible for Poland, where both his parents are from.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Slonina said. “I’m using this opportunity to show what I can do as a player for the national team, I think that’s very important. The move has been great. The training and level there is something that I think every player dreams of.
“Coming out here and showing what I’ve learned out there for the short time I’ve been there, I think that’s something I can use to my advantage.”
Slonina is one of the few European-based players that received club approval to take part in this camp, which is not in a designated FIFA international window.
“[Chelsea is] super proud,” Slonina said. “A club like that, I think, gives you the most resources to be successful. When you get an opportunity like this, yeah, they’re super happy. Told me to enjoy the moment and hopefully get my first cap with the national team.”
Hudson said the group was designed to blend high-potential, Olympic-age players with dual nationals and players with World Cup experience. The idea being the Qatar veterans — Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta, DeAndre Yedlin, Aaron Long, Sean Johnson and Jesus Ferreira — would be able to take on larger leadership roles and impart the developed culture with the new faces.
“They’ve responded really, really well as I’d expect them,” Hudson said. “I mean, that’s why we chose them to come in because we know the character of these guys.”
Following the two games, Hudson doesn’t have a clear expectation for what’s next for the team or himself.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I think we play these two games and I’m going to go home and see what comes after that.”
Zendejas’s inclusion in U.S. January camp all the more reason to be excited by fresh-faced call-ups
Jan 23, 2023 ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle & Kyle Bonagura
Every January, the turn of the year ushers in immense optimism for a brighter tomorrow, that this year will be the year. That’s especially true for the U.S. men’s national team, which calls up a predominantly MLS-based squad of young players and promising prospects to get their first taste of life with the senior national team.
This year’s roster is full of fresh faces, names that will get fans and analysts alike excited about what’s to come. Monday marks the beginning of a week in which the USMNT will play a pair of friendlies — Wednesday against Serbia, Saturday against Colombia — that will allow us our first proper look at many of them.
So, without a full-time manager — assistant Anthony Hudson takes the reins with Gregg Berhalter out of contract and no decision yet made whether he’ll be offered a new deal or will be replaced on the road to the 2026 World Cup on home soil — ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Kyle Bonagura sat down to discuss what they’re most excited about this week in Los Angeles.
Carlisle: Invariably, at least one or two players emerge from every January camp and prove they deserve a bigger role. I was looking at Dave Sarachan’s roster in 2018, and Walker Zimmerman was in there. Tyler Adams was in there, too. Each had only one cap at the time they were brought in, so you never know which players are going to develop and make the most of their opportunity. Obviously, big things were predicted for Adams, but Zimmerman was one of a handful of defenders whose potential was really unpredictable.
Bonagura: There’s always some value in the January camps for those reasons, but the dynamics here are much different than we’ve seen in several years. When Sarachan was the interim coach, the roster was essentially in need of a complete reset, so it was helpful to hand opportunities to younger players who were in line for important roles. The competition to earn a meaningful role this cycle will be much more difficult, and without a full-time coach in place, any sort of positive impression a young player makes in the camp won’t carry over.
At the same time, though, anytime you can see these up-and-coming guys together on the same field, it’s going to carry some level of intrigue. Brandon Vazquez is a guy that many fans thought should make the World Cup team after such a good year with FC Cincinnati. So for a player like him who has a real chance to work his way into the mix as a potential contributor in this cycle, I think it’s a great opportunity to get a taste for this type of environment.
Carlisle: I would add that just as guys can rise up, guys can fall, too. When a John O’Brien comes out of a 2002 World Cup, you’re expecting him to be a mainstay for the next decade. It didn’t work out that way. Stu Holden was another such example; the injury bug just crushed his career. The team that was just at the World Cup is young and talented, and it seems like for some of them, the ceiling is really exciting, but it’s not guaranteed.
Bonagura: That’s kind of why it’s worth paying attention, right? Because the team is in a place now where it’s trying to build and establish quality depth.
The most talked-about call-up in this camp is Club America attacker and Mexican-American Alejandro Zendejas. What makes him special, and what can we expect from him when the USMNT already has so many talented attacking options?
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Carlisle: For me, it’s his end product, which has been a problem for the U.S. as we saw at the World Cup. For every player that is engaged in a tug of war between the U.S. and Mexico, it doesn’t always end up being as big of a deal as it seemed at the time, but he has been a contributor for one of the biggest teams in Mexico. America is a huge club that gets a lot of attention, and with that comes a lot of pressure and expectation.
However, this whole camp is less than ideal because it’s not nearly as long as some of the other camps. Zendejas jetted in after a sensational performance in his Liga MX game against Puebla on Saturday, is expected to play against Serbia on Wednesday, and then then he’ll go back to Mexico City. So it’s going be a brief glimpse, but they wouldn’t be bringing him in, in that manner, if he wasn’t going to play. Given the attention that’s been put on Zendejas, it’ll be fascinating the extent to which he delivers on those expectations.
Could he make some headway with the full group? We’ll see how much he’s able to challenge guys for playing time, but as much as the U.S. had depth in the wing positions, at least during qualifying, they also sustained a lot of injuries. Christian Pulisic missed time. Giovanni Reyna missed time. I still think Brenden Aaronson‘s best position is still up in the air. I don’t think you can have too many options in attack.
Bonagura: You can’t have too many of those guys, especially considering the U.S. wingers don’t have a great track record with injuries. I think the other interesting part to consider here is that we don’t know how the next manager is going to want to set up the team. We’re kind of conditioned to view everything through the 4-3-3 that they’ve been using under Berhalter, but who’s to say that the next manager doesn’t change that up? And as a result, the player profiles are different and they’re slotting on the field in different ways.
Until we have an understanding of what the U.S. will look like tactically, all of these questions don’t really have firm answers.
Apart from Zendejas, which other debutantes are you most excited to see get a taste of the senior international game?
Bonagura: Vazquez and Zendejas are probably the names that have the broadest interest, but there are several players I’m looking forward to seeing.
When you look at the depth chart of the U.S., there’s not really a clear backup option for Adams at defensive midfield — he’s so clearly ahead of anyone else who plays that position. So from that standpoint, I’m curious to see if Aidan Morris can work his way into that conversation. He looked so good coming up and had the injury setback, so this will be a good opportunity for him.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Trq1Kuat-vY?wmode=transparent
Then I think Julian Gressel is an interesting name to see on this list, just because of the backstory there. The fact that the German-born wide midfielder has been one of the better players in MLS for a long time now, was able to get citizenship and is now qualified to represent the United States through that process at 29 years old makes for a cool story.
Carlisle: Another name I’d throw in there is Eryk Williamson. He’s had a few extended looks under Berhalter, but obviously an injury kind of sidetracked him a bit. Now he’s back.
There was a lot of love directed towards the midfield trio of Adams, Musah and Weston McKennie during the World Cup, but I think there’s a concern in that group that there’s not enough quality on the ball. Williamson is a guy who I think provides enough on the defensive end, and when combined with his offensive ability, is a guy to watch to see if he can move up this cycle.
And then a total flyer is Sam Rogers. This is a guy who the Seattle Sounders flat out told wasn’t tough enough, wasn’t physical enough. So he took a path through the USL, and then he landed in Norway. He logged a lot of minutes last year for Rosenborg, which is one of the biggest clubs in Norway, and scored six goals as a center-back along the way. And that’s just in 23 appearances.
It’s difficult to judge whether he’ll see the field with Zimmerman and Aaron Long in camp, but I think Rogers is an interesting prospect, and we’ll see whether he’s able to parlay his time in Norway into a move to a bigger league.
Gabriel Slonina and Paxten Aaronson are both in this team, having just joined clubs in Europe this month. Would they have been better served by remaining with Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively, and getting settled in to their new homes?
Carlisle: This is kind of where all January camps are not created equal. This is a much shorter timeframe. It used to be for the whole month of January whereas this year, camp started on Saturday and the final game will be seven days later. So I don’t think that it’s necessarily going to take a huge bite out of Aaronson’s time with Frankfurt.
And all of this gets done with the club’s blessing. They didn’t have to release him. If they wanted him to stay, they could have put their foot down. I think in their minds, it’s probably a situation where maybe he gets a competitive game or two that he otherwise wouldn’t have gotten with his club.
For Slonina, I think it’s a no-brainer. We’ll see if he plays because Sean Johnson is there as well, but I think for Slonina’s position and where he sits in the Chelsea hierarchy, I think it makes a ton of sense because he could get a competitive game or some competitive minutes he wouldn’t get with Chelsea.
Bonagura: In that similar vein, it’s interesting to see Matthew Hoppe‘s name on this list, too, because his career path over the past few years has been bizarre.
He kind of unexpectedly rises up in Germany, scores that hat trick with Schalke 04 that gets everyone really excited, moves to Spain, then moves to the Championship in England — where he’s played six games for the first team and five for the reserves — and now he’s in a January camp in the middle of a season. That’s not the trajectory anyone would have liked for him.
It also doesn’t feel like a great sign that that Middlesborough released him in the middle of their season — more so than the other guys that have just joined up with their clubs. And I thought he was impressive in the Gold Cup. He hasn’t been able to capitalize on that at all.
What are your expectations from these Serbia and Colombia teams, who also won’t have several of their first-team regulars?
Carlisle: These will be competitive games for this group of U.S. players. No one’s really expecting Serbia and Colombia to bring anything close to their first teams, but it’ll still be a good challenge for this group. For the players that are on the current roster, it’ll give them a different look.
Another thing I’m pleased about is that it wasn’t some run-of-the-mill CONCACAF opposition that got scheduled. Stylistically, it’s going to take these guys out of their comfort zone a little bit. I think that’s a positive.
Bonagura: I think the other positive about the January environment, generally speaking, is that because the other countries have the same scheduling issues as the U.S. team does, they also feature younger players looking to make an impression on their coach. We’ve seen full-team friendlies before where it feels like guys are going through the motions; at least here, you would expect the energy and effort level from other teams to be high. That doesn’t mean it will allow for much clean soccer, but it’s something.
USA vs. Serbia, 2023 Friendly: Scouting Serbia
The new cycle starts with a match against a European opponent.
By Brendan Joseph Jan 23, 2023, 6:02am PST
Due to the unique schedule of the recent World Cup, the road to 2026 has an unconventional start during the traditional January camp. Temporary head coach Anthony Hudson takes charge of the somewhat inexperienced crop of players hoping to impress and get a jump ahead of a busy schedule for the United States Men’s National Team. The first opponent is Serbia, which is embarking on a mini-tour that will be capped off by a friendly against Mexico. The fixture is set for the recently renamed BMO Stadium, a 22,000-seat venue located in the Exposition Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
This is the second all-time meeting between the two nations, the previous result a scoreless draw in January of 2017. Ranked 21st in the FIFA World Rankings, Serbia reached the 2022 World Cup by finishing atop UEFA’s Group A with an undefeated 6-0-2 record that included victories over Portugal and Ireland. In Qatar, the Оrlovi (Eagles) landed at the bottom of Group G with one point, losing to Brazil (2-0), drawing with Cameroon (3-3), and falling to Switzerland (3-2).
Dragan Stojković was appointed to the manager role in March of 2021, weeks ahead of the start of the previous World Cup campaign. He enjoyed a long playing career and is considered one of the top players in Red Star Belgrade’s history. Following retirement, the Niš native worked as an executive before heading into coaching, enjoying long tenures at Nagoya Grampus and Guangzhou R&F (now known as Guangzhou City F.C.). His current contract reportedly lasts through the rest of the year, with extension likely influenced by the performance in upcoming Euro 2024 qualifying.
For the friendlies scheduled outside of an international window, Stojković named a highly-inexperienced 17-player roster. With fewer than ten combined caps among the group, several young talents are expected to make their senior debuts. Six clubs from the domestic Serbian SuperLiga provide 14 call-ups, while Major League Soccer is home to the other three inclusions.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Đorđe Petrović (New England Revolution), Dragan Rosić (Radnički Niš)
DEFENDERS (5): Ranko Veselinović (Vancouver Whitecaps), Nemanja Petrović (TSC Bačka Topola), Marko Mijailović (Voždovac), Nemanja Stojić (TSC Bačka Topola), Filip Damjanović (Voždovac)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Veljko Simić (Vojvodina), Luka Ilić (TSC Bačka Topola), Mirko Topić (Vojvodina), Luka Bijelović (Spartak Subotica), Marko Ivezić (Voždovac), Vladimir Lučić (Čukarički), Miloš Pantović (Voždovac), Nikola Petković (Čukarički)
FORWARDS (2): Dejan Joveljić (LA Galaxy), Nikola Štulić (Radnički Niš)
Stojković typically deploys a 3-5-2 formation, although the seemingly thrown-together nature of the roster could force alterations. Serbia tends to maintain possession and play more passes than the opponent, incrementally moving the ball up the field through the wings. The team can be expected to create more opportunities and win more 50/50 battles than the opponent. Totally Football Analysis notes that “the tactics demand a certain level of consistent energy,” manifesting in forcing turnovers with interceptions.
Đorđe (Djordje) Petrović should receive the start at goalkeeper, having already enjoyed his senior debut in a friendly against the Dominican Republic. After moving over from FK Čukarički last April, the 23-year-old made 23 appearances for the New England Revolution, earning team MVP honors and signing a three-year contract extension. Standing at 6’4”, he emerged as one of MLS’ top shot-stoppers and is active when coming off his line to handle crosses. His first instinct is to throw the ball, attempting to quickly move into the counter-attack.
One of the centre-back spots is likely to be occupied by Ranko Veselinović, who is entering his fourth season with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The 23-year-old has a natural affinity for clearing out the ball in a variety of ways while also making the correct decisions in the build-up. Nemanja Stojić of TSC Bačka Topola plays an error-free game and is a strong aerial presence. His long, driven passes, while occasionally speculative, find wingers and spark the counter-attack. Voždovac’s Marko Mijailović can play the hybrid third role, experienced on both the inside and outside of the defensive line. He does some of his best work on the ground, whether distributing tackles or throwing his body in the way of incoming shots.
Nemanja Petrović patrols the wing, providing two-way energy up and down the touch-line. He is always looking to facilitate teammates, whether aiding in possession or pushing into the final third to hit a cross. While normally on the left wing of the formation, Miloš Pantović lined up on the other side when competing with the Serbia U-21 team during Euro qualifiers. The Voždovac attacker has scored six goals this season but is still willing to track back and get involved in the defensive third.
Luka Ilić (23, CAM) with 2 goals tonight. Once upon a time signed by Man City alongside his brother, Ivan (Verona)
Had a hard fall from grace. Eredivisie, Ligue 1, back to the SuperLiga. But look at this goal. Magical touch.
Talent was never the issue..pic.twitter.com/Br6lBtsxB5— Serbian Football Scout (@SerbFootyScout) October 8, 2022
At 6’3”, defensive midfielder Marko Ivezić has the size to drop deep and provide additional coverage on the back line. He plants himself ahead of the box, waiting for the right moment to step to an attacker and dispense an aggressive challenge. The other half of the deeper pairing is likely to be Mirko Topić, another tall and rangy shutdown player. His ability to cover ground is particularly useful when tracking to the side of the field to overwhelm wingers. Following moves to Manchester City and Troyes, Luka Ilić is attempting to refocus his career while on loan at TSC. The 23-year-old can put the ball on a dime and is devastatingly clever when darting his way through opponents, while also being capable of whipping in a left-footed shot from distance. One of the squad’s relative veterans, the speedy Veljko Simić, could also feature, providing a willingness to take on opponents from an advanced position. Six goals, mostly opportunistic poaches, have him atop FK Vojvodina’s scoring chart.
Dejan Joveljić, an inside-outside attacker born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, should be one of the strikers at the top of the formation. He’s spent the last two seasons with the LA Galaxy and contributed 15 goals in 38 total appearances last year. His speed is useful in disrupting opposing defense, which is balanced by strong passing. The likely partner is Nikola Štulić, who is enjoying a strong season in the domestic league with Radnički Niš, finding the back of the net 12 times. The 21-year-old target player operates centrally and buzzes around the box, looking to be played in by teammates or pounce on a rebound.
Both nations come into this friendly with inexperienced rosters, although, on paper, the USMNT has a substantially stronger squad. January friendlies are usually a bit slower and stodgier as the lack of chemistry manifests in just enough miscommunication to disrupt the fluid nature of the sport’s timing. The hosts are expected to win, but the margin of victory is difficult to predict.
The match is scheduled for Wednesday, January 25th at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include HBO Max, Peacock, Universo, and FUBO TV (free trial).
USMNT midweek viewing guide: Bundesliga bonanza
A slew of Americans with games in Germany’s top tier this midweek.
- Mainz v Borussia Dortmund, 12:30p on ESPN+ (free trial): Gio Reyna and BVB face Mainz on the road in the Bundesliga.
- Augsburg v M’gladbach, 2:30p on ESPN+: Joe Scally and Gladbach face Ricardo Pepi’s parent club in the Bundesliga.
- USMNT v Serbia, 10p on Peacock, Universo, fuboTV (free trial): The January version of the USMNT plays the first game since the World Cup defeat to the Netherlands. (friendly)
Also in action:
- Go Ahead Eagles v AZ Alkmaar, 12:45p on ESPN+: Djordje Mihailovic looks to continue his strong start with AZ in the Eredivisie.
- Freiburg v Eintracht Frankfurt, 2:30p on ESPN+: Paxten Aaronson is with the USMNT, but fellow American Timmy Chandler is with Frankfurt for this Bundesliga game.
- Werder Bremen v Union Berlin, 2:30p on ESPN+: Jordan Pefok and Union travel to meet Bremen in the Bundesliga. 19-year-old Canadian-American winger Ronan Kratt recently joined Bremen on loan, but so far has made just 1 appearance for their reserves.
- Utrecht v Excelsior, 3p: Taylor Booth and Utrecht are at home in the Eredivisie.
- Avenida v Internacional, 5p on SPO International: Johnny Cardoso and Internacional meet Avenida in Brazilian action.
- Groningen v Cambuur, 12:45p: Ricardo Pepi and Groningen meet Cambuur in the Eredivisie.
- Valencia v Athletic Club, 2p on ESPN+: Yunus Musah and Valencia meet Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal.
Also in action:
- BK Häcken v Fredrikstad, 6a: Danish-American left back Kristoffer Lund Hansen has a friendly match with Häcken.
- Paços de Ferreira v Benfica, 3:15p on GolTV, Fanatiz, fuboTV: John Brooks and Benfica are on the road in Liga Portugal.
That’s it! Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below. Let’s see who impresses this week!
USWNT’s New Zealand trip takeaways: Rose Lavelle, Mallory Swanson star in big wins
By Meg Linehan Jan 21, 2023 The Athletic
The USWNT is heading back home from January camp, and it will have some comfort on those long, long flights back across the international date line thanks to two wins against New Zealand.Both wins against the Football Ferns (4-0 in the first in Wellington before Friday’s 5-0 win in Auckland) set new records for attendance for women’s soccer in New Zealand, with 12,721 at Eden Park holding a mark that will surely be broken with the arrival of the World Cup in July.
The U.S. outshot the Ferns 37 to two over the course of those 180 minutes; 18 of those were on target for the U.S., only one was for the Ferns, which resulted in a save from Alyssa Naeher in the first match. That lack of attacking threat means we didn’t learn all too much about the American backline, but it was encouraging to see the continued work at rotation for the goalkeepers. There was very little to judge Casey Murphy on in her appearance on Friday at Eden Park — more telling was that Naeher got the start in Wellington, the site of the USWNT’s most important group stage match against the Netherlands.
There was more to consider when it came to the midfield options, as well as the depth of the forward pool for both head coach Vlatko Andonovski and the viewers at home. But the top priority for the USWNT was always mimicking, as closely as possible, the World Cup experience they’ll look forward to this summer.Here are the takeaways from the first two matches of 2023 in New Zealand.
The World Cup experience… sort of, mostly
One thing remained consistently clear across all of the USWNT’s media availabilities: they were certainly enjoying the trip to New Zealand. Between the perfect weather and the abundant number of coffee shops, it was a match made in heaven for a team that enjoys both those things.
“I think this was a really, really good test run for us,” midfielder Rose Lavelle said after Saturday’s win at Eden Park, a sentiment that was shared by just about every single player. “It’s really valuable to be able to come here and get a feel for what we’ll experience when we come back in six months.”
Beyond knowing what to expect when it comes to logistics, the USWNT also got the relatively unfamiliar experience of not immediately being greeted by cheers upon entering the stadium. While there may have been some respect — or in some cases, the requests for USWNT jerseys — Wellington and Auckland proved overwhelmingly supportive of the Ferns. Neither 12,000+ crowd seemed all too interested in antagonizing the U.S., but instead cheered every single small play for New Zealand, from clearances to corner kicks.
“I think the atmosphere was incredible,” Lavelle continued. “Anytime you can get that experience with a crowd that’s not in your favor, it’s good. We always play a lot of home games, so usually we can feed off that energy. Having this experience too is really good for us.”The one factor the USWNT simply could not duplicate was the weather. With perfect sunny days (a blessing and a curse, considering the UV levels generally hit a 10 out of 10 every day), they’re likely to see quite a bit more rain and wind in the New Zealand winter during July and August. Temperatures, if they stay in the 40s and 50s though, could be ideal if the weather stays dry.
The midfield is Lavelle’s
If there was a standout player between the two matches, Lavelle had the best claim on it. Whether it was her positioning, her ridiculous backheel assist to Alex Morgan in the first match, or showing that she can play deeper if necessary, there are now zero questions about Lavelle’s importance on this team. That’s not a new status quo, but it was a relief to see her ease back into things so effortlessly after a long offseason.Andonovski experimented plenty in these two matches, which one could say made sense considering the scorelines, but also could be questioned considering how close it is to the World Cup. At the pre-match press conference in Auckland, Andonovski said the technical staff is still considering 32 players for the final roster, down from over 40. Based on the approach in New Zealand, they’re also exploring how versatile some of these players can be.Case in point: Taylor Kornieck, usually an attacking midfielder, got plenty of minutes as a No. 6 across the two games. While it felt disjointed in match one, by match two her distribution was better and her natural physical advantages in height (she’s listed at 6-foot-1) and sheer presence came through a bit more. The timing and willingness to try it in January was interesting, especially as Portland Thorns FC midfielder Sam Coffey, who has excelled in that role at NWSL level, didn’t earn a minute in either match.
“Obviously, (Kornieck) is a presence there,” Andonovski said in Wellington after the match. “She defended well — aerial challenges, no one had any chance around her. The challenges she had on the ball could be expected because the first time, it will take a little bit of time for her to understand the distances, especially now with Lindsey (Horan) coming just a little bit lower. Before, they were together a little bit higher. Now, they’re both lower, so we knew that Lindsey was going to need a little bit of time, Taylor was going to need a little bit of time.”Because the U.S. and Lyon agreed that Horan would return to France ahead of a league match with Lyon, Andonovski to trial something else in the second match, opting to pair Lavelle with Ashley Sanchez as the more advanced midfielders with Andi Sullivan as the No. 6. But rather than opting for dual No. 10s and letting Lavelle and Sanchez create and destroy at will, Lavelle sat deeper and kept the USWNT in a 4-2-3-1 rather than a 4-3-3.
Dual 10s might be useful for teams who defend the U.S. in low or mid blocks, but it certainly won’t work deeper into a World Cup against higher-quality teams that can provide more of an attacking threat. Lavelle’s deeper positioning didn’t feel like a waste of her talents, and the distribution from the centerbacks, especially Naomi Girma, to Lavelle consistently bypassed the New Zealand midfield. If nothing else, it’s a useful tool to have in the toolbox for the USWNT. Testing it out at SheBelieves Cup against a tougher opponent may give us more information about how well it actually works, though.
The forward depth remains ridiculous
Mallory Swanson (née Pugh) proved that a new name change didn’t impact her goal-scoring abilities. Her run of form over the last calendar year means there’s very little to worry about when it comes to her place on the team.The real battle over the next few months is how the depth on the forward line plays out. No one that watched these games will be shocked to read that Trinity Rodman was the biggest winner in making a case for that final roster, with three assists in two games — including that perfectly weighted ball to Ashley Hatch for the opening goal in Auckland.
“That (assist) was something we pointed out, because in the last game, she had an opportunity to have an almost identical assist like this one,” Andonovski said on Saturday. “I’m very proud of her that she took that, processed it well, and then assisted that way. That’s what these games are for, besides team growth, synchronizing lines, preparing the team. It’s also for individual development and players like Trinity, Sanchez, (Emily) Fox, these are games that we can see the growth.”
If you’re Rodman, that’s exactly the feedback you want to hear a couple of camps out from a World Cup roster being made.
Winger Midge Purce stood out in game one, though her substition at the half as part of the team’s rotation through field players meant her energy from that first 45 never really had a true outlet. Lynn William’s return was hugely celebrated by the team, and nabbing a goal so quickly after her introduction is going to help make Andonovski’s selection even more difficult come roster time. Andonovsi noted she missed a couple of chances in the second match, but her defensive presence on the forward line and her commitment to the high press has always been a factor for him — and he was overall favorable in his comments.At striker, Alex Morgan was supposed to get the start again on Saturday, but was a late scratch due to muscle tightness.
“We had a conversation with Alex before the game, actually during the warm-up,” Andonovski said. “She could play, but it was one of those, ‘Is it really worth risking?’ So we decided to just take it easy.”
In her place, Ashley Hatch got an unexpected, but important start. Her place in this forward pool feels tenuous, with Catarina Macario’s return expected at some point this spring. If Macario isn’t able to be at full fitness, or if anything else goes sideways, Hatch scoring goals when she gets minutes is crucial, and on Saturday she delivered the game-winner.
All in all, the USWNT will deem this trip a success on pretty much every front. From the press box, the second match in particular was a reminder that when they can balance speed of play with patience, they’re extremely dangerous and able to score at will. The team’s movement in that match was considerably better (Swanson’s goal providing a perfect example of how quickly they were reading the game and open space available to them); the chemistry felt unquestionable.The USWNT should have won both of these matches, and they did, as expected. But Saturday’s win simply felt better.“In this game, we were more consistent and more concise,” as Andonovki summed up. “From the beginning, New Zealand did well — they were organized, they were disciplined, they were trying to neutralize and eliminate those options. But we were just a little more precise this time. Even though we didn’t score more goals, I felt like we created better opportunities in this game.”