Zendejas make American January Camp even more exciting
Every January, the turn of the year heralds tremendous optimism for a brighter tomorrow, to be this year the Public. This is especially true for the US men’s national team, which calls up a mostly MLS 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 new faces and names that will have fans and analysts alike excited about what’s to come. Monday marks the start of the week in which the USMNT will play two friendlies – Wednesday against Serbia, and Saturday against Colombia – which will give us a proper first look at several of them.
So, without a full-time manager – assistant Anthony Hudson takes over with Greg Berhalter after his contract has expired and a decision has yet to be made on whether he will be offered a new deal or be replaced on the way to the 2026 World Cup at home. SOIL – ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Kyle Bonagura sat down to discuss their two most exciting things this week in Los Angeles.
Carlyle: On a permanent basis, at least one or two players from each camp appear in January and prove themselves worthy of a bigger role. I was looking at Dave Sarachan’s list in 2018, and… Walker Zimmerman he was there. Tyler Adams There was also. They each only had one hat at the time they were brought in, so you never know which players will develop and make the most of their opportunity. Obviously, big things were expected of Adams, but Zimmerman was one of a handful of defenders whose potential was truly unexpected.
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Bonagura: There is always some value in January camps for these reasons, but the dynamics here are a lot different than what we’ve seen for several years. When Sarachan was the interim coach, the roster was basically in need of a complete reset, so it was worth giving opportunities to the younger players who were in line for important roles. The competition for a meaningful role in this tournament will be much more difficult, and without a full-time coach, what kind of positive impression a young player makes at camp will not carry over.
At the same time, though, any time you can see these up-and-coming guys together on the same field, it’s going to carry a certain amount of intrigue. Brandon Vasquez He’s a guy that many fans thought should be the World Cup team after such a good year with FC Cincinnati. So for a player like him who has a real chance to make his way into the mix as a potential contributor to this cycle, I think it’s a great opportunity to get a taste of that kind of environment.
Carlyle: I would add that just as men can rise, so men can fall. When John O’Brien comes out of the 2002 World Cup, you’d expect him to be a mainstay for the next decade. It didn’t work out that way. Stu Holden was another such example. The infection bug just crushed his career. The team that has just competed in the World Cup is a young and talented team, and for some of them the ceiling seems really interesting, but it is not guaranteed.
Bonagura: That’s why it deserves attention, isn’t it? Because the team is in a place right now where it’s trying to build and establish quality depth.
The most common call-up in this camp is the Club America and Mexican-American forward Alexander Zendegas. What makes him so special, and what can we expect from him when the USMNT already has so many talented offensive options?
Carlyle: For me, it’s his end product, which has been a problem for the United States as we saw in the World Cup. For every player involved in the tug-of-war between the United States and Mexico, it doesn’t always end up being as big of a deal as it seemed at the time, but he was a contributor to one of the biggest teams in Mexico. America is a huge club with a lot of attention, and with that comes a lot of pressure and expectations.
However, this whole camp is less than ideal as it is not as long as some of the other camps. Zendegas entered after a sensational performance in their Mexican Primera División game against Puebla on Saturday, and is expected to play against Serbia on Wednesday, after which he will return to Mexico City. So it will be a brief glimpse, but they won’t bring him in that way, if he doesn’t want to play. Considering the attention that’s been paid to Zendejas, it would be great how well he delivered on those expectations.
Can he make some progress with the full set? We’ll see how well he can challenge players in game time, but as much depth as the USA had in wing positions, at least during the playoffs, they also had a lot of injuries. Christian Pulisic lost time. John Rina lost time. I still think Brendan AronsonThe best situation is still up in the air. I don’t think you can have much choice in attack.
Bonagura: You can’t have too many of these guys, especially considering the American winger doesn’t have a great injury record. I think the other interesting part to consider here is that we don’t know how the next manager is going to want to build up the team. We’re kind of conditioned to see everything through the 4-3-3 they were using under Berhalter, but who’s to say the next manager didn’t change that? As a result, players’ profiles are different and they are positioned on the field in different ways.
Until we understand what the United States will look like tactically, all of these questions don’t really have sure answers.
Aside from Zendejas, who are the other rookies you’d be thrilled to see in the first international game?
Bonagura: Vazquez and Zendegas are probably the names that get the most attention, but there are many players I look forward to seeing.
When you look at the USA’s depth chart, there’s really no clear backup option for Adams in the defensive midfield – he’s clearly ahead of everyone else who plays that position. With that in mind, I’m curious as to whether that’s even possible Aidan Morris He could force his way into that conversation. He looked very good and had an injury setback, so this would be a good opportunity for him.
Then I think Julian Grissel is an interesting name to see on this list, if only because of the backstory there. The fact that the German-born midfielder has been one of the best players in MLS for a long time now, was able to obtain citizenship and is now eligible to represent the United States through the process at the age of 29 makes it a fascinating story. .
Carlyle: Another name I’m throwing in there Eric Williamson. He’s had some stretched looks under Berhalter, but the injury clearly deflected him a bit. Now he’s back.
There was a lot of love directed towards the midfield trio of Moses and Adams Weston McKinney During the World Cup, but I think there were concerns in that group that there was not enough quality on the ball. Williamson is the guy who I think provides enough defensively, and when combined with his attacking ability, he’s a guy to watch to see if he can move in this cycle.
Then full flyer is Sam Rogers. This is the guy the Seattle Sounders told he wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t physical enough. So it took a route through the USL, and then landed in Norway. He scored plenty of minutes last year for Rosenborg, one of the biggest clubs in Norway, scoring six goals as a centre-back along the way. And this is only in 23 matches.
It is difficult to judge whether he will see the field with Zimmerman and Aaron Long In camp, but I think Rogers is an interesting prospect, and we’ll see if he’s able to invest his time in Norway to move up to a bigger league.
Gabriel Slonina And Paxton Aronson Both are in this squad, having just joined clubs in Europe this month. Would it have been better for them to stay with Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively, and settle into their new homes?
Carlyle: This is kind of where not all January camps are created equal. This is a much shorter time frame. It used to be for the entire month of January while this year camp started on a Saturday and the final will be seven days later. So I don’t think it will necessarily take up much of Aronson’s time with Frankfurt.
And all this is done with the club’s blessing. They didn’t have to release him. If they wanted him to stay, they could have put their feet up. I think in their minds, this is probably a situation where he might get 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 Shawn Johnson There is also, but I think for Slonina’s position and where he sits in the Chelsea hierarchy, I think that makes sense because he could get a competitive game or some competitive minutes that he wouldn’t get with Chelsea.
Bonagura: In this similar vein, it’s interesting to see Matthew HopeA name on this list too, because his career trajectory over the past few years has been an odd one.
He rose unexpectedly in Germany, scored that hat-trick with Schalke 04 that got everyone really excited, moved on to Spain, then moved on to the tournament in England – where he played six first-team games and five for the reserves – and now he’s in camp in January. in the middle of the season. This is not the path anyone could have desired.
Nor does it seem like a great sign that Middlesboro have released him in the middle of their season – any more than other players who have just joined their clubs. And I thought he was dazzling in the Gold Cup. He wasn’t able to take advantage of it at all.
What are your expectations from the national teams of Serbia and Colombia, who also won’t have many first-team starters?
Carlyle: These will be competitive games for this group of American players. Nobody really expects Serbia and Colombia to deliver anything close to their first teams, but it will still be a good challenge for this group. For the players on the current list, you will give them a different look.
The other thing I’m glad about is that there wasn’t some regular CONCACAF opposition scheduled. Stylistically, you’ll get these guys out of their comfort zone a bit. I think this is a positive thing.
Bonagura: I think the other positive thing about the January environment, in general, is that because other nations have the same schedule issues as the US team, it also features young players looking to make an impression on their coach. We’ve seen full team friendlies before where we feel like players are just going through the motions; Here at least, you’d expect the energy level and effort from other teams to be high. That’s not to say it would allow a great deal of clean football, but it is something.