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Projecting the USMNT January Camp roster

The annual U.S. Men’s National Team January camp has always served a specific purpose. The aim was to find a handful of new players ready to take the leap while keeping the team’s core in shape for the year to come. It’s certainly not the most important USMNT gathering of the year, but it sets the tone for what is to come.

This year’s camp is a bit different. With no real games to play for over a year, the January camp takes on a whole new meaning. Sure, the aim is still to prepare players for the MLS season that lies ahead, but the camp is also now all about integrating young faces and phasing in what should be an overhaul of the USMNT pool.

Expect youth to be served in this year’s gathering, which is set to culminate with a friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina on Jan. 28. Caretaker coach Dave Sarachan is once again set to take the helm as he looks to build off a solid effort from a new-look group in November’s Portugal friendly.

Last season’s camp featured 32 players and, while many of the faces are expected to change, you can expect a similar number of players to kickstart the 2018 season with a USMNT chance.

Here’s a look at a group of players you could see in January:


Alex Bono, Jesse Gonzalez, Brad Guzan, Tim Melia, Zack Steffen

While youth will certainly be the theme of January camp, it makes sense to bring in at least one USMNT veteran per position to lead the way. In the goalkeeping scenario, Guzan is the obvious choice. Yes, he had his ups and downs last cycle but, if his form with Atlanta United is anything to go by, Guzan could be either the placeholder or veteran presence to start the next cycle. If needed, he could hold down the fort until a younger star emerges and, if not needed, he could play the Nick Rimando role. The main point: it doesn’t hurt to keep him around.

All eyes will no doubt be fixed on Steffen, though. Following his standout performances throughout the playoffs, Steffen seems the odds-on favorite to take over the starting job, at least for now. A strong January camp would be huge for the Columbus Crew goalkeeper and would ease some fears following a shaky appearance against Portugal from Ethan Horvath.

The wild card? Alex Bono. The goalkeeper quietly had a very good season with Toronto FC, but was overshadowed a bunch by the team’s big stars. At 23, Bono still has a lot of growing to do, but he’s one of several prospects in the mix for USMNT minute.

Missed the Cut: Stefan Frei, Sean Johnson, Tim Howard


Danilo Acosta, Matt Besler, Matt Hedges, Greg Garza, Justen Glad, Justin Morrow, Ike Opara, Tim Parker, Matt Polster, Brandon Vincent, Walker Zimmerman

There are a number of talented young fullbacks scattered throughout MLS, and January camp should offer a good opportunity for them to take a step up. Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent were a key part of the Chicago Fire’s resurgence this season, making both obvious candidates to join the squad. You can also add in Danny Acosta after his strong defensive season with Real Salt Lake, while players like Nick Lima and Jake Nerwinski could sneak onto the squad.

At centerback, Justen Glad headlines the young options with fellow up-and-comers like Cameron Carter-Vickers, Erik Palmer-Brown and Matt Miazga over in Europe. The camp also offers players like Tim Parker and Walker Zimmerman a chance to stake a claim in their returns to camp. Ike Opara, meanwhile, gets his long-awaited chance after asserting himself as the MLS Defender of the Year.

In addition there are several veterans involved. Greg Garza and Justin Morrow seem like obvious call-ups at the fullback position. The one question mark is Matt Besler, who probably won’t have much of a part to play in the upcoming cycle. For now, though, he can be a useful tool to set the tone for camp.

Missed the Cut: Nick Lima, Jake Nerwinski, Jonathan Spector, Graham Zusi, 


Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Paul Arriola, Alejandro Bedoya, Russell Canouse, Marky Delgado, Darlington Nagbe, Cristian Roldan, Kelyn Rowe, Wil Trapp

The central midfield is stacked with young options. Tyler Adams remains one of the brightest prospects in the U.S. pool and, after making his debut against Portugal, he should be a fixture for years to come. Paul Arriola and Kellyn Acosta are already locked-in members of the national team while Darlington Nagbe may be a bit older, but is still a player with a part to play. As for the veteran presence, Alejandro Bedoya held down that role in that Portugal match, making him a logical call-up in this scenario.

Next up, though, are players looking to break through. Cristian Roldan and Kelyn Rowe got a taste during the Gold Cup. Wil Trapp has been in and out of the picture for some time. Marky Delgado is fresh off a strong season with TFC while Russell Canouse is coming into his own with D.C. United.

One potential wild card to watch? Sebastian Lletget. If his injury issues are settled by the start of January, you could certainly see the LA Galaxy midfielder involved. His USMNT start was as impressive as it could have been back at the beginning of 2017, and kickstarting 2018 with the USMNT could go a long way towards having him ready for the season.

Missed the Cut: Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Sebastian Lletget


Juan Agudelo, Dom Dwyer, Jordan Morris, Christian Ramirez, CJ Sapong, Josh Sargent.

Let’s start with Sargent, who is the attention-grabbing name on the list. His inclusion is dependent on Werder Bremen. Sargent is eligible to join the club officially on Feb. 20, but the Bundesliga side could certainly want him in early to get him acclimated to his surroundings. If not, though, Sargent could learn a lot from a full January camp before embarking on his European career.

Christian Ramirez is the other new face with the group, and its a long time coming. The Minnesota United forward has been a dominant goalscorer for several years, and his game translated seamlessly from the NASL to MLS. At 26, he should be hitting his prime for this upcoming cycle and, with the forward cupboard a little bit bare at the moment, he more than deserves his chance.

Jordan Morris has the chance to be the big winner, though. With Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey resting and Bobby Wood in Europe, Morris will look to stake his claim for a bigger role going forward. The 2018 World Cup cycle was Morris’ introductory phase. Now, he’ll need to take a leap if he wants to be a key part of 2022.

Missed the Cut: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes.


  1. Josh Sargent does not turn 18 until Feb. 20, 2018, hence that date for his start at Werder Bremen. They cannot really demand he do anything until he is 20. I suppose they could request he not be called up due to fears of injury, but I do not think that he can attend any official functions professionally due to FIFA rules (some with connections to Europe like Pulisic and Hyndman wee able to avoid that limitation).

  2. I do not understand the “bring in the young guys optimism” .

    The U-23s failed to qualify as did the previous cycle for U-20s and U-17s.

    Only the most recent U-20s and U-17s managed to qualify and while they were decent, they really were not that great. The U-17s everyone said were so good bowed out in the quarterfinals, as did the U-20s.

    Why does anyone think that teams that just lost against youth teams will have that much talent to compete with seasoned professionals? Do not make excuses for the youngsters by saying that Pulisic or Westen were not released, neither were Dembele and others. The U-20 tournament is often more notable for who is not there than for who is.

    Still, the USA’s most glaring weakness is in back and the U-20s did not impress there another big need is in attacking wing play where maybe Akinola and Weah will be stars later, but they have yet to play professionally, the same for Sargent whom everyone is so high on.

    Betting that more than a few of those guys will actually pan out as solid professionals, much less as international stars is really just wishful thinking.

    • Perhaps they weren’t that great but they were the best US side we’ve seen for a long time. Also we just don’t have any other option. There’s really just no point in keeping around guys that are going to be 35 by the next World Cup. People just want to clean house. That’s the manager, President and players.

    • Regarding US youth teams, only the US and England had teams go as far as the quarters in both the U-17 and U-20. Some people look at a doughnut and only see the hole.

    • Monterrey had a match the week of the Portugal match and will have started the spring season in January. He will not be eligible until the March window.

  3. It would be a shame if Lima wasn’t brought in. I think he has a higher ceiling than any of the other flank back options. Good 1v1 defender, better pace than the others, at least as quick as Morrow…very comfortable up field…good cross with a calm heavy shot around the box…he’s a converted forward. He can also play on either side.

    The guys I’m most interested to see are Steffen, Glad, hopefully Lima, Adams and Sargent.

    Imo, they have the greatest potential to crack and stick with the nats.

    I’d add Lletget if healthy. I thought he was really solid with the nats before he was injured.

  4. I suspect this list is a bit short on veterans who will be called in to help the youngsters figure out what is expected of them. So I think one youngster will be replaced by one veteran at every position.

    That said, I don’t understand Bedoya, he has disappointed in Philly and for the USMNT of late. Bradley or Klejstan would make more sense there.

    Also, Morris is fast, but what else? The defense in MLS seems to have pretty well figured him out. Sure speed is a great asset and he is riding that pony. Still, he may have more skill than say, Shea, but his creativity is just as suspect.

    Besler was not quiet about not wanting to work to arrive in camp in shape, that will not be lost on Sarachan and cold work against him; despite being better than Zusi, he might not make it.

    • I partially agree with you
      But when he plays wing, he is a good defender, he has great stamina, and opens games up by being dangerous.
      The flip side is he had a terrible2nd year…injuiries being a big part of the season of bad finishing.

  5. good article, i like the projected list. yeah, there’s no world cup, let’s wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start, look forward to the next crop of talented players. i really hope they do.

  6. Not a big fan of most of these players but it is Jan camp and keeping the same coach from the Portugal game I would assume he would line up in the 4-1-4-1 he did in November. Some of the players I do like really don’t have a position like Adams who seems to play everywhere which I think might hurt him in the long run. I doubt he ever plays centrally because he would have to beat out Mckennie, Bradley(short term), Roldan(not a fan of), Acosta and Gonzalez if he chooses the US. So keep him out wide and let him be a wingback or a sub.

      • Why? Because he is really good. lol. His level of wing dribbling is honestly in the area of Pulisic. ATL hasn’t rushed him because they have no need to. The NT, however, could use another winger and as he is MLS this is a good time to get him with some senior team members

      • Against 16 year olds he was skilled he hasn’t shown that against men. He wasn’t able to beat out De La Torre, Lennon or Egobisse for the U20 team. I understand that ATL basically wrote him off this season to train with U17s but I haven’t seen enough out of him to deserve a nat callup.

      • Don’t rule Carleton out. I saw him play against Rangers when he was 16 (on loan to Charleston) and he was the best player on the pitch. It was a meaningless game but still players on Rangers were trying win spots.

  7. I’d like to see Carleton, Goslin, Durkin, Akinola and more teenage prospects in the mix here. We don’t have a real match in over a year. Is a winter camp really going make a difference to someone like Dwyer, Nagbe, or Bedoya? No but maybe you get some teenagers in the environment show we are serious about youth and maybe even on the radar of European clubs.

  8. Our most talented youngsters seem to all be central midfielders. Wonder if some coach could devise a system and formation to take advantage of that. If you add in Miazga and CCV at central defense, it could be intriguing. Weaknesses seem to be lack of wide players, especially fullbacks. Pulisic can definitely create from the wing, if there are other options centrally. Striker seems a weak spot as well, with no real established goal-scorers. There are some workhorses like Woods that can hold up for the other players, but we will need a clinical finisher to compete with the big boys. One thing for sure, there is plenty of time to build the team…

    • seems like all the past successful YNT’s under Tab, and the Portugal friendly, have employed a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1 type formation loaded with attacking midfielders and 1 d-mid patrolling the backfield. imo this is the style that the USMNT will identify with going forward.


      for this Jan Camp ~34 players would make a 3 sets of



      then full squad in March could be something like:
      -Sargent, Adams, Williams, Gonzalez, CCV, Moore, Steffan

    • jb said, “Our most talented youngsters seem to all be central midfielders. Wonder if some coach could devise a system and formation to take advantage of that.”

      4-6-0 Seriously. At least for starters, if you are serious, although Bobby Wood is an excellent forward when healthy and when he has service.

      If you play 460 when the other team has possession, then who do the defenders defend against? And how far back from the 6 “midfielders” do they sit back while their team has possession? If they sit close to the 6 “midfielders”, and then their opp’s get possession, then it is suddenly 6 on 4 or 6 on 3 on the counterattack.

      Anyway, I am wondering why we (i.e the USMNT) don’t have a “permanent” coach yet; this would be an ideal time for him to become acquainted with US non-regulars who do or do not deserve a look. Or is this really a try out for Dave Sarachan masquerading as a tryout for players?

  9. Highly unlikely that 5 keepers will be brought into the January Camp. Not sure who the odd man out will be, but IMO Steffen & Gonzalez are almost givens with Guzan providing the veteran mentor roll.
    Not a fan of Hedges. I think he showed he’s not up to the task during the Gold Cup. Not a fan of some of the other mentioned defenders either (Morrow & Opara) as I don’t see them contributing during the 2022 cycle…If a defensive leader is needed Besler can provide, at least he has WC experience. Would prefer to see younger options (Lima) get a shot instead.
    I don’t care for Bedoya, but can understand the argument for his inclusion (experience/leadership) during camp. I just don’t want to see him getting a ton of minutes in the game. Not a fan of Trapp either….just doesn’t seem to have enough for the international game. Hope Lletget is back.
    While Sapong played well in the last friendly, I’d prefer to see younger options….players who can help us in a year or 2, not just right now when the games don’t matter.

    • While I agree that the USMNT would and should start looking at up and coming younger players, you still have to look at new “veterans” ,older players who might add value to the team. There are several players who will be US citizens this year, they should get a look.

    • Sargent has at least played with the U20s and has had several training stints with European clubs. As far as I’m aware Carleton has played 4 minutes in MLS, 120 in the USL, and 90 USCup minutes against a USL opponent. If Carleton was ready for the USMNT I doubt ATL would be spending so much money bringing in more midfielders, at least give the kid until next summer to get some professional minutes before putting him on the team.

      • All the more reason to call in Carleton and perhaps get him on the radar of a European club now. No MLS sides seem to have much interest in playing teenagers. That a big reason Sargent even said he didn’t want to play in MLS.

      • The national team should not be used as a platform to advertise young players who have yet to prove themselves as pros. Carleton needs to earn a call-up just like Morris should have.

      • Sure I’d call in those guys in as well. However I’d drop Nagbe, Bedoya, Besler, Rowe,Trapp. and Dwyer at least.

    • Well I just disagree. The National team is a complete rebuild with no meaningful matches for a long time. I’m not sure who on this team has earn anything at this point.

  10. So happy you are projecting no Bradley and Jozy. Some gripes with the forward pool. Josh Sargent? The guy has done nothing as a professional. Let him get some time and settle in abroad first. And Christian Ramirez? He’s 26 and haven’t even heard of him.

      • I only casually follow the MLS, although I attend 1 or 2 games per season. Prefer EPL and Champions League in terms of paying attention to various teams week to week. I certainly never followed the NASL although I’ve probably played with some of the guys who were on the SF Deltas in the past.

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