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Soto, Llanez, Cardoso headline USMNT Olympic Qualifying roster


European-based prospects Sebastian Soto and Ulysses Llanez, MLS products Jesus Ferreira, Jackson Yueill and Julian Araujo, and Brazilian-based midfielder Johnny Cardoso headline the 20-player squad chosen for the U.S. Men’s Olympic qualifying squad for the upcoming Concacaf qualifying tournament.

U.S. Under-23 head coach Jason Kreis whittled down his final 20 selections from a group of 28 that took part in a final training camp in Mexico ahead of the Concacaf qualifying tournament, which begins on March 18 with the Americans facing Costa Rica.

“We know that qualifying will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that we’re ready for,” Kreis said. “We’ll need all 20 players on this roster to contribute for us to achieve our ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympics.

“We’ve had a productive training camp in Guadalajara and our players are hungry for the opportunity to compete. After starting this journey nearly two years ago, we’re excited to get started with the tournament.”

The final roster consist of 16 MLS players along with Soto, Llanez, Cardoso and UNAM Pumas midfielder Sebastian Saucedo.

Among the players who didn’t make the final cut were FC Cincinnati midfielder Frankie Amaya, FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi and Colorado Rapids playmaker Cole Bassett.

Also missing from the team is Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson, who had been expected to be a major part of the U.S. Olympic qualifying squad, but who was kept out after Atlanta United rejected the call-ups of Robinson, George Bello and Brooks Lennon.

The final roster features 11 players who have been capped at the senior USMNT level and 10 who have been part of a final roster at a FIFA Youth World Cup.

The Americans face Costa Rica on March 18 before taking on the Dominican Republic on March 21. The U.S. U-23s close out group play on March 24 against Mexico. The top two teams in both tournament groups will then take part in the decisive semifinal matchups, with the winners of those semifinals securing their spots in the Tokyo Olympics.

Here is the final USMNT U-23 national team roster for Olympic qualifying:

USMNT Concacaf Olympic qualifying roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes, Alamo, Calif.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (6): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompoc, Ca.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; New York, N.Y.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Denville, N.J.), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; Lynwood, Calif.), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal/CAN; Jacksonville, Fla.), Andrés Perea (Orlando City SC; Medellin, Colombia), Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)

FORWARDS (4): Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City; San Diego, Calif.)


  1. Kreis gave some comments last night said flexibility was a key part in decision making highlighting Dotson and Cardoso. He also reminded people that Cardoso was a forward until 1 1/2 ago so he’s got more skill in attack than fans might know about. Seemed to indicate Ferreira is the #1 at CF. Said that midfield will consist of 2 #8s and a #6. I think that would mean Mihailovic will play as a wing. I’m sure Larry or Ives will have a full report on this later.

  2. Finally, no more speculation, now that the 20 is set. We have to beat El Tri 2x in order to win Olympic qualifying! Winning the group would set the US well in the knockout rounds.

    • “winning it all” isn’t what qualifies. making the final is. both finalists qualify including the loser. so assuming we advance the key game is actually the cross-over semi with the other canada/ honduras/ ES/ haiti group.
      in fact, if you look at the schedule and think about squad rotation, since the only game that really matters is the semi, and there are short rosters (20 players) and a quick schedule tempo (every 3 days), a smart team would play their second choice in games 1 and 3, and their first choice in game 2 (DR) and the semi. unless advancement was at risk you would deliberately rest people for the 3rd mexico game. you might bring some starters back for the final but that is more about ego than the olympics, which will already be decided.

      US soccer needs to re-learn what should have been basic lessons about tournament soccer. a less remarked aspect of the TnT loss was there was no lineup turnover between the panama and TnT lineups. we were the only team that didn’t rotate players between those games. i think the logic is we were “playing to win” with our “best players” and to have forgotten that there is some value to rest and squad rotation. ie more likely to win with a more rested team. think it’s cause we’re swept up in our own player hype.

      • There has always been squad rotation especially in the youth tournaments. In previous years there was never any quality depth for it to have been successful (because the squad rotations did occur). what happened in couva was an aberration and prime example of arena’s arrogance, not an indication that the staff wasn’t aware of rotation…

      • dude, see the list below, the 2012 team was loaded. and my point is the 3rd group game with mexico should be an afterthought and not a focal point. unless it decides who stays or goes. my concern re rotation would be that GB’s naive formation will trickle down so why not his naive rotational approach, where he tended to run out the same people over and over in gold cup.

    • IV I get what you’re thinking but as you point out the Mexico game isn’t important, but that is only if we beat Costa Rica. So playing backups against CR to open the tournament is a big risk. Beat CR with the first 11 and defeat DR with the reserves gets you to the semis as well.

      • but then the starters haven’t played together in two weeks when the key game arrives. you do my pattern and you have a once a week rhythm. you do have to beat CR but CR is relatively weak at U23. i think part of what you’re indulging in is standard US fear that we have to run out our best XI even unrested for any critical fixture. i think as long as we can squeak a win from game 1 and don’t need anything from mexico, the best strategy is set up a reversed rotation where the starters are fresh but not rusty for the crossover semi. i think the recent US instinct is to load up and blow out the less decisive “panama” game at expense of the truly decisive “trinidad” game. precisely backwards. we are obsessed with hype, meritocracy, and the starters. we do not trust our quality depth. the second 10 players on a team are probably as critical as the first 10 not that you could tell from us. they are the ones who sub into key moments or rotate in for other games. there is a reason we have regressed as a soccer nation.

    • If this was our best what you say might make sense but this is our C/D squad against CR’s A squad. It’s not Belize these dudes can play too. Leal and Diaz are MLS starters, Ugalde is dominating in Belgian 2nd div came thru Saprissa, Gerson Torres has had short term loans with Club America and Necaxa. Gamboa’s 6’3 CB who played two years in Belgium and everyone else plays for the top 3 clubs in Costa Rica and most play quite a bit. It’s there A U23 group nobody is off in Europe. We’re missing our top 30 guys and your advocating sitting guys 30-40 and face a team of pros with guys 41-50. Wow maybe you should change your handle to Insane Voice.

  3. Mihailovic had 7a in 14 matches last season, T10 and 2nd for Americans behind Morris. 3rd for US players in shots created per 90 minutes, 3rd in Goals created per 90, 6th for US players xG assisted, 1st in MLS in Assists minus xG assists, 1st in Americans for passes completed into the 18 yard box. Don’t sleep on Djordje, he showed to be the best American play maker in MLS last year but no one knows because he plays for Chicago.

    • he had 0g 1a in games they actually won last year. most of his production last year is in games they lose or tie. he played half the time centrally last year and more than half historically.
      but that’s indulging your club form argument. my drumbeat is we ignore how they perform in the shirt. when in the US shirt he hasn’t had a senior G or A since his first January game. going back to my pattern, when he played U23 they didn’t win and he didn’t score.

      • Because he plays for Chicago they lose most of the time. Not really his fault his parents live in Illinois so he had to play for Chicago because of MLS’s silly homegrown rules. Also 8 of the 9 goals he scored or assisted in/on either took the lead on or tied the game. The only one that didn’t cut NYCFC’s lead to 2-1, a game they eventually tied 3-3 on a Mihailovic assisted goal before losing 3-4. I am confused as well your coolness to Djordje he scored in his very first NT match thus why do you even care about what he did in Chicago are you a “club form snob”?

      • i have said a jillion times before that it is more important to me how they played in NT or YNT games. i see all other theories, club form, stats, as indirect proxies. “well, in theory based on how he did x, i think he would be good for y.” if i already have y game logs then that is the preferable resource of value to team y and bringing scouting from x back in is usually only trying to muddy the waters and confuse what y told me. re his situation in chicago, there are actually many players who play out of their town for MLS academies. richards, cappis, and one of the servanias were all in houston clubs before with FCD. i would also argue that players make the team and if he doesn’t lift chicago maybe that reflects back on him. when houston got in elis and quioto the team took off for a year, made the semis. if i look at their impact on their NT, Honduras U23 made the olympics when they were kids, and last cycle they passed us for the playoff spot in the hex. so i want the players with that kind of impact who make things happen, not the ones with moderate production at bad teams making excuses. if you want me excited about you at a bad team you better be putting up double digit assists because otherwise IMO if we go snap up a bunch of average players from bad teams that’s how you get a lousy NT.

  4. It looks like Kreis has ignored one of our best scorers in Ebobissee (twice as many goals in the last two seasons as Lewis, Michel, or Ferreira on average,for example) he has gotten all the MLS players he wants except from Atlanta. If we don’t qualify, it’s all on Kreis.

    • i would have had more Fs on the roster, it feels out of whack for a 433 team. only one of the Ms who might double as an F — llanez — is an excellent wing creator worthy of playing productive F.

      re your MLS point, that’s harsh, part of the deal is MLS cooperates. this has been my point for years with how this was being scouted. all these first team euro based were never going to be released. if you wanted euro based what we should have done is target the younger but talented age group/II team player closer to 18-20 years old. there have to be a few of those who are better than the tail end of the available MLS players. eg kessler.

      • Llanez is a forward, Saucedo is a forward, Mihailovic can play either forward or AM. That’s 6 forwards plus an extra who can. Two full sets of the top line for a 4-3-3. Lewis-Soto-Llanez, Saucedo-Ferreira-Michel.

      • my point is actually call some of those U20 types because their release might be easier. in fact, that maybe they should have been the scouting and recruitment focus for olympic quali — alongside MLS players usually allowed out — as opposed to repeating the same mistake of looking at the “best players” in europe regardless of “availability.” we always walk into the same hopeful trap. GB and Kreis likely wouldn’t go that way because they believe so much in “club form” and playing in an age group or II team abroad is “seen” as a club form failure by some here, even if that same player is months from being a first team regular, at which point the fanboy polarity on them will flip. it also involves actually watching them play as opposed to staring at a spreadsheet, because you have to sort out how they compare to a marginal MLS player on his first team who will get released. to me we take the lazy out and just assume.

  5. I’ll never understand why the U-23s are only allowed 20 players, but the Sr. team is allowed 23.
    Overall the only issue I have with the player selections for this roster is the CBs. That seems to be the weakest part of the 20 players called. Would have been nice to have gotten at least 1 of our European guys (Richards, McKenzie, EPB, CCV….), or Robinson if Atlanta would have released him. I think this is where the COVID delay hurt us the most. A year ago we’d have picked up at least 1 higher quality CB and 1 ACM (Aaronson or Ledezma).

  6. Should we be hopeful that Efra Alvarez was not on Mexico’s final roster?…also interesting is that a certain JG was also not on the same list….

    • JG did his one time switch out the door so that’s over. if you’re saying he made the wrong choice, 3 caps in 4 calendar years might support that, and he’s arguably hitching himself to mexico on the way down while we rise. the state of our senior roster suggests he might have had a chance fighting for a 6 bench slot, though i think he’s a little overrated. fwiw monterrey wouldn’t let him do U20 either so this may have been a club refusal rather than an omit.

      • Yes…I’m saying JG made the wrong choice…he’s not playing at Monterrey either….and Mexican teams do release their players, especially the fringe ones when the federation asks….

    • since alvarez is MLS and doesn’t play for atlanta his U23 omission could be telling if he declined. or maybe they are about to (morally) lock it down with a senior friendly call. or maybe we are. even to play a friendly for us would require a permanent commitment because we would require a one time switch. so paperwork would need to be filed a period of time ahead. and you’d think it would be now when the games don’t count and not this summer when they do, because if we preemptively cap him i don’t think it would be with immediate intent to incorporate him in the lineup. it would be more to lock him down and see later.

      like i said before, i don’t think a U23 offer would entice. mexico is progressing him up their system same rate we would be. i think if we waved a premature senior cap we become the more attractive opportunity and he might take the bait. he’s good enough and i think 15 minutes at the end of a friendly to cap tie a guy is not some meritocratic travesty some do. not everything should be done based on is the player ready today. sometimes you need to be thinking ahead or winning the race now so you have the option later.

      • Wow! you have to be confident of your ability to judge talent and its performance a couple years from now. Pro clubs must be clamoring for your insight.

        Seriously, no one knows which, if any, players will actually pan out at the senior level. It almost smacks of abuse to tempt a player before he is really ready, talent-wise.

      • my point is err on the side of securing players’ nationality choice early, perhaps even before we are sure of how they will turn out. this is what klinsmann did on green and AJ. this is what i think GB did on Dest. (this is also what we did with pulisic and morris, in terms of including them while very young). there may be some ethical issues with being aggressive in this way — you are forcing a choice early before you are even sure — but that analysis assumes such decisions should only ever be done on pure merit. my feeling is if you fart around waiting until you are 100% sure players are ready, you will lose some subotics and gonzalezes where (a) the other team has a higher opinion of that player and/or (b) is willing to take the risk you won’t. to me part of the international game is locking down the best, biggest pool of potential talent. it is the coach’s job to aggressively pursue anyone who could possibly help. if i wait til your theory of who might work out good in 2 years i will lose half those contests. it is the players’ job to decide whether they would be happy as americans whether it turns out 2 caps or 100 caps. i say err on the side of encouraging that choice. i think even encouraging this idea of “what is best” or “where will you play most” promotes a choice we don’t want them to even make. our job is not to encourage that “mexico may be as valid a choice for you as us, and you might play there as much.” since when have we operated that way?

      • re “judging talent,” that’s misleading. the goal is to secure (a) the biggest prospects in the system, (b) the players you personally like as coach, and (c) the biggest departure risks, in that order. you don’t have to have an absolute crystal ball what a player might be in 3 years to know (1) who are the players generally seen as most promising or dominant a rung down, (2) who you like now or favor to turn out well, or (3) which players are making the biggest private or public stink that they face a choice. my point is if i wait the 2-3 years for their careers to settle they may also be snapped up by mexico who might not wait for the answer to become obvious. i mean, a basic flaw in your anaylsis is assuming players are seen abroad like GB sees them — when he is actually odd — or that they are proceeding on the same schedule we are. mexico and chile want soto as a senior player. may offer him a senior cap next week, so to speak. i think soto is ready based on panama but even if i took your side, if i wait 2-3 years to see what soto becomes, he will be gone to the other teams that take him more seriously and proceed more aggressively. you cannot expect other NTs to be as lazy as we would be. you lose enough players that way and it will show up in talent level in the pool. i don’t see the value in enforcing supposed meritocracy when GB can barely scout right.

      • I agree with you on locking up the dual nationals….adding them to the roster and playing them for 5 minutes is how most teams do it..and to your point we did with others’s what france did for years until morocco and algeria realized their teams could be stacked and pushed for the change years ago….

      • Still, if you want to “lock-up” the best talent, you have to identify which players will be good enough a couple years from now. There are not enough roster spots to “lock-up” every “dual national” available. The desire to capture as many players as possible must be tempered by some judgement (I call in fortune-telling) about which players are really worth it. Even some who look great in the beginning, Chandler, for example, can turn out to be not all that special tjhough he did plug a hole in the US defense for a while. The US did not recruit Johannsson by offering him a spot early-on, he stated he wanted to play for the US early when he thought the US would give him a better shot at playing in a World Cup than playing for Iceland would. Green did score a goal in the WC, it came off his shin, but he make a good run to be in the right spot, else, he has been spotty for the US. Lately Green’s club form seems better lately, but judging off USMNT performances he really is not all that much. The US rushed to cap-tie get Zelalem a young player who had played for Germany’s youth national teams, he played for the US u-20s,but has never played for the senior USMNT. I just don’t understand the rush to get players in unless they are already playing at a very high level, like Musah.

  7. Soto
    Could see Ferreira starting since he’s combined well with both Lewis and Llanez in the past.

      • I would guess Marcinkowski but I really don’t know. A year ago I would have said Ochoa but he pretty missed last season for a variety of reasons if I remember correctly. That lineup is how I think it will line up not necessarily how I’d do it.

  8. call sheet feels a little light on attacking players and particularly forwards for a 433 team. too many 6s and 8s, no 10, 1 specialist forward sub. defense also seems a little soft in the middle. comes across like a bunch of names/teams eg konrad aaronson m. robinson told us no. which wanders back into my theory of early on, which is would we be better off throwing around time to name brands or gelling a unit of more certain availability. once you winnow this down to what we actually got, this looks like a softer team than 2012 or 2016.

    • question to me is going to be do we have enough forward depth and attackers period to get a goal in game 4 of the tournament, the semi, which is all that really matters. followup question being if this is what was ultimately available why not instead play a 442 or 451 and look to advance on the proverbial one goal. cause this doesn’t feel like a 433 callup sheet.

    • We haven’t been playing with 10s anyway, part of the issue is how the roster is listed. Mihailovic and especially Saucedo Llanez will play as wingers thus six maybe seven forwards. The creation will come from those narrow wings instead of CM. Ferreira does play the 10 for FCD at times so if we needed to morph to that we could. The CM will be more counter press ball winners hence the majority being 6s or 8s. The pandemic delay hurt this group as the top offensive talent moved to first teams in Europe and the secondary group hasn’t developed yet. I’m curious why Fontana never got in with this group he definitely showed some fire power last season. Mendez’s injury probably kept him out as well.

      • GB may think two 8s are as good as a 10 but he is out to lunch on that. or did you watch wales B 0-0? i know from my dynamo that a bunch of two way 8s good for a couple assists a season are useless when you’re at the end of a game in half court soccer and need the quality or productivity only a 10 delivers.

        re your idea of “slash” mids playing wing, llanez could hit some crosses but saucedo barely plays much less gets assists, and mihailovic is a mediocre central player with limited use and productivity wide. that someone “could” also play wide doesn’t mean “productively so.”

      • i still think based on the M names and lack of true Fs this would be better done as a 451. as it stands it just feels like a team intended to defend first and play for 1-2 goals tops in tough games. in which case why not match formation and tactics to personnel. (but we are on our aesthetic high horse about “changing how we play.” fwiw we keep doing the open play thing at age groups without results. if you actually want the olympics why aren’t we playing more controlled soccer…..but then i think that’s the answer throughout, that this 433 business is a tactically naive mirage……)

    • Not sure you can say this team is softer than the 2012 and 2016 teams…this team has more players with 1st team minutes…the other 2 teams had many of our “prized” players but they subs in MLS or sub in Europe/playing on the reserve teams…..and having a look down memory lane at those other 2 teams, there are so many who today are nowhere to be found, incredible what injury alone can do to a career trajectory….

      • 2012: GK — Hamid Johnson; D — Opara Kitchen Valentin Vilafana; M — Adu Diskerud Corona Shea; F — Agudelo Bunbury Gyau Boyd
        2016: GK — Steffen Horvath; D — Miazga CCV Polster; M — Trapp Hyndman; F — Morris
        Probably better than 2016 in the attack — but not in goal or the back — and weaker than 2012.

  9. i guess we dropped the idea of calling aaronson and/or EPB for the period between the austrian regular and extended seasons.

    • Would still have to be released and likely weren’t. RBS last match is Mar. 20 so with travel and testing likely wouldn’t be available until the third group match at the earliest and with only a 20 man roster to have two guys miss all of training and the first two matches is a risk.

      • I laid this out to you before. RBS is 5 points ahead with 2 games to play which might clinch this phase before the last game. USSF could also threaten to call him as a senior if not released as a U23. There is significant overlap with the international window. Last, as long as you progress from group play there is only one game that really matters. You admit the players mentioned would be available prior to that game. On a certain level that game is all that matters — not what precedes, not the final. I also don’t get aggressively scouting the team only to back off when the money is on the table. It might improve Olympic quality by broadening that pool but the past two qualifying cycles suggest one shouldn’t just assume they get there. I am sure prior cycles we also had a bunch of age eligible players who were either “graduated” or “unavailable,” plus overage ideas, we never got to use then. We are literally learning and relearning this “availability” issue over and over. Are they ever going to get more aggressive, proactive, or planned?

    • You can’t force Wien or Salzburg to send players for a youth tournament even if they’ve clinched spots. Playing the 20th and flying to Mexico to play the 24th during a global pandemic even if they did is sketchy. They are going to take 3 CBs so you can only take two for the first 2 or 3 matches because EPB has his slot. Glad gets hurt in the first half you have one CB until EPB gets there in a week. If EPB gets hurt or contracts Covid you are playing this one do or die game as you say with 1 CB. You can only replace an injured player if it is before the tournament begins so bringing players from Austria would be a giant gamble. You also can’t “threaten clubs” or what you appear to be suggesting bait and switch, tell them you are sending him to N Ireland and then fly him to Mexico. Also Salzburg didn’t release any players last window because of Covid so Aaronson might not be available at all.

      • i’m not saying you literally divert their flight and mislead. i am saying you openly tell RBS their choice is U23 release or senior team release and that if told “no” for U23 they will receive a senior team call. so, since they will be on one team or the other, if you release for U23 he will leave early but we then promise to return him early after the semi. so he misses a meaningless season finale and then is back earlier for the beginning of their postseason. or they can insist on their rights vis a vis U23 to make an abstract point and we need to look at him for senior team anyway. concrete absence regardless. plays in a pointless season finale and gets back later to prepare for the postseason.

        fwiw given RBNY and marsch and that relationship (as well as their league position) you’d think this should be smoother anyway. it’s not like this is some random spanish team, it’s a company with a MLS team coached by a former MLS coach.

    • One key difference about Austrian post season is that points from first 22 matches are modified, they are halved and rounded down. So if the season ended today it’s not a 5 pt advantage it’s 3 because Salzburg would be 23 and Rapid 20 with 10 matches to play. For EPB they are only 3 pts off finishing in the Championship group so with the best GD of the three vying for the final spot. RB doesn’t care about the USNT they don’t care about the Austrian NT either they care about their brand, and their brand is winning. They don’t want Aaronson flying to Covid questionable country on a 8-10 hour flight when he can fly to Northern Ireland instead. The semis are on the same day as the Northern Ireland match so he’d be back in Salzburg faster playing in Europe anyway.

    • Benji has got to be the most shocking name on the roster! OCSC! Sak Pase! (Nabule!!) …somewhere in the England, Dike is smiling. Those 2, along with Perea, are pretty tight.


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