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Alex Zendejas, Cade Cowell among USMNT bright spots vs. Serbia


The U.S. men’s national team lacked the cutting edge in the final third to avoid defeat against Serbia on Wednesday night, but the positive play of Cade Cowell and Alex Zendejas left interim head coach Anthony Hudson excited about the long-term potential for both players.

Cowell and Zendejas both delivered lively performances in Wednesday’s 2-1 home defeat to Serbia, standout out as two of the few overall bright spots for the Americans. Zendejas logged 90 minutes in his USMNT senior debut while Cowell played 72 minutes in his first international appearance in two years.

The 19-year-old Cowell struck the post twice in the final third, while also totaling four shots in total, and constantly pressuring Serbian right back Nemanja Petrovic. Cowell’s constant running and offensive pressure was another glimpse of what the San Jose Earthquakes forward brings in the USMNT pool.

“Cade, wow. Like, what a performance from Cade,” said Hudson postmatch. “I’m so proud of him, so impressed with his performance. He was another one where, I kept turning around to our sports scientists and coaching staff – because obviously, we had set [playing] times, and as the clock was ticking, I knew he had to come off. And I didn’t want to bring him off.

“He was just really just outstanding tonight,” Hudson added. “Really direct, really aggressive, brave. I think maybe if he’d have stayed on, I think he deserved a goal for sure. But this is probably one of the best performances I’ve seen. I’ve seen him, I’ve seen him have some amazing moments. I think tonight’s showed another level, another step forward for him. So it was a really special performance from him and I’m really proud of what he did tonight.”

John Dorton/ISI Photos

Zendejas was quiet in the first half, but raised his performance in the second half, especially with the USMNT chasing a tying goal. The Club America attacker won nine duels, drew four fouls, and had two of his five shots blocked inside of the 18-yard box, coming close on several occasions to finding the back of the net.

Zendejas will now return to Club America for Saturday’s Liga MX match against Mazatlan as part of an agreement between the Mexican club and the USMNT during this January window. However, his 90-minute shift left a positive impression on Hudson and the USMNT coaching staff, with more possible opportunities coming up later this year.

“Incredible,” said Hudson of Zendejas. “Obviously he has to go back to his club tonight, and I was pretty much trying to beg him to stay, because I thought he was outstanding. He came in, he’s been in a few days, and you saw him tonight, you see his personality on the field. He’s a really, really exciting player. Exciting player, good quality, technically really, really strong, really attack-minded and I just love his desire just to keep going.

“I think he’s right there, in a position where he can step in and help the team with our full squad,” Hudson added. “And he’s also someone who’s slightly different in terms of his characteristics to what we have. So, yeah, look, I think it’s been great that we’ve been able to bring him in and we would love to bring him back, for sure.”

The USMNT will now prepare for a final friendly this month in Carson, Cali. against Colombia, hoping for a winning end to its final window of 2023.


  1. Zendejas would impact the team today if he chooses the USMNT. he’s the guy who stood out to me, and Morris. Zendejas got stronger as the game wore on, more settled, more confident. that game was very fun to watch, especially the second half. Tip of the cap to Hudson

  2. I love the “Cowell can play forward too” comments similar to the JMorris comments. Here’s a guy whose club says he’s a worse CF than Ebobisse but sure let’s play him as a CF. Varas chose to play Tyler Wolf, Quinn Sullivan, and a false 9 Paxton Aaronson over him but sure Cowell would be a better CF than Ferreira who scored like 15 more MLS goals than Cade last season, Pepi whose scoring in Eredivisie, Sargent in the Championship, Wright scored as many goals in 2 weeks in Turkey as Cade scored all year, Dike has 3 g in Championship in 1/3 of a season. Cade played one of the better matches I’ve seen from him but let’s see it a few times before we talk about him getting into the “A” roster.

  3. I suspect that Aaronson will start in place of Zendejas in the next game. It will be interesting to compare the two. I am higher on Aaronson than Zendejas; Paxton is still physically developing and probably has a higher ceiling.

    • It wouldn’t be a fair comparison.

      Zendejas has been playing a bit in Mexico and it showed.

      Paxton is not on the same level as Zendejas yet. That gap could close very quickly. Paxton is obviously a favorite with a popular name and a back story but I wouldn’t make too much of what happens here. Yet.

      Of course Gio Reyna used to have a popular name and a popular back story and you see how that turned out.

  4. I hope, given our automatic qualification for the next WC, that the federation shows wisdom and lets our top players rest during international windows and allows more opportunity for new players to prove themselves. In an ideal world the USA would be in a situation when important competitions loom near that there exists pool of well rested A Team players and a pool of well practiced B Team players ready compete for spots on the team.

    • I applaud your hope but it does not often work out that way unless you are France.

      How do you know your “top players” are still your top players if you don’t play them?

      At some point the anointed gods will have to play with the new chosen ones to see how and if they fit together. And that may take more than a game or two.

      Or it might take a very astute experienced manager, something Gregg was not.

      In any event building a real team usually takes more than a week at camp and a couple of exhibition games. It usually takes the right players , a real good manager and some time.

      • astute or not, his record speaks for itself…winner

        I’m no apologist, but I respect results. those who cannot reveal themselves as losers. That’s an old axiom, not mine, but it applies

        GB won.

        Gold Cup over Mexico. Nations Cup over Mexico, with a different team playing a different style in the same summer. Qualified for the World Cup while overhauling the roster. Advanced out of the group.

        compare that to the last cycle records of so called astute managers, managers many here continously assume are more astute and promote as more astute, or the pathetic decline of the USMNT under klinsmann, another who so many claimed was so astute.

        I’m astute enough to recognize results and respect them, one way or the other

      • Beachbum I appreciate your trying to speak truth, but I think it’s just falling on deaf ears. Just as JK has become appreciated after he was booted and Bob before him, fans will realize that Berhalter actually did a good job once he’s gone.

  5. I think Cowell and Zendejas are both very close to being on the full USMNT A squad. Vasquez has to show me a bit more to convince me he should be in the mix at the 9. Slonina isn’t beating out our current GK’s just yet. Gomez needs to play first team soccer with his La Liga team. Would like to see Tolkin. RB for the USMNT is pretty deep with Dest, Scally, Reynolds, Fossey, and Cannon all in Europe and playing meaningful minutes for their respective teams. CB looks to be getting more settled with Z-man from MLS and Richards, CCV, EPB, Trusty, Ream all playing well with their respective European teams and Brooks on the move to Hoffeheim. I would say CM needs the most depth. But I think Williamson has a shot, and Aiden Morris. But De La Torre is seeing more minutes, and you have MMA as well as Mihailovich. And Acosta still in the depth chart. I was high about Pomykal, but he has lost some speed with his injuries and has become very negative with his passing. Didn’t progress the ball forward like he used too.

    • Cowell is not even close to making the NT roster if everyone is healthy. He was the third best wing for the U20s and that’s without Paredes. He had won match for he cooked a B squad RB for Serbia but came away with nothing.

  6. No doubt Cowell had an impressive performance. Coach summed it up well saying he played direct really well.
    I thought Zendejas came alive when Williamson entered the match. The pair combined really well playing the ball to each others feet.
    Although Williamson almost laid an egg with his early midfield turnover.


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