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USMNT eyeing fresh start as 2026 World Cup cycle begins

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The U.S. men’s national team takes the field on Wednesday night for the first time in 2023, and although a lot of the focus remains on the continuing investigation of Gregg Berhalter and his future as head coach, several new faces are eager to prove themselves in the current squad.

Anthony Hudson takes charge of the USMNT for Wednesday’s showdown with Serbia at Banc of California Stadium, looking to earn a positive result in the first of two friendlies over the next four days. A total of 13 players will be seeking their first USMNT caps this month, with dual-national attacker Alejandro Zendejas, Eintracht Frankfurt arrival Paxten Aaronson, and Chelsea goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina headlining the group.

January’s pair of friendlies will provide an early opportunity for many players seeking a positive start with the USMNT, and an early glimpse for Hudson and the current coaching staff to scout ahead of the competitive schedule down the road.

“We had a filter for this camp of young, high-potentials, Olympic-age players, we wanted to try and get some dual-nationals in here as well and there were some we weren’t able to get for this camp,” Hudson said Tuesday in his pre-match press conference. “We also wanted to have some of the World Cup guys here as well. It was important that we brought a group of core players in that knew about the culture and how we do things on and off the field. They all have been brilliant.”

“There’s a lot of young guys here, especially me and I’m really hungry to get after it and make a really good first impression,” Aaronson said Monday. “It’s a dream to make my senior debut so earning my first cap and building off that momentum would be important during the start of this cycle.”

John Dorton/ISI Photos

A total of five players from the World Cup roster have also been called in this month to provide leadership in a youth-heavy squad. Walker Zimmerman, Jesus Ferreira, Sean Johnson, Aaron Long, and Kellyn Acosta all were part of the USMNT roster that reached the Round of 16 in Qatar last November-December, while veteran winger Paul Arriola was also included in Hudson’s plans.

For all six of these players, the January camp will not only provide them with additional preparation for the upcoming MLS campaign, but also with an early opportunity to tune out the continued negativity surrounding U.S. Soccer amid Berhalter’s investigation.

“It’s been a dream for so many of them, so many of us, but mainly the players,” said Hudson. “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 of the good work and it’s been shifted in another direction.”

John Dorton/ISI Photos

The USMNT will seek a winning start to its 2023 schedule, especially against a Serbian squad which features only three players with at least one cap to their names. While a lot of the focus will be grooming new faces for their long-term international futures, several players returning to the fold will be just as important as the 2026 World Cup preparation gets underway.

“It’s an honor to be here, so using this opportunity to show what I can do as a player for the national team is very important,” Chelsea goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina said. “Moving to Chelsea has been great, being able to train with the guys has been a dream come true, but now it’s about showing what I have learned there in my experiences here.”

Comments

  1. I am still struggling to totally comprehend the new broadcast rights for US soccer, CONCACAF and MLS. MLS in particular is the most confusing;

    it looks like for a fee ($90 for a year) Apple TV will cover essentially all MLS games with no blackouts. Season ticket holders will have free access to the Apple TV coverage.

    FOX will carry some MLS games (1 or 2 per week?)

    Who will carry CONCACAF champions League, GOLD Cup, Nations League and the games between MLS and Lega MX (whatever that is called).

    Of course, in the good old days, less than 20 years ago, it was a challenge to find many of those games on TV in the US, but free. Things have changed, and gotten more pricey. I don’t want to go back to watching the WC final in Spanish on a grainy screen in B&W via a broad cast from Univision like I did the 1986 Germany vs Argentina final so I will pay, but…

    Reply
    • I would assume CBS and Paramount + still have the rights to NL since they had them to the first half of group stage. I think Fox still has GC. Apple owns the MLS/Liga Mx competitions and I think are part of the season package. Wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Leagues Cup only option. Univision will have Leagues Cup in Spanish and Fox has a couple matches as well.

      Reply
  2. Breaking news, it looks like Weston McKinnie might be going to lead United with Brandon Aaronson and Tyler Adams……..WHAT??!!!👀

    Reply
    • While it would be fun to watch them and maybe they get more chemistry playing together I would have some concerns. Mostly about the team…if Leeds gets relegated, three of our best players get big drops in competition. Also, if Marsch gets canned, does the appeal wear off quickly? And lastly, McKennie is already an established champions league player…it’s a bit of a step down for him.

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      • Of course Leeds is hardly safe from relegation, but it is in a better place than it was this time last year. Leeds has a game in hand compared to the other 6 teams at the bottom, the 7 are separated by only 3 points. Marsch seems to be relatively safe for now (only a few EPL managers are in better positions with regard to job security since few teams are outperforming expectations).

      • jb,

        This is what I love about USMNT fans.

        Not you personally, but ironically the generic y’all blast Gio for being “entitled” yet y’all always think our players are entitled to go to clubs where they are:

        1. entitled to play regularly if not start
        2. entitled to win things
        3. entitled to avoid relegation battles

        Whatever happened to earning their status?
        At this time, I would think Juve would want to keep Wes around. He should be affordable and is useful to them.
        They are appealing a 15 point death penalty deduction.
        If they lose the appeal, they aren’t going to be title contenders and may not play in Europe next season. Or god forbid they might even get relegated.
        They can tough it out.
        Or they can reduce their wage bill, off load what they can, and prep for next season without Champions League money or even playing in Serie B. It could be quite a financial hit however it works out.

        Anyway, while Leeds mostly needs a really good center back or Harry Kane, Wes would make Leeds better.
        Whether he helps keep them up, is hard to say but in the end it should be a good experience for all three. And if they fail, they fail. It’s not the end of the world.

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