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Vazquez, Gressel, Zendejas headlines USMNT roster for January friendlies

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The first U.S. men’s national team camp of 2023 will not only feature an interim head coach at the helm, but several young talents aiming to make an early name for themselves in the squad.

Brandon Vazquez, Julian Gressel, and Alejandro Zendejas headline Anthony Hudson’s 24-player roster for this month’s friendlies against Serbia and Colombia. A total of 13 players will be seeking their first international caps for the USMNT, including the aforementioned trio, as well as DeJuan Jones, Gabriel Slonina, and Joel Sonora.

Paxten Aaronson, Cade Cowell, and Jalen Neal have also been included in the roster after excelling for the USMNT U-20’s at the Concacaf U-20 Championship last summer. Aaronson won the tournament’s Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards, as leading-scorer and top player of the competition.

Walker Zimmerman, Jesus Ferreira, Sean Johnson, Aaron Long, and Kellyn Acosta are the five returning players who represented the USMNT at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. FC Dallas forward Paul Arriola leads all players on the roster with 48 international caps.

“We are thrilled with the group of players we’ve been able to put together for this camp,” Hudson said. “The annual January Camp gives us a chance to look at some real high potential young players as well as some dual nationals we have been following. The focus has been on identifying positions within our team that need more depth.”

“We are also leaning on some of our veteran players for their experience on the field as well as to socialize the younger players into the incredible culture we have built within the squad. We know from history that many players who get their first national team opportunity in this window go on to make a World Cup roster, so we want them to make the most of it.”

The USMNT will face Serbia at Banc of California Stadium on Jan. 25 before closing out a two-match window against Colombia at Dignity Health Sports Park on Jan. 28. It will be the Americans first head-to-head showdown with Serbia since 2017 and Colombia since 2018.

Here is a closer look at the full 24-player USMNT roster:


USMNT Roster for January friendlies


GOALKEEPERS: Roman Celentano (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Sean Johnson (Unattached; 10/0), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea/ENG; 0/0)

DEFENDERS: Jonathan Gómez (Real Sociedad/ESP; 1/0), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps/CAN; 0/0), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution; 0/0), Aaron Long (LAFC; 29/3), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy; 0/0), Sam Rogers (Rosenborg/NOR; 0/0), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 37/3)

MIDFIELDERS: Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; 0/0), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 55/2), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew; 0/0), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; 1/0), Alan Soñora (Unattached; 0/0), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; 4/0)

FORWARDS: Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 48/10), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 1/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 16/7), Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough/ENG; 6/1), Emmanuel Sabbi (Odense/DEN; 0/0), Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Alejandro Zendejas (Club America/MEX; 0/0)

Comments

  1. .
    Amid all this discussion of lower-string backup players in a meaningless game without a head coach (and I actually used to like Arriola and Gressel both pretty well, so sue me), has anyone noticed that large numbers of US viewers likely won’t even be able to watch the USA–Serbia game, as it is apparently _not being shown on normal TV_?! (Please correct me, I’d be glad to be wrong.)
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    Granted, I didn’t think the USSF could sink much lower these days. But selling USMNT rights to dog-in-the-manger companies that restrict all broadcasting to streaming or premium cable is surely denying hundreds of thousands of young soccer players from low-income families, or just rational consumer families, the chance to even watch their national team.
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    Not to mention those of us who firmly resist streaming on principle because it means paying a giant media corporation for the dubious “benefit” of handing over access to your personal data in return for being forced to watch ads.
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    How the hell is that nonsense ever supposed to make soccer more appreciated and more popular in this country? The more you ban the game to expensive niche channels, do you really think _more_ people are going to watch it? AAARGH …
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    Well, I suppose I will be going back to reading books instead. It was nice to meet you all, in the brief decade or so of time when we could just watch soccer.
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  2. I see a lot of folks complaining about some of the same players they complained about all of last cycle, and I get it, but we don’t know is who was called up but not released by their club, so this idea that certain players were called in because the federation still sees them as important players to start this cycle is presumptive and hyperbole. There are enough new faces and some faces that we wish we could have seen last cycle if not for injuries(Pomykal and Williamson), that e should be focused on the newer crop than worrying about a few experienced veterans most likely brought in to show the new faces how things work on the senior team, and it’s no coincidence that those players make up the spine of the roster(Ferreira, Acosta, Zimmerman, Long and Sean Johnson). I’m more focused on the newbies(uncapped), along with Williamson and Pomykal(already have a few caps between them)to shoe us what they have, and if some of the veterans are sprinkled in so be it, because at the end of the day this camp won’t tell us much considering the competition

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    • According to Transfermkt the average age of the roster is 23.65 and people are complaining about the rosters too old, too many established guys. 5 out of 24 have have more than 10 caps, 16 of 24 have one cap or less and 13 have 0 caps. 8 of the 24 will be 24 or younger at 2026 WC. Only 6 will be over 30 in 2026.

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    • I saved most of my beefing for players who either should be ageing out, rode the bench in Qatar, or played badly. If you will be >30 and couldn’t play in Qatar you’re wasting my time. I generally kept my trap shut on noobs because we have 4 years to try other people. I think the only ones I criticized were the kids at keeper. Keeper there was a lot of contest for those jobs, it wasn’t a definitive competition, only 1 guy stood out, and Johnson may be too old. Gaga and Celentano would not be in the best few MLS/recent transfer keepers who should be trained and evaluated towards 2026. I think they are like future prospects not performing to that level yet. So save their caps for when they play like it.

      To me it’s borderline two-faced because the mantra on field players for 4 years has been how Reyna and everyone else had to wait their turn and prove their senior value. Even though I could tell Reyna could ball playing U17 and Dortmund reserves, and was begging for him to be capped. Worse, for these 2, they have some first team minutes, and they are just OK. And I realize GKs mature later, and don’t judge them too much by age 19 performance. but conversely if you have played first team then judge them how they did and not as YNT guys. In terms of adult ball, at this stage, just mediocre as keepers.

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  3. i personally think “age” planning is important and the US has been horrible at it for a while — cameron jones bradley beckerman etc. all falling apart on klinsi, GB betting on zardes, bradley, and guzan against all common sense — and along those lines arriola, long, zimmermann, and acosta are a waste of time on an age basis. not good enough to overlook they will be over 30 (some well over) by 2026. johnson also is probably going to begin falling part this cycle — akin to guzan last time. my first instinct is do him a solid and shop window him for a half as a reward for his service, so he can get signed, but the call sheet of two kid keepers looks more like he plays 1-1/2 matches or maybe all 180′, which is theft of a finite amount of time to trial keeper alternatives without this being an “all access” window. gressel honestly is in the same boat but part of me wants to reward the long effort to be involved — though again not too much — give him a half or a game and pat him on the back, not all minutes both matches.

    i also am inclined to say that if you have veteran leadership in a camp like this, occupying finite space when we have plenty of players to trial, it should be guys who are high likelihood going to be involved for the cycle. i don’t see the point in having long or arriola mentor people for a week then disappear. bluntly i think at the international level it’s overrated to emphasize captain type players. the coach should have his own gravitas and the players in such an environment should be self motivated.

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    • i am not a fan of celentano/slonina choices. some are suggesting there may be some olympic-orientation on some choices, but i thought backup keeper was a weakness and spot of uncertainty and this is a rare easy window to trial some MLS veterans. i think the kids have buzz but haven’t outplayed the vets to deserve being called to the senior team first. keeper in particular, to me, is a long learning curve position where it matters a lot how you fill out physically.

      also as said in my other post i am a little concerned that in praxis this call sheet turns into johnson getting 270-360′ when he will be 37 in 2026, which is lousy planning and a waste of limited minutes to test players.

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    • i am disappointed with zimmerman and long, the former had a bad world cup and they both pose an age issue where giving them this time strikes me as bad planning. same could be said of gressel though i think he deserves a half or so to reward the long effort. the rest, honestly, just run out some fresh faces for 2 games and let me see how they look. my concern is they hand a lot of the time to the older 3 which will be forgettable in 4 years.

      along those lines one of my general concerns with the arena-berhalter coaching tree is their ideal player seems to be 25-30 and at the beginning of a cycle late 20s is actually an ancient player progressed forward 4 years. ream aside it’s generally a bad bet to go heavy on “reyna” or “lewis” one world cup too many, and even if they get cut, “jermaine jones” or “zardes” getting another cycle misdirects efforts to players who won’t make thenext team and suck up finite minutes to explore and compose the next team.

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    • when the dynamo signed artur i watched a couple crew games and was impressed by morris — was asking why we didn’t chase him instead. i am eager to see how he stacks up. i am generally ok with the call sheet at mid. i think acosta is a waste of time on age grounds.

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      • Because my Crew wasn’t going to let Morris go. The whole reason we were willing to move Artur is that Morris has proved himself ready to be the full time starter. If Artur gets healthy (hasn’t been fully himself for two years) I think you’ll like him. Not afraid to get stuck in, solid on the ball but not flashy. I’d be a little concerned about a MF with Herrera and Artur if he isn’t fully recovered, the other midfielder better able to cover tons of ground

      • JR: re morris/artur, i kind of figured as much. a man can dream. the dynamo are a constant source of frustration where you’re like if i were you i’d chase a, b, or c and then they sign some fairly average or poor x, y, or z instead. the coaching has been bad for years but the personnel work beneath that has been pedestrian for a decade save 2017 with elis. so, little to work with and then no magician to even try.

        i think our MF so far is a horrorshow. it’s basically a 3 DM lineup, very little offensive production,, and I think HH and coco are poor defenders at this stage. artur didn’t come across to me as any more a straight to goal type or creator, or particularly mobile to sweep up messes. honestly like he was going through the motions, when what this team needs is some actual steel and protection of the backline. that every possession doesn’t get to the final third. what i am looking at is not a playoff team, again.

        my only hope is i like raines and castilla but our pattern for years has been to have a decent HGP but bury them behind some late 20s or early 30s has been. if a tree falls in the forest but no one hears it, does it make a sound? well, raines was pretty good in USOC.

      • If Artur is healthy again you’ll be glad you have him, but no he’s not a one man bring us to the playoffs. I hadn’t really paid any attention to Dynamo’s offseason moves but it sure looks like they’ve gotten rid of most of their entertaining talent.

    • i am generally ok with the forwards. i am glad to see hoppe back and hope maybe this is a platform to get transferred. i am eager to see what vazquez does. i am curious if zendejas shows and concerned it’s a wasted symbolic pick when it’s only gonna matter if he plays in march window type games (and you can’t just call a preseason player in a few days if america says no). arriola disappeared at cycle end and ferreira underwhelmed. i would like to have seen nico and others instead. fresh faces. i don’t get having veteran leadership be two of the more disappointing forwards of the world cup lot. to me they’d be the first on the ice floe while we find someone else……and this particular camp is the epitome of the “fresh face” camp.

      i know the US is all about continuity and playing to win every game but for the first year of the cycle, save perhaps gold cup, i’d be trialing experiments on purpose. we went, we did ok, what else do we have. people tend to jump straight to gelling the squad for next time but this is the berhalter mistake. you want to sort out first whether these are even the right ones to build around. which to me requires 1-2 years of exploring. start worrying summer 2024 what exactly the best 23 is, and you can use gold cup as an interlude where you test some 2026 ideas. but for now i’d be just evaluating players.

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    • side point but historically the US approach to ageing was O-30s got pastured now and we then got out the rolodex in 1-2 years if none of the kids could replace them. nothing is stopping us from circling back around but i would try the alternatives first. it also makes the older players “earn their keep,” eg if GB had paid any attention to how mike bradley was actually playing this past cycle for TFC, he wouldn’t have wasted another go-round.

      but then i see part of the problem as being a little too obsessed with racking up friendly results playing regulars and not concerned enough with correctly evaluating and composing the team to win the key games in 4 years.

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      • Bradley hasn’t played for 3 years and was only used once when Tyler Adams was available. As we discussed before his rosters were some of the youngster ever for NT, even his WC squad that trended older do to inclusions of Ream, Long, and Johnson but was still one of the youngest in Qatar. If Richards had been healthy he would have taken one of the older CBs spots and it would have been the youngest ever by US at WC. Also dispelled your myth that he didn’t try enough players showing that he capped more than Canada, Mexico, and most of the Euro powers. You were also a giant critic when Berhalter chose to experiment in friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela instead of trying to win.
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        As for Zardes in 2019 who was he supposed to use Bobby Wood who played 152 minutes all season after coming off knee surgery, 20 yr old Haji Wright that had been released by Schalke and was doing nothing for Venlo, 19 yr old Jesus Ferreira (who actually had a decent year that year but if he wasn’t physically ready in 2022 he certainly wasn’t 3 yrs early), 16 yr old Ricardo Pepi and his 71 MLS minutes. 30 yr old Andrew Wooten and his 1 g in MLS over 28 appearances. 19 yr Sebastian Soto that’s been deemed not good enough by such powerhouses as Livingston and Klagenfurt.
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        Stick with “we try to get to the endline with guys that aren’t good at crossing to guys that aren’t good at finishing crosses”. That is a fair and important criticism.

    • “If you have veteran leadership in a camp like this, occupying finite space when we have plenty of players to trial, it should be guys who are high likelihood going to be involved for the cycle. i don’t see the point in having long or arriola mentor people for a week then disappear.”

      You got any names who would be available?

      Because the only Americans who fit your description are in Europe and unavailable.

      “the coach should have his own gravitas and the players in such an environment should be self motivated.”

      Give me break. This is the USMNT. And it’s not USMNT A. It’s more like USMNT C, D or E.
      And Gregg had no gravitas so why you expect his acolyte to have it is nuts.

      The USSF were expecting Gregg to be here for this thing so now this thing is really just an obligation they are contractually obligated to fill out.

      “arriola, long, zimmermann, and acosta” were going to be the backbone along with Roldan, of the bench for 2026. They weren’t counting on Gregg getting himself made into persona non grata.

      Y’all still seem to be under the impression that the USSF is a professional organization with sporting excellence and achievement as some kind of goal.

      Pay close attention to what these clowns actually do sometime and you might realize that the reality is every different.

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  4. If it comes down to an American coach getting hired then I vote for Brian Schmetzer of the Seattle Sounders. 2 MLS cup wins out of four and a concacaf Champions league trophy. He has the winning pedigree and Seattle is always a team that looks likely to challenge for trophies every where.

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  5. I like the roster for the most part. I’m even OK with some of the veterans who were included. That said there are some inclusions I just can’t understand….
    1) Long – Was mediocure in MLS all last season and down right BAD with the USMNT for the past year.
    2) Arriola – an average (maybe above average) MLS player. Able to contribute against low level CONCACAF opposition, but worthless beyond that.
    3) Gressel – is absolutely pointless. 29 and miles down the pecking order. I find it hard to believe that there was no-one else they could have gotten.
    Johnson, Zimmerman, & Acosta I get being there, but I pray won’t receive significant minutes.

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    • Gressel is a better crosser than any other RB in the pool so no they probably couldn’t find anyone better in the MLS end of the pool. He also reportedly turned down some offers in Europe so that he could become a US citizen and play for the US, when in Atlanta winning rookie of the year and an MLS Cup. He deserves a cap even if he’s not a likely help in 2026. Of course who would of thought Tim Ream would be our best defender in Qatar.

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    • Mr. Space,

      Go over the history of the World Cup and you’ll find a very long list of players who at 31-33 had real nice World Cups.

      Never mind Timmy Ream, in JK’s last World Cup at the age of 33-34 he scored 3 goals. A lot of those people have been stars to super stars, Messi, CR7, Modric . Forlan and so on.

      But there have been a lot of non super star 30 + year olds as well, who are good enough for a World Cup. Players these days keep themselves in better condition than ever before. And assuming FIFA stay with 5 subs, and I’m thinking they will, it makes it easier to have a savvy 32 year old around.

      These guys are not being recruited for a club. They are being recruited for a 7 game tournament about 3 and half years from now.

      I can think of lots of reasons why Gressel may not be one of the top 2-3 American right backs available for the 2026 WC.

      Age isn’t necessarily one of them.

      The USMNT player pool is a long way from being able to turn up their nose at a quality player of any age or description.

      Gregg just fielded Shaq Moore at right back. That embarrassing move alone should keep any USMNT fan from being arrogant over the state of the Right Back position.

      Extirpating Gregg and the Reynas from the USMNT scene does not alter the fact that the USMNT is still an amateurish Clown Car of an old boy’s club. And they are still capable of screwing up the 2026 World Cup cycle.

      You have to admit these people are off to a great start.

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  6. I wondered about Gressel who was born in Germany. Checked and he became a US citizen last November. I would like to see more young defenders instead of Long and Zimmerman.

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    • 8 defenders only 2 (Zimm and Long) have more than 1 cap. Ages of the defenders 19, 19, 20, 23, 25, 29, 29, 30. I guess Kessler (24) and Glad (25) could have been options along with Miazga whose 27. Interesting that Neal was called in instead of Craig who played better for U20s. Not a lot of promising young CBs in MLS.

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      • Out of the three CB’s that played for the u20’s at the concacaf u20 tournament…. Neal has the most upside. 6’3” athletic and good feet and good passing range. I expect to see Neal getting first team minutes this season for the Galaxy.

      • Also Che will be added back into that u20 CB mix for the u20 WC. Che can play both RB and CB, but I think his best position will be CB. Also he has been promoted to the first team for Hoffenheim the second half of the season.

      • Neal is probably more ready physically than Craig or Wynder. What I’ve heard is that Neal is unlikely to get many minutes at LAG this year and is possibly auditioning for a loan. Right now it seems he’d be 4th on the CB depth chart behind Caceres, Mavinga, and Coulibaly.

    • Mr. Page,

      “I would like to see more young defenders instead of Long and Zimmerman.”
      I would like to see better defenders instead of Long and Zimmerman.

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  7. 6 players who aren’t in the MLS. 2 players who just transferred (Gaga, & PA) from the MLS. A mix of Olympic age players at least 10 from my count. Except Johnson, this camp is under 30. A fist full of players for continuity with some dual nationals sprinkled in and with the exception of 2 players, were developed in the US academy system or DA. (@ some point, these players were on a YNT). Camp cupcake hasn’t been like this?! RU serious? An interim coach doesn’t make me jump for joy, true! Maybe this means, Hudson is the fav for the Olympic job, which is more of a concern for me than HC because WC isn’t until ‘26. Olympics are next year, you won’t know where some players will be next year, and who will or won’t be released by their clubs. We’ve seen the HC get hired 13 months into the cycle last time. I’m not concerned at all. Sarachan was the manager v Bolivia in ‘18, and Sargent, Weah, Zimmerman all scored as 1st time starters. We got to see new players as we will this time around also; Versus quality opponents at that! I’m excited for these friendlys!! …and yes, like you! I was wondering if Lois gets to celebrate that Sabbi is in camp! Looking forward to seeing all the players who were close to making the WC play together, especially Zendejas-LW, Sonora-LM and Williamson-RM. Sabbi & the former were born in ‘98. The ‘98 birth year is talented as hell but u don’t hear me doe!

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  8. Weird selection of past their primers, sub par prospects, and some legitimate prospects. Hoping the legitimate prospects get some playing time … Hoping. Not optimistic.

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    • While it would not hurt, not every USMNT roster has to be aimed entirely at prepping for the next World Cup.

      If it were me I would be thinking about:

      1. Finding the new manager assuming Gregg doesn’t want to come back

      2. Copa America

      As long as expectations are half way sane, this camp is fairly harmless .And t gives some of our duals a chance to showcase themselves for El Tri.

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      • All true. If I were manager… and I’m not, for many reasons… I would play all the youth and dual nats. Sure, ring in senior guys to mentor. I just hope Hudson will reward Zendejas with a start as opposed to substitute minutes.

      • Quaker: sounds like Club America is only releasing him for the match. So he’ll play for CA the 21st then the US on 25th and I believe go back for their match with Mazatlan on 28th. Not sure he’ll be allowed to play more than 45.

  9. No real issues with this roster. I do see Paxten Aaronson as wide forward or second forward at senior level. Not really as a midfielder. Yet again with no head coach in sight yet I think this camp is a bit fruitless. But excited to see Alan Sonora and some other young dudes.

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    • 2tone: I responded to your Pan Am games comment on the other thread but in case it got lost in Bizzy, Vacqui and IV’s discussion. Pan Am games are in October (outside the Oct FIFA window). It is also a U22 tournament. It will be very hard to form a roster under those parameters.

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