The U.S. men’s national team drew with Colombia on Saturday in Carson, Calif., for just the second time since the 2022 World Cup. The stalemate came three days after a 2-1 loss to Serbia in another friendly, leaving the U.S. — with just five World Cup squad players for this month’s two friendlies — out until at least March. Earn your first win of 2023.
Here are three quick thoughts on Saturday’s game and overall opening camp.
No wins in January despite improving U.S. performance
All five Qatar 2022 veterans are in interim boss Anthony Hudson’s starting XI, but Los Caferros is a formidable opponent despite being significantly less experienced than the hosts. It’s a funny thing for a game without a goal.
The sloppiness of most players in any game between seasons was obvious, but the two sides fought hard from the opening whistle.
“It’s probably going to be a qualifying game and that’s what the players put in,” Hudson said after the game. “It was a very intense game.”
The US came close to opening the scoring twice in the first half through rookie Paxton Aaronson – the younger brother of Leeds United striker Brendon. World Cup veteran Jesús Ferreira squandered the best chance of the game in the second against his country of birth. The U.S. also had two penalty yells that were waved away by officials, and they don’t have a VAR in this exhibition.
That’s not to say there wasn’t a goal on Saturday, or a win to celebrate the first gathering of the 2026 World Cup cycle. Adding to Thursday’s bombshell is the departure of US Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart along with USMNT general manager Brian McBride, plus World Cup coach Greg It hasn’t been the best month for the American men with Gregg Berhalter’s uncertain future with the program. Still, the camp generally served its purpose.
“The purpose of this training camp is to find new players,” Hudson said. “I think we achieved our goal. There were a lot of players out there that we wanted to see with us and we wanted to see in competitive games. It gave us the opportunity to do that.”
Several young Americans show potential
US Under-20 national team star Paxton Aaronson showed promise and inexperience for Colombia, but he was also active in his first international break.
Saturday’s other rookie, left guard John Tolkien, didn’t look out of place in one of the shallowest spots in the player pool.
“He was a confident kid,” Hudson said of Tolkien. “I don’t think the situation has phased him at all.”
In his start against striker Brandon Vazquez, Matthew Hope was much better than he was when he came off the bench against Serbia. While his decision-making was questionable, his fighting was not.
“I can imagine that for a full-back he’s going to be tough,” Hudson said of Hope, who struggled in his first season at Middlesbrough and was allowed to play for them by England’s second-tier clubs. Contest. “He just doesn’t stop.”
Saturday’s stellar performances by Aaronson, Hope and Tolkien followed compatriots Cade Cowell and Gagaslonina and 24-year-old Vazquez against Serbia. A win should be nice, but nothing more.
“It’s a good test for our players, especially some of the younger players,” Hudson said. “It’s going to be a great experience for them.”
USMNT faces bigger test
The cold truth is that, in the grand scheme of things, these two games mean very little. The 2022 World Cup ended last month. There are only a handful of regulars at this camp. The squad is overseen by a lame duck manager. Add to that the off-field drama that has dominated national team talk since Qatar, including the absence of Stewart and McBride on Thursday, and it’s no surprise this group didn’t set the world on fire this week. These are glorified preseason friendlies. The result doesn’t really matter.
This will not happen in March, June and July. The US has two CONCACAF Nations League group games in late March, with the final scheduled for early June, followed by the Gold Cup. The entire player pool will then be available. This will give a better gauge of where the US is early in the 2026 cycle. The atmosphere around the plan may also be lighter then.
“We have an amazing team,” Hudson said. “A lot of players are not here but I can assure you they love playing for this team. They love coming and representing the national team and it’s a real honor to work with such a group of players.”
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