Friday’s soccer news starts with the USMNT in action tomorrow against Slovenia at Toyota Field in San Antonio (3pm ET – TNT). As always with the January out of window games, the discussion quickly moves to how much we can expect to learn about this version of the USMNT. Specifically, a version that’s MLS only as Major League Soccer clubs begin their preparations for the start of the 2024 regular season on February 21 that coincides with MLS involvement in round one of the Concacaf Champions League.
It’s a busy time for soccer in North America, something that can normally be taken as a given with the compactness of schedules and availability of players. What Gregg Berhalter has worked with during a training camp that opened earlier this month in Orlando is a set of talent that includes World Cup experience with Shaq Moore, a player involved in a big free agent signing in MLS with Miles Robinson joining FC Cincinnati, and an established USMNT player’s brother getting an opportunity with Timothy Tillman called up, among other stories.
What this might mean against a Slovenian side also called up out of window makes this an interesting scenario. As with all friendlies like these, it’s a two-part question. What can these players do in this specific situation, and what might they show in an opportunity when the full squad is available? As familiar as that might sound, the specifics change with every version of a January camp.
DeJuan Jones, who just signed a new contract with the New England Revolution, is another part of a defense with Moore, Miles Robinson, and James Sands, who have seen time with the senior squad. They know the type of expectations these opportunities carry under Berhalter and can stabilize a USMNT defense in front of a group of goalkeepers where none have a senior cap. That takes nothing away from Drake Callendar, Roman Celentano, and MLS Cup winner Patrick Schulte. Instead, it speaks to the strength of the goalkeeping pool and underlines what is a hallmark for the USMNT.
Moving up the formation, the midfield is always an interesting situation for any group of USMNT players. Designing around first choice, it’s a requirement that the wings especially can do work on both ends of the field. That isn’t easy, the kind of assignment that can quickly show how much work might be necessary. Again, we’re describing more than simple scenario play like at an All-Star Game. Instead, it’s a group knowing what they can show here could resonate.
That’s especially true for another group with no caps at the senior level. With Cade Cowell leaving to complete his move to Chivas, the remaining listed forwards have no appearances for the USMNT. That’s another part of this group to underline for Saturday’s friendly: a clear chance for one or more players to create their opportunity with the United States.
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