A look at the U.S. U-23 preliminary roster and predicting the team
February 26, 2020
THE PRELIMINARY OLYMPIC Qualifying roster for the United States U-23 team was made public today and the list consisted of very few surprises. Just about every player on the team has had significant youth national team experience in major tournaments and many have spent time under Jason Kreis with the U.S. U-23 team in 2019.
Here is the roster and here are several thoughts on it.
- 1) Justin Glad (Real Salt Lake)
- 2) David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake)*
- 3) Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake)
- 4) Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union)
- 5) Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)
- 6) Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls)
- 7) Omir Fernandez (New York Red Bulls)
- 8) Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas)
- 9) Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union)*
- 10) Chris Gloster (PSV Eindhoven)
- 11) Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven)
- 12) Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids)
- 13) JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes)*
- 14) Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union)
- 15) Benjamin Michel (Orlando City)
- 16) Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas)
- 17) Brandon Servania (FC Dallas)
- 18) Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids)
- 19) Indiana Vassilev (Aston Villa)
- 20) Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)
- 21) Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
- 22) Josh Perez (unattached)
- 23) Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire)
- 24) Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg)
- 25) Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United)
- 26) Mason Toye (Minnesota United)
- 27) Drake Callender (Inter Miami)*
- 28) Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers)
- 29) Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers)
- 30) Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy)
- 31) Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Wien)
- 32) Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona)
- 33) Sebastian Soto (Pumas)
- 34) Cameron Carter-Vickers (Luton Town)
- 35) Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
- 36) Alex Mendez (Ajax)
- 37) Luca de la Torre (Fulham)
- 38) Sebastian Soto (Hannover)
- 39) Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati)
- 40) Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United)
- 41) Emmanuel Sabbi (Hobro)
- 42) Christian Cappis (Hobro)
- 43) James Sands (New York City FC)
- 44) Keaton Parks (New York City FC)
- 45) Derrick Jones (Nashville SC)
- 46) Chris Durkin (Sint Truiden VV)
- 47) Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew SC)
- 48) Brady Scott (FC Koln)*
- 49 Chris Richards (Bayern Munich)
- 50) Miles Robinson (Atlanta United)
Few surprises but releases remain top issue
So overall, the roster was very logical – which is good. But it doesn’t answer a few of the team’s lingering questions regarding the release of players. The rules are fairly straight forward: clubs are never required to release players for youth national teams, even if they fall in a FIFA window. While the window might make clubs more agreeable to releasing players, it is never mandatory.
For this tournament, the U.S. team will play its first, and perhaps most important, game before the start of the international window vs, Costa Rica on March 20. The window will open from March 23-30. If the U.S. team advances to the final (which is meaningless in terms of qualifying), it will end on April 1.
While it is easy to see U.S. Soccer being willing to release some players between the semifinal and final, should it advance that far, the chances are that U.S. Soccer will need the cooperation of clubs to release all players for before a significant period before the window opens.
That being said, the top young European-based players are not on this roster: Christian Pulisic, Sergino Dest, Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent, and Weston Mckennie. If these players are healthy, they will be with the full national team in March for friendlies against Holland and Wales.
MLS teams have been willing to cooperate in the past although Atlanta United has shown signs of reluctance and questions over the release of Miles Robinson and Brooks Lennon are legit.
Also, this tournament also would potentially crush FC Dallas by removing almost its entire core (Jesus Ferreira, Paxton Pomyka, Reggie Cannon, and Brandon Servania). Being such a hotbed of top young American players, Dallas will want release players but also get them back as quick as possible.
Among the European-based, Uly Llanez should be released as he was recently granted a release from January camp. But many key U-23 Euro-based players in recent camps have also not been playing first team soccer: Richard Ledezma, Alex Mendez, Chris Gloster, Chris Richards, Sebastian Soto. For the clubs of these players, there is an advantage for releasing them in that it gives them meaningful games that they aren’t yet getting for their clubs.
The big issue for European releases, should Kreis want to select them, will come down to the Hobro duo of Christian Cappis and Emmanuel Sabbi, Luton Town’s Cameron Carter-Vickers, and St. Truiden’s Chris Durkin.
Hobro in the Danish Superliga and Luton Town in the English Championship are both in tight relegation battles and Cappis, Sabbi, and Carter-Vickers are regular starters. St. Truiden would probably be more willing to release Durkin but since he is a regular starter, it is not settled.
To keep an eye on the birth years, as many would suspect that this roster favors older players. That might not be how the roster ends up, but it generally declines as it gets younger. The exception being the 2000-birth year which is shaping up to be a productive year.
1997 (18): Glad, Herrera, Duncan, Lewis, Marcinkowski, Michel, Yueill, Dotson, Callender, Ebobisse, Palmer-Brown, Saucedo, Carter-Vickers, Lennon, Sabbi, Parks, Jones, Robinson
1998 (9): Cannon, Freese, Trusty, Perez, Mihailovic, Toye, Farfan, de la Torre, Vazquez
1999 (7): Fernandez, Pomykal, McKenzie, Servania, Vines, Cappis, Scott
2000 (10): Aaronson, Ferreira, Gloster, Ledezma, Medez, Soto, Sands, Durkin, Keita, Richards
2001*(5): de la Fuente, Ochoa, Vassilev, Araujo, Llanez
* denotes players eligible for next U-23 cycle in 2024
Vassilev and Reyna
Two of the more surprising picks were Indiana Vassilev and Gio Reyna who are both eligible for the 2024 U.S. U-23 team.
Reyna was on the roster but won’t be called as Gregg Berhalter already announced that the Dormund-based prodigy will play for the full national team in March.
#usmnt coach Gregg Berhalter tells me that (no surprise) Giovanni Reyna will be called in for next months friendlies against the Netherlands s Wales.— Doug McIntyre (@ByDougMcIntyre) February 26, 2020
Vassilev had seen some first team minutes in the Premier League with Aston Villa but that has trailed off as players have returned from injury. Vassilev, 18, has never played with the U.S. U-23 team. The 2017 U.S. U-17 midfielder is eligible for the U-20 team this cycle and that is where he is most likely to play. The U-20 team will be playing in Portugal in March with games against Portugal and France.
Vassilev could sneak on the U-23 team but probably if there are injuries or release issues to other attacking midfielders.
Projecting the U-23 qualifying team
What does the most likely Olympic qualifying team look like based off this provisional list. The roster size is 17 field players plus three goal keepers. Here is how I have it now:
- 1) David Ochoa (GK)
- 2) JT Marcinkowski (GK)
- 3) Matt Freese (GK)
- 4) Reggie Cannon (Captain)
- 5) Julian Araujo
- 6) Erik Palmer-Brown
- 7) Chris Richards
- 8) Mark McKenzie
- 9) Sam Vines
- 10) Chris Gloster
- 11) Jackson Yueill
- 12) Brandon Servania
- 13) Paxton Pomykal
- 14) Brendan Aaronson
- 15) Richard Ledezma
- 16) Jonathan Lewis
- 17) Uly Llanez
- 18) Sebastian Saucedo
- 19) Jeremy Ebobisse
- 20) Jesus Ferreira
At this point, I don’t see Hobro as willing to release players during its critical relegation battle. I think the same is true for Cameron Carter-Vickers. Miles Robinson’s timeline is still cutting it too close.
I might have to drop Brandon Servania and Paxton Pomykal soon as well if they are not back soon for FC Dallas. If Pomykal can’t go, look for Mendez to come in. If Servania can’t go, it’ll be either Hassani Dotson and Chris Durkin.