U-23 analysis

A look at the U.S. U-23 roster for the November camp in Spain

The U.S. U-23 roster for November is out and there aren't many surprises. Instead, Kreis is beginning to settle in on the core of his team - which has a lot of experience both professionally and with youth World Cups. ASN's Brian Sciaretta takes a look. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 07, 2019
5:00 PM
UNITED STATES U-23 national team head coach Jason Kreis unveiled his 25-player roster for the team’s upcoming camp in Spain where it will face Brazil on November 14 and then either Argentina or Chile on November 17.

So far, this marks the team’s fifth camp of the cycle – which began in March just days after Kreis was hired. It is an experienced group that will feature five players who have been capped by the U.S. national team and 14 players which have represented the United States in a youth World Cup.

Here the roster followed by a breakdown

The Roster

(Club; Hometown; U-23 Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.; 2/0), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes; Alamo, Calif.; 4/0), Brady Scott (Köln/GER; Petaluma, Calif.; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Stoke City/ENG; Southend-On-Sea, England; 11/1); Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls; New York, N.Y.; 1/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.; 2/0), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.; 2/0), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; Bear, Del.; 2/0), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich/GER; Birmingham, Ala.; 1/0), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic; Liverpool, England; 2/0), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.; 1/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; Medford, N.J.; 1/0), Christian Cappis (Hobro/DEN; Katy, Texas; 1/0), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.; 2/0), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven/NED; Phoenix, Ariz.; 1/0), Alex Mendez (Ajax/NED; Los Angeles, Calif.; 2/0), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; Lemont, Ill.; 4/0), James Sands (New York City FC; Rye, N.Y.; 0/0)

FORWARDS (6): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.; 2/0), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.; 2/2), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.; 1/1), Emmanuel Sabbi (Hobro IK/DEN; Libertyville, Ill.; 2/0), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah; 1/0), Mason Toye (Minnesota United FC; South Orange, N.J.; 2/2)

The emerging core

Jason Kreis told ASN that head of the October camp he was still evaluating players in his player pool. Now Kreis with this camp, it very much looks like Kreis is beginning to settle in on his core. The only player on this roster who was not called up to the U-23 level before was NYCFC midfielder James Sands.

When you look at the players who are on this team, combine it with the players who are injured (Paxton Pomykal, Miles Robinson, Sebastian Soto, Chris Gloster) and with some of the players Kreis might be able to pry away from the full national team for qualifying (Reggie Cannon, Jackson Yueill or the elite group of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, Tim Weah, or Tyler Adams) that is essentially your pool of players for the U-23 team.

But the core group and the one that will provide leadership and set the team culture and tone are the ones that are now being called up regularly and playing for Kreis.

Matt Freese in goal. Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, Chris Richards and Aaron Herrera in defense. Hassani Dotson, Richard Ledezma, Alex Mendez, Brenden Aaronson, and Djordje Mihaillovic in the midfield. Jonathan Lewis, Brooks Lennon, Sebastian Saucedo, and Mayson Toye.

That group seems to comprise of the team’s core and they that will be sprinkled in with whatever Kreise can get from either Berhalter’s group or get released from their clubs – which is always tricky since clubs are never required to release players for youth national teams.

Carter-Vickers & Robinson bring experience

The addition of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Antonee Robinson is very important to this team. In both of those players, they will get vast sums of experience in needed positions such as central defense and left back.

Still only 21, Carter-Vickers brings over 6100 minutes of experience in the English Championship. He’s also played nearly 1000 minutes in English domestic cups, eight appearances with the U.S. national team, and two U-20 World Cup quarterfinal runs. That is professional experience that is rare among any youth national team for a central defender. At this level, defense is key and Carter-Vickers will be a massive addition.

Meanwhile, Antonee Robinson is coming off a month in October where he was named by many publications to the Championship team of the month for his outstanding work with Wigan. While Chris Gloster has done well for this team at left back, Robinson is now in his third season as a first-team starter in the Championship (with over 6000 minutes in his career) and he is also showing significant improvement at the start of this season.

If you assume that Reggie Cannon will likely drop down from the full national team for Olympic qualifying, having a backline that consists of Robinson, Cannon, Carter-Vickers and another central defender yet to be decided, it makes for the most experienced backline in U.S. U-23 history. Heading into a challenging environment in Mexico, that is a good thing.

Notable Omissions

The roster is solid and loaded with experience, but of course there were probably some tough decisions for Kreis to make and we don’t yet know if it is due to any player being denied a release yet for his club.

Uly Llanez was not on the team but no player who is eligible for the upcoming 2021 U-20 team and the 2024 Olympic team was called up. No one on this roster is playing up an Olympic cycle (which is typically rare and hard to do). That would also include Internacional’s Johnny Cardoso, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa, and LA Galaxy right back Julian Araujo who have played with this team this cycle but also have 2021 U-20 eligibility.

Llanez is the one who gets the most attention given his goal scoring output at the youth levels at Wolfsburg and the door might not be shut on him this cycle, but the current group might favor older players.

Also, in the same boat would be Matko Miljevic, a player who Tab Ramos wanted to bring into his final U-20 roster in September but had his release denied by his club, Argentinos Juniors. Miljevic has been starting games for the club which leads the Argentine Primera but is also U-20 eligible.

Among the players who are not playing up, Brandon Servania is perhaps the biggest omission after having a big season with FC Dallas where he played a critical role in getting the team to the playoffs. Servania also was part of the U.S. U-20 World Cup team this summer where he scored against eventual champions, Ukraine, and drew a penalty against Qatar. 

Setting the table

This will be the final camp of this year for the U-23 team. This will essentially set the stage for an extended January camp to gel the core. Then after that, there might only be one more warm-up camp ahead of qualifying. So while qualifying is nearly five months away, there is not much time.

The number of players in the pools seems to be shrinking every camp. But this camp will be a critical time for players to make their case to Kreis. The opponents are some of the most historically powerful national team programs in the world. A good performance against Brazil, Argentina, or Chile likely will earn a player a place on the team.

It is hard to think there will be a bigger stage for the players ahead of qualifying than the one in this window.

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