Brandon_vazquez_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_usmnt_debut_-_january_2023_-__robert_mora_-_2 Robert Mora/ISI Photos
January camp post mortem

January camp 2023 - parting thoughts on what was accomplished

January camp is over and the U.S. team won't be back until March. ASN's Brian Sciaretta looks back on the camp and offers up his observations. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 02, 2023
5:10 AM

JANUARY CAMP is now five days in the rearview mirror and the dust has settled. We know Anthony Hudson will be running the team for the time being and possibly into this summer’s Nations League and Gold Cup tournaments. The January camp offered Hudson a few lessons in advancing the team into the summer months and it also raised a few questions.

The results were essentially meaningless. What was important is that players were given a chance to show what they could do. For the most part, it worked out.


Vazquez probably gets a look


Brandon Vazquez scored the team’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to Serbia. It was an exceptional header and it wouldn’t be surprising if Vazquez is given a look this March or this summer to show what he can do in elevated competition and on a team that is not in preseason form.


Competition at the forward position is long. In addition to the three forwards at the World Cup (Josh Sargent, Haji Wright, and Jesus Ferreira) you still have Daryl Dike, Jordan Pefok, and Ricardo Pepi knocking at the door. Vazquez would be the seventh player on that list.

But with none of the other options completely seizing the job, it’s not worth ending the competition. Vazquez will need to start the season off strongly for Cincinnati but he could conceivably make one of the two rosters this summer for either the Nation’s League or the Gold Cup.


Good start for the U-23s


At some point this year, the U.S. U-23 team will become fully operational as it builds up to the 2024 Olympics. Ahead of camp, Hudson said that this roster had an eye towards that team. Overall, enough pieces looked promising.

Cade Cowell played well in the first game. While he missed a few chances, he still was part of four very dangerous scoring opportunities (including two off the post). If Cowell was in midseason, he’d probably fare better. He is also in a good position to play a ton for San Jose this camp.

John Tolkin also earned his first camp and with over 5000 minutes over his past two seasons in New York, he brings a lot of experience. The same could be said for Aidan Morris who was good but not great against Serbia. But he is also in a great position to have a breakthrough season under Wilfried Nancy.

Paxten Aaronson and Gaga Slonina also made their national team debuts and both have only recently made the move to Europe. It seems unlikely that Eintracht Frankfurt is going to depend on Aaronson much the rest of this season (although he will likely get occasional minutes) and Slonina will likely play for Chelsea’s U-23 team through the summer. Both of these players will likely head to  the U-20 World Cup and then afterward, report to preseason. After that, it is still too early to predict when they will get regular first-team club minutes, but they look like strong bets for the U-23 team.

For many of the U-20 eligible players on this roster, it seems unlikely they will bypass the U-20 World Cup for one of the full national team tournaments this summers, despite earning their first cap.


Zendejas was a smart addition


Alejandro Zendejas, 24, was a little off but still had good moments for the team in the 2-1 loss to Serbia (before returning to Club America). He looks like a back-up wing option for the team after Pulisic, Weah, and others.

The U.S. has some important wing options emerging at the youth ranks but Zendejas could be able to put himself into that equation. At a time when he’s also played for Mexico, this reintroduces Zendejas into the U.S. setup and gives him a positive experience before he could be asked to make a permanently cap-tying appearance as soon as March.

Zendejas may or may not be good enough for the team when everyone is healthy or after other players like Kevin Paredes develop (Paredes is also a left-footed winger). But for now, he should be in the mix and getting him into this camp was a smart choice.


Zimmerman's future


Walker Zimmerman did not have a great game against Serbia but he followed it up with a very good game against Colombia where he passed really well out of the back to help set up some of the team’s best chances in the 0-0 draw. Unlike Aaron Long, who struggled mightily, Zimmerman looked as if he still has plenty of years of good soccer left.

Yes, the central defense pool is expanding. In addition to the four taken to Qatar (Zimmerman, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tim Ream, and Long) there are also options like Chris Richards, Erik Palmer-Brown, Mark McKenzie, and Miles Robinson also in the picture.

But keep an eye on Zimmerman as being a potential captain of the Olympic team. He has leadership, he has top international experience, and he is at a club that will probably release him for that. In the summer of 2024, the men’s program will play in both the Olympics and the Copa America with little chance of players playing in both tournaments. The U-23 team has a dire need of experienced central defenders and one or possible two of the overage selections will have to be used in central defense. Zimmerman seems like a no-brainer.

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