Olympic qualifying roster
Kreis names Olympic qualifying roster with Cannon, Ledezma, Ferreira leading way
March 08, 2020
UNITED STATES U-23 national team head coach Jason Kreis today announced his roster for the 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament which will take place in Guadalajara from March 20 through April 1. The U.S. team will be attempting to qualify for his first Olympics since 2008.
The roster was largely predictable and it reflects five previous U-23 team camps along with a full national team January camp that was largely U-23 based.
It also faced the normal constraints and challenges when putting together a youth national team roster. Clubs are never required to release players for youth national team duty – even when it takes place during the international window. The older the age group, the more challenging it becomes because by the U-23 age, most players have developed into key players for their clubs. As a result, players like Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent, Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, and Giovanni Reyna were never possible.
But qualifying for the Olympics is seen as an important for U.S Soccer and the tournament helps bridge the gap for key youth players to transition into full national team players. With the U.S. national team still in a state of transition, having more prepared younger players would be welcome news.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes; Alamo, Calif.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (6):Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; Grapevine, Texas), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Chris Gloster (PSV Eindhoven/NED; Montclair, N.J.), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; LasCruces, N.M.), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; Bear, Del.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Wien/AUT; Lee’s Summit, Mo.)
MIDFIELDERS (6):Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; Medford, N.J.), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United; Federal Way, Wash.), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven/NED; Phoenix, Ariz.), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; Lemont, Ill.), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; Highland Village, Texas), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)
FORWARDS (5):Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg/GER; Lynwood, Calif.), Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah)
- March 20: USA vs. Costa Rica
- March 23: USA vs. Dominican Republic
- March 26: USA vs. Mexico
- March 30: Semifinal
- April 1: Final
While there was a lot of wondering whether or not MLS teams would release players, Jason Kreis got most of the players he wanted from his country’s domestic league.
Colorado’s Sam Vines and Atlanta United’s Brooks Lennon are the two players not on this roster that are obvious question marks regarding situations where their clubs might have denied a release. Atlanta United has already said that they are not releasing players unless mandated by FIFA. That also likely would have impacted Miles Robinson if he was healthy, but the central defender is injured at the moment. The only other injury at the moment is Dallas midfielder Brandon Servania who earned his first national team cap at the conclusion of January camp.
Until Kreis meets with the media, there is no way of knowing who was cut and who wasn’t released. There is also the possibility that some clubs were willing to release players late and Kreis needed his players to be part of the longer preparation. But there are some players who will likely come up in Monday’s conference call.
Chris Richards: The Bayern Munich II central defender has been a regular starter for the German giant’s reserve team in the 3.Liga. Richards was a standout at the 2019 U-20 World Cup.
Keaton Parks: The New York City FC midfielder was left off the 2017 U-20 World Cup team but has done well at New York since moving there from Benfica. His likely competition for a spot on this roster was with Djordje Mihailovic. But NYCFC’s run in the Champions League likely affected his release.
Alex Mendez: The playmaker at Jong Ajax was important to the 2019 U.S. U-20 team but he probably lost out on a numbers game in attacking midfield.
Christian Cappis: A big and physical midfielder who is also skillful on the ball, Cappis is in the middle of a relegation battle in Denmark with Hobro. His spot likely went to Hassani Dotson who can provide cover at the fullback positions.
Emmanuel Sabbi: Like Cappis, he is in a relegation battle with Hobro but it is unclear if he was rated by Kreis.
Kyle Duncan: The New York Red Bulls right back has done very well to start the 2020 season - and this comes on the heels of strong performances to close the 2019 season. He appeared to have lost to Aaron Herrera as the backup fullback.
How will the team will lineup?
The first game is seen as crucial by the U.S. team. A win over Costa Rica will likely bode extremely well for the team’s chances of advancing to the knockout stage. A loss would put it into a very difficult situation. Kreis won’t be able to start his first-choice team every game he’ll want the best lineup in the first game.
The backline is pretty clear. Reggie Cannon is the starting right back and he brings solid full national team experience with him. Chris Gloster is the only set left back on the roster and he should start. Central defense will have Erik Palmer-Brown likely starting with either Justen Glad or Mark McKenzie.
Midfield will have Jackson Yueill as the deeper No. 6. In the attacking midfield positions, Richard Ledezma is poised to be a starter. The other midfielder will depend on the fitness of Paxton Pomykal who is back to playing for Dallas but has been subbing into games after missing preseason due to recovering from injury. If Pomykal is not fully fit, Brenden Aaronson or Djordje Mihailovic will start.
In the attack, Kreis has a few different options. The most likely lineup would have Jesus Ferreira at forward with Uly Llanez and Bofo Saucedo as wingers. But Saucedo and Ferreira can also play in the No. 10 roles. Jeremy Ebobisse is a central forward and winger who brings a stronger physical presence to the front line.
The biggest question for this team is goalkeeping. None of the three goalkeepers named are close to earning regular minutes for their respective clubs. David Ochoa is also the starter for the U.S. U-20 team at the moment. It is an unsettled position and any of the options in Matt Freese, J.T. Marcinkowski, or Ochoa could start.
Overall, the roster is fairly strong. It has the talent to qualify and many of the players have experience playing with each other. But this is a tough tournament to qualify for. Only the top two team from the region make it (compared with four for the U-17 and U-20 World Cups) and there is no margin for error. But the U.S. team should be considered a contender to qualify for Tokyo. It’s last two U-20 teams have won CONCACAF and the number of players playing regularly will help.