Friday kickoff

U -20 roster breakdown, Wednesday in MLS analysis, Venezia close to Serie A, & more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta kicks off your weekend with a look at the new U.S. U-20 roster, MLS thoughts, and Venezia nearing promotion to Serie A. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 31, 2024
6:00 AM

A BUSY WEDNESDAY has brought us to an equally busy Thursday. We have another roster to breakdown – this time the new U-20 roster for the final camp before U-20 World Cup qualifying in July. We also have notes from a nearly full slate of MLS games on Wednesday night, and some news abroad.

Let’s start with Michael Nsien’s U-20 roster (which is called the U-19 team until after U-20 World Cup qualifying but was historically the U-20 team).


Analysis: June U-20 roster

The Roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adam Beaudry (Colorado Rapids; Castle Pines, Colo.), Gavin Beavers (Real Salt Lake; Henderson, Nev.), Julian Eyestone (Unattached; Dallas, Texas)

DEFENDERS (8): Matai Akinmboni (D.C. United; Upper Marlboro, Md.), Luca Bombino (LAFC; Saugus, Calif.), Noah Cobb (Atlanta United FC; Chattanooga, Tenn.), Aiden Harangi (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; Reston, Va.), Stuart Hawkins (Seattle Sounders FC; Fox Island, Wash.), Ethan Kohler (SV Werder Bremen/GER; Campbell, Calif.), Drew Murray (SC Freiburg/GER; San Jose, Calif.), Nolan Norris (FC Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Taha Habroune (Columbus Crew; Columbus, Ohio), Cruz Medina (San Jose Earthquakes; San Francisco, Calif.), Sergio Oregel Jr. (Chicago Fire FC; Chicago, Ill.), Brooklyn Raines (Houston Dynamo FC; Chicago, Ill.), Paulo Rudisill (Feyenoord/NED; Irvine, Calif.), Pedro Soma (UE Cornella/ESP; Coconut Creek, Fla.), Niko Tsakiris (San Jose Earthquakes; Saratoga, Calif.)

FORWARDS (6): Nimfasha Berchimas (Charlotte FC; High Point, N.C.), Keyrol Figueroa (Liverpool/ENG; Warrington, England), Kristian Fletcher (D.C. United; Bowie, Md.), Zavier Gozo (Real Salt Lake; Eagle Mountain, Utah), David Vazquez (Philadelphia Union; Los Angeles, Calif.), Marcos Zambrano (Vitoria Guimaraes/POR; Gladwyne, Pa.)


Berchimas & Figueroa in


The big takeaway from the roster is that Nimfa Berchimas, 16, was called into camp. He was last with U.S. Soccer in December when he played up a cycle at the U-17 World Cup and enjoyed a breakout performance. Having recently turned 16, Berchimas will be in the younger birth year for the 2027 World Cup.  

But as Michael Nsien told ASN last week, he wants to see if Berchimas can do it at an older age group. Berchimas has already made his MLS debut with Charlotte.

"He had a very good last year and it was just like -  man, he's rising a lot," Nsien said of Berchimas. "Then he's had some minutes with the first team, and now he's spending a lot of time with the second team. I think it's important to evaluate him as well at this time and see where he's at. I think a lot of his game is obviously built on resiliency and being able to beat players one on one. I would like to know if he could do it at the U-19, U-20 level as well and put him in that situation. A player like him is definitely on our radar... It's about do they come in and do they have the confidence against players of a bit older age? That's kind of that American spirit that we want anyways - you come in a couple of years younger, it doesn't matter. You're here for a reason. Go show us why you're here."

This will also mark the return of Keyrol Figueroa, 17, to U.S. Soccer for the first time since the U-17 World Cup. The impressive forward recently signed his first professional contract with Liverpool.


Notable absences


It remains to be seen if Esmir Bajraktarevic or Benja Cremaschi will make the U.S. Olympic team but both of those players are in the Olympic camp this month despite being top U-20 players.

The Seattle duo of Obed Vargas and Reed Baker-Whiting were also not named and it could likely be due to a conflict with the Seattle Sounders. Vargas is considered one of the top U-20 players for this cycle.

Why did Baker-Whiting and Vargas decline? Well, Seattle is up against it right now. One win from seven home games, sitting in 10th, outside the playoffs. Reed Baker-Whiting is still getting his fitness back and is looking to build a case to start. Vargas, meanwhile, is well versed in U-20 international soccer. He can join the U-20 team at any time and fit in. These upcoming Seattle games are more important than a U-20 camp.

Finally, Borussia Dortmund Cole Campbell has big games remaining for Borussia Dortmund’s U-19 team. The former Icelandic youth international had a breakout camp in March. Barcelona goalkeeper Diego Kochen is also not present.

On the injury front, Josh Wynder has returned to the field from a lengthy absence for Benfica but this camp came too soon for him. Having been a starter at the 2023 U-20 World Cup, Wynder is a key player for this team.

These players are all likely starters on a top choice U-20 team. We will see if Nsien can get them for qualifying.


World Cup qualifying fast approaching 

U-20 World Cup qualifying gets underway in July, less than two months away. Between this camp and the March camp, Nsien probably has a good idea as to who will make up most of his roster.

The March camp was a good learning process and this team will not have as much time before qualifying as previous U-20 teams.

The real question comes down to who is released and will Nsien get his first choice players?


Wednesday night MLS thoughts


There were two very big upsets in the league on Wednesday. The first came from Nashville who went into Cincinnati and left with a 2-0 lead. U.S. Olympic overage centerback Walker Zimmerman was very good in this game for the 66 minutes he was on the field. Nashville did a great job containing Cincinnati’s star young Venezuelan forward Kevin Kelsy.

Nashville has begun to turn the corner since Gary Smith was fired but we will see how much further they go with interim manager Rumba Munthali.

Cincinnati continues to be in strong shape. There is nothing to suggest this was anything more than a blimp.

Meanwhile, I figured Gonzalo Pineda was toast in Atlanta because the team has been playing so poorly, there are high expectations at this club, and a win in Miami on Wednesday is unlikely given Miami was going to have Lionel Messi and friends back for this game.

But Atlanta came away with a 3-1 away win. Is this the start of an Atlanta turnaround? Maybe. This was a huge win. I’d imagine that Pineda’s leash is still short for a few weeks.


Seattle squandered a late equalizer to Real Salt Lake in a 1-1 draw and the Sounders have now only one once in seven games. Things are not right in Seattle. There is often a thin line between wins and losses, and Seattle is coming up on the wrong end every time.


The Red Bulls defeated Charlotte 3-1 and were a bit lucky The first half of the game it was all Charlotte, who hit the post and botched a 1v1. But after a long weather delay, the Red Bulls flipped the switch and were dominant. The Red Bulls are still trying to find their way under the new staff, but they’re ahead of schedule.

Philadelphia and Toronto drew 0-0. The Union continues to be a step behind at home. You have to think Jim Curtin will figure it out. Toronto has slowly improved and if they get into the playoffs, they’ll be harder when DP’s become more of a factor.

Chicago’s 1-1 draw with Orlando at home was terrible. Chicago and New England are the two worst teams in the league. Orlando, however, is arguably the most disappointing.


The only clubs that can claim to be more disappointing than Orlando are Atlanta and Dallas. Dallas was completely outplayed in a 3-1 loss to the Galaxy. The Galaxy have improved significantly from last season’s disappointment.

Portland went to Austin FC and came away with an impressive 2-0 away win. I didn’t see this coming but Portland just let their starts do their thing. Evander’s free kick was amazing.

Houston might not have a lot of fire power, but they have enough talent to win games. The 3-1 win over Colorado was not surprising. Colorado is improved, but they aren’t good enough to win on the road against a decent team when they’re not at their best.

Finally, LAFC defeating Minnesota 2-0 is a sign things are returning to normal. Minnesota had a hot start, probably due to a chip on the shoulder with Emmanuel Reynoso’s debacle and Teemu Pukki’s inconsistency, but they don’t have the talent and are returning to normal. LAFC had a poor start but they have too much talent to struggle. They now have four wins in a row.

Speaking of Reynoso, he’s gone. Finally. He is now the problem for Club Tijuana.



Young Americans in MLS


When looking at USYNT-eligible players in MLS in Wednesday’s midweek games, there were some good performances.

Caleb Wiley had perhaps his best game of the season for Atlanta in the 3-1 away win over Inter Miami. It was a stunning win and the teenage American left back assisted on the final Atlanta goal. He has a very high ceiling, but it is just putting everything together.


John Tolkin and Wiley are both looking to make the U.S. Olympic team as the starting left back. Tolkin also had a very good game in the 3-1 win over Charlotte.

Jalen Neal also continues to shake off the rust and improve after a long injury layoff and he is one of the better young American central defenders. He helped oversee the Galaxy’s 3-1 win over Dallas.

One of the best young Americans in the league this season has been Obed Vargas. Seattle has struggled but anything the Sounders have done well has come through Vargas.

I really like Gavin Beavers as a goalkeeping prospect, and he made four big saves for Real Salt Lake in the 1-1 draw away to Seattle. Beavers, Adam Beaudry, and Diego Kochen make for three very good keepers at the U-20 level. Between those two along with Patrick Schulte, Gaga Slonina, and Chris Brady at the Olympic level, the goalkeeping position has a lot of potential.



Venezia get important draw


In the Serie B promotional final, Venezia traveled to Cremonese in the first leg and left with a 0-0 draw. Now everything will be decided in the second leg in Venice on Sunday. Both U.S. Olympic midfielders Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio started for Venezia with Tessmann going the full 90 and Busio playing 60 minutes.


The good news for Venezia is that this is a result they would have taken in advance. The bad news is that they got it by virtue of their goalkeeper, Finland's Jesse Joronen, making 11 saves. Even if they need Joronen to make six saves in the second leg, that’s asking a lot. They are going to have to play much better.

Regardless, Tessmann continues to play well and played a big role in keeping this game even heading back to Venice.


Austin lands DP winger Bukari


Finally, Austin FC made a splash in signing Osman Bukari, 25, from Red Star Belgrade. After unloading Emiliano Rigoni, Austin had a DP spot available and used it on Bukari.

Bukari has won two straight Serbian league titles and was an impact player in the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League. For Ghana's national team, he has 17 caps and scored against Portugal at the 2022 World Cup.

As for Austin, they sit fifth in the Western Conference and now have needed support to help Sebastian Driussi. As I’ve always said, depth wins in the regular season and DP’s win in the playoffs. This will make Austin FC a tougher out.

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