USYNT analysis: U-23 roster announced, U.S U-17s strong start
November 14, 2023
THERE WAS A lot of news with youth national teams the past two days with the U-17 World Cup getting underway and Marko Mitrovic announcing the roster for his second U.S. Olympic team camp being held in Spain during the November window.
Let’s get right into it.
U.S Olympic team roster: November camp
Here is the roster for the team’s second camp and some thoughts about it.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Christopher Brady (Chicago Fire FC; Naperville, Ill.), John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; Bakersfield, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (6): George Campbell (CF Montreal/CAN; Atlanta, Ga.), Maximilian Dietz (Greuther Fürth/GER; Frankfurt, Germany), Nathan Harriel (Philadelphia Union; Oldsmar, Fla.), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo/BEL; Fort Worth, Texas), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.), Jonathan Tomkinson (Bradford City/ENG; Plano, Texas)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Joshua Atencio (Seattle Sounders FC; Bellevue, Wash.) Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; Littleton, Colo.), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; Greensboro, N.C.), Benja Cremaschi (Inter Miami CF; Key Biscayne, Fla.), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Queens, N.Y.), Tanner Tessmann (Venezia/ITA; Birmingham, Ala.)
FORWARDS (6): Agustin Anello (Sparta Rotterdam/NED; Miami, Fla.), Esmir Bajraktarevic (New England Revolution; Appleton, Wisc.), Taylor Booth (Utrecht/NED; Eden, Utah), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; Ceres, Calif.), Johan Gomez (Eintracht Braunschweig/GER; Keller, Texas), Bernard Kamungo (FC Dallas; Abilene, Texas)
Many notable absences
The roster was mostly expected but there were some absences that immediately stood out, some which were expected and some which weren’t. ASN has learned there were changes to the roster throughout the weekend and even on Monday, the day the roster was released.
Many of the key players among the final eight MLS teams are not there. Columbus Crew midfielder Aidan Morris and goalkeeper Patrick Schulte were not released along with Orlando City forward Duncan McGuire. A few of the remaining teams released players (like Philadelphia with Jack McGlynn and Seattle with Jack Atencio).
Then there are those who are on the November roster for the USMNT including players like Paxten Aaronson and Gaga Slonina who are likely to be in contention for the U-23 team as well.
But there are notable absences among players who are not with the USMNT or on one of the remaining MLS teams.
Diego Luna was an absence that took people by surprise but local reports indicate Luna asked out of the camp after RSL’s difficult elimination over the weekend. ASN has heard similar details that he picked up an injury in the last game.
Caleb Wiley also saw his Atlanta United team eliminated over the weekend and did not make the U-23 roster after playing in the September camp. Wiley, 18, played over 2600 minutes in the MLS season. Combined with cup play and the youth national teams, he played over 3000 minutes in 2023. ASN heard he was dealing with various knocks towards the end of the season and is resting after this season.
Rokas Pukstas: The Hajduk Split midfielder is a regular starter with his club and is playing well in 2023, but also recently missed two months due to injury. He has returned to the field over the past two weeks. It hasn’t been made clear why he was not on the roster, Hajduk also has the right to deny a release.
Brian Gutierrez was one of the top young players in MLS this season and was part of the October U-23 camp. The Chicago Fire’s season has long been over and he’s not in this camp. His absence was one of the biggest surprises.
Most of the names included on the roster are known from the October camp. But there are some noteworthy inclusions among the newcomers.
Josh Atencio is the most interesting newcomer given that he has never spent much time with U.S. youth national teams before and that he has been playing very well for the Seattle Sounders down the stretch. He has taken over a starting role and is contributing to his team’s surge into the playoffs and through the first round. The Sounders didn’t have to release Atencio but probably realized releasing him would give him his only realistic chance of making the playoffs. If he missed this camp, he would have played in either of the team’s first two camps (and there are only four before next summer).
Agustin Anello will make his first appearance for the United States at any level. Last year he won the Croatian Cup on loan at Hajduk Split and this summer he transferred to the Eredivisie with Sparta Rotterdam. The wing position is deep and Anello has tough competition, but he has been pushing a chance internationally and should have the motivation to take it.
Cole Bassett arrives in this camp after not making the cut in October despite having ended the season very well with Colorado, which was a tough place to stand out. He’s would have been a big part of the U.S. U-20 team during the COVID cancelled cycle in 2021 and had an unsuccessful stint in Europe. But this camp should be a fresh start for Bassett who has a tough but doable climb to make the Olympic team.
Other roster thoughts
This roster is probably one of the last chances for players to make a positive first impression. As Marko Mitrovic has said, he wants to move quickly. After this, there are just two more camps before next summer. By the start of 2024, Mitrovic will want to shift focus from player evaluation to team building. Yes, there is room for a late emerger, but most of the focus will be on building the team’s chemistry and playing a more sophisticated style. Also next year, Mitrovic will want to have his overage players options identified.
The roster for the Olympics is small at 18 players with three being overage options. While Mitrovic doesn’t want to admit it, there are probably several players who are close to locks. This leaves many players fighting for limited spaces.
So where are the key roster battles?
Central defense is the biggest weakness that is certainly to be addressed with overage options. The question is whether Mitrovic uses one or two overage central defenders. That puts pressure on the central defenders in this camp (Maximillian Dietz, George Campbell, Jonathan Tomkinson) to prove that they can compete. Plus, Jalen Neal is injured but likely to get a look in 2024.
The wing position isn’t completely set either. Bernard Kamungo was one of the big winners at the October camp and Taylor Booth is in the plans too. But there are questions whether Paxten Aaronson or Kevin Paredes will shift down to the U-23 team from the USMNT in 2024 (the likelihood is that Aaronson probably will). This means Cade Cowell and Agustin Anello have pressure to perform well in this camp.
Overall, this roster is another step forward for Mitrovic in terms of evaluation. When you look at his October roster, this roster, a few players on the USMNT from the last two camps who could potentially drop down, and a few players such as Neal who have been hurt, this is essentially the U-23 player pool.
Now it’s about whittling that down to 15 players and then finding three overage players to supplement the group.
U.S. U-17’s preps for Burkina Faso
The United States U-17 national team defeated South Korea 3-1 on Sunday in an impressive first step at the U-17 World Cup.
The big story was Nimfasha Berchimas, the Charlotte FC homegrown who dominated and scored the team’s first and third goals. He then was part of the build-up to the team’s second after his short forced a rebound that was put home by Cruz Medina.
“He's a very confident kind and obviously you can see his qualities,” head coach Gonzalo Segares said about Berchimas after the game. “Charlotte has done a great job to build him up. He also shows his personality. We have to give him that opportunity to just be free and go at the opponents because he can make things happen. Today, he showed that.”
Berchimas is the youngest player on the team at 15 years old (a 2008-born) and is playing up a cycle at the U-17 level – which is a terrific accomplishment that is rare. But then to dominate while playing up a cycle is another matter altogether.
“I wouldn't care how old you are. I don't care. If I play, I have to play hard. It has to be positive,” Berchimas said after the win when asked about his age. “It feels really good that I played with the USA and the team is really family so I felt really comfortable. We did really well today and we found a way to win. I'm very happy.”
¡Goooooooooool de Estados Unidos! ????????????????????????— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) November 12, 2023
Abre el marcador Nimfasha Berchimas por @USYNT
???????? Rep. de Corea 0 - 1 Estados Unidos ????????
EN VIVO por @NBCUniverso y por???? Telemundo APP ?? https://t.co/ZlR5RlITbM#MundialTelemundo #U17WC #Indonesia2023 pic.twitter.com/og2aoWyROB
The good news for the U.S. team is that they improved significantly in the second after Segares made some important tactical changes, such as playing through two holding midfielders as opposed to just one. This helped the team in possession and in pressing.
But looking ahead, Burkina Faso will be a tough test and it was a team that came out of African qualifying in impressive fashion including a win over Nigeria in the CAF U-17 quarterfinals. Burkina Faso lost to France 3-0 in their opener but the game was closer than the score indicated as France scored twice through penalties after the 83rd minute to pull away. But Burkina Faso had their opportunities.
“We need to move quickly to get the boys physically and mentally ready. Today was mentally draining with a roller coaster of emotions,” Segares said. “Something we talked about in the precamp in Bali was that we need to learn how to suffer. We're not always going to be in the possession of the ball. Sometimes we have to be content with that to stay organized. Today, there were lapses where we needed to do that. We were able to exploit the transition moments. With the quality and the speed we have up front, it was great for us.”