USMNT’s chaotic January camp ends in a goalless draw with Colombia


Colombia’s Cristian Arango (left) takes an effort on goal next to USA’s DeJuan Jones during the first half of an international friendly soccer match in Carson, Calif. on Saturday, January 28, 2023 (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez).

CARSON, Calif. — The U.S. men’s national team ended January camp Saturday with a goalless tie against Colombia in a physical game that left little chance for either side. Here are some takeaways from the game.

What’s next for USMNT?

Well the answer is nobody knows. Not even the United States Soccer Federation. The Gregg Berhalter investigation is already a pain point, but add in the departures of general manager Brian McBride and athletic director Earnie Stewart and we have a complete mess. What is clear is that interim coach Anthony Hudson will continue to be in charge. The CONCACAF Nations League is only two months away and things are moving fast. Building that player pool is something to look out for with all leadership news. Hate it or love it, Hudson calls the shots until further notice.

“Until I’m told otherwise, I’ll do whatever it takes to help the players, try to improve the team, try to push the style of play,” Hudson said. “We just want to keep improving things, so that’s what I’m focusing on.”

Strong MLS influence

Thirteen of the combined starters in Saturday’s friendly currently play in Major League Soccer. Four of these were on the Colombian side, with the rest representing the USMNT.

It makes sense for the January camp, especially considering this is Colombia’s only game – using players from the States just seems easier. And other than Juan Camilo “Cucho” Hernandez and maybe Cristian “Chicho” Arango, I wouldn’t expect to see many MLS players in a Colombia squad when it’s loaded. But there’s something to be said that perhaps one of their best players that night was Dylan Borrero, who is a midfielder for the New England Revolution.

On the US side, this continues to be a stage for MLS players to prove themselves. There is clearly no major direction within the federation at the moment, but players like Walker Zimmerman, Sean Johnson and Kellyn Acosta are the mainstays at the moment. Others like Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira did little to help their case in a game where both were mostly irrelevant.

If I had to pick one player who has increased his stock, it’s DeJuan Jones. He played about 30 minutes in Wednesday’s game against Serbia and went over the full 90 on Saturday. In the first half, he showed his ability to contribute to the attack which Revs fans have come to love. But he returned to a more settled defensive role in the second frame and did a solid job blocking the left flank of attack for Colombia.

“He has a lot of qualities that can really help this team – super athletic, extreme speed and he’s a physical body,” said Acosta of Jones. “He will challenge for the position of right and left defender. Promising, he just needs to keep growing and developing.”

Remarkable atmosphere

Wednesday’s USMNT game against Serbia was heavily criticized in terms of attendance, with only about 11,000 making the trip to BMO Stadium. But a midweek game against a rival like Serbia in Los Angeles would never sell many tickets.

Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park was a different story. A sold out audience of 27,000 was in Carson and the atmosphere reflected it. The majority of the crowd supported the visitors and ensured that the chants known as Colombia took over many times throughout the night. US fans tried to drown out the echoes, occasionally launching their own. The important part is that the game felt like anything but a friendly. It was loud and lively with some interruptions from short pushes and pushes. Parking lots opened four hours before kick-off and the tailgates were in full swing the entire time.

There will always be criticism as to where the USMNT plays games and why. But as momentum shifts towards the recently announced 2024 Copa America, to be staged in the US, and of course the 2026 World Cup, a crowd like Saturday’s bodes well for the future.

Don’t forget that these two teams opened the 2016 Copa America Centenario, packing nearly 70,000 spectators into Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

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