Union playmaker Brenden Aaronson and centerback Mark McKenzie have been invited to the first U.S. men’s national team training camp of 2020, as the Americans prepare for Concacaf’s Olympic qualifying tournament in March and the start of 2022 World Cup qualifying in September.
Both players will be out of town for most of January, as the camp starts Jan. 5 and runs until Feb. 1. The first three weeks of work will take place in Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, then shift to suburban Los Angeles for a Feb. 1 friendly against Costa Rica.
Going to Qatar will raise some eyebrows among U.S. fans who don’t like the country’s politics and social policies, or the still-rampant allegations that the nation bribed its way to hosting the World Cup. But the odds of Qatar being stripped of the tournament (or changing its views) are just about zero, so the U.S. Soccer Federation decided it ought to take a look at the place.
The team will train at the Aspire Academy in Doha, and will reportedy scrimmage some of the European teams that use the facility during their leagues’ winter breaks.
“With the confidence and anticipation of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the USMNT will take a first opportunity to experience the football facilities, customs, weather, and other logistical and performance considerations in the host nation,” a U.S. Soccer statement said. “Utilizing similar opportunities prior to the World Cups in South Africa and Brazil proved extremely beneficial in the team’s planning and preparations for those tournaments.”
That last sentence is certainly true. The Americans seemed to adjust easily to their surroundings at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, respectively, and reached the round of 16 at both. (As for the confidence of qualifying for 2022, well, that had better be true too.)
The January training camp is an annual tradition, with rosters usually comprised of domestic players hoping to break through. This year’s version will be much the same, though it will also include two notable Europe-based U.S. youth national team prospects. midfielder Christian Cappis of Denmark’s Hobro and forward Ulysses Llanez of Germany’s VfL Wolfsburg.
Llanez, 18, is a big name to watch. He was one of the marquee attacking players on the American squad at this year’s under-20 World Cup (which McKenzie captained), and is the latest big U.S. prospect to forge a path in the Bundesliga.
Other headline players on the roster include forward Bryang Kayo, 17, who played for the U.S. at this year’s Under-17 World Cup and is currently without a club; and Jesus Ferreira, 19, a Colombia-born FC Dallas midfielder who recently gained U.S. citizenship. His father David played for Dallas from 2011-13, and earned 39 caps for Colombia’s national team from 2001-08.
Jesus has been invited to U.S. youth national team training camps in the past, but wasn’t able to play in games. He enjoyed a breakout season in Dalls this year, recording 8 goals and 6 assists in 36 games.
“I’ve been living here for a while now, so I feel like this is my home,” he told FC Dallas’ website earlier this month.
Some MLS-based U.S. veterans didn’t get called in, notably Columbus’ Wil Trapp, Toronto’s Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, and Atlanta’s Brad Guzan. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter certainly knows what he has in all of them. And in Atlanta’s case, SB Nation reported that the club declined to make its players available in order to prepare for Concacaf Champions League games in February. Berhalter might otherwise have called in young centerback Miles Robinson and outside back Brooks Lennon.
U.S. men’s soccer team January camp roster
Goalkeepers (4): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Defenders (8): Julian Araujo (Los Angeles Galaxy), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Chase Gasper (Minnesota United), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles FC)
Midfielders (7): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Christian Cappis (Hobro, Denmark), Bryang Kayo (Unattached), Sebastian Lletget (Los Angeles Galaxy), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
Forwards (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Ulysses Llanez (VfL Wolfsburg, Germany), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)