Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie were rewarded Thursday for their years of rising through the Union’s and U.S. national team’s youth ranks with their first senior national team call-ups.
The call-ups have been anticipated for a while, especially for Trusty. The 20-year-old Media native played for the United States at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup and the 2017 Under-20 World Cup. After starting his pro career with Bethlehem Steel last year, he played every minute of every league game for the Union last season, plus four of five U.S. Open Cup games.
“It’s something that, as a little kid, you wait for all your life, to be able to have this opportunity," Trusty said. “It’s good to have a role model for the younger kids in the academy and kids in the Philadelphia area ... to look up to and see this can come true, and it can be accomplished.”
McKenzie, a Bronx native who grew up in Bear, Del., has been friends with Trusty since they were preteens. Their chemistry showed on the field last season. McKenzie, 19, stepped seamlessly into a starting role when Jack Elliott got hurt in April, and overtook Elliott on the depth chart. In games that Trusty and McKenzie played together, the Union delivered 10 shutouts last season, including road games at Montreal, the New York Red Bulls, and Seattle.
“To be able to perform in MLS at that young of an age, I think, means you have quality,” Berhalter said. “Both of these guys have done a good job in taking the first step. Now [let’s] see if they can take the [next] step in international soccer.”
Toward the end of this year, McKenzie was called up to the U.S. under-20 team for Concacaf’s World Cup qualifying tournament. He split the captain’s armband with Union colleague Matt Real, playing in every minute of five games in the tournament. Now, he is moving up to the big stage.
“It means the world to me,” McKenzie said. “I have a long way to go, but as long as I keep my head down, you know, and do the right things, do the little things the right way, I have full faith and confidence in myself and my abilities to achieve that goal of playing in the World Cup for this country.”
All 27 players on Berhalter’s roster come from MLS, as players from Mexico and European leagues are unavailable. In addition to Trusty and McKenzie, five other call-ups have local roots.
Players will report on Jan. 6, train for a few weeks, then play two games: Jan. 27 against Panama at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.; and Feb. 2 vs. Costa Rica in San Jose, Calif.
Berhalter said a central midfielder or a winger will be added to the roster:
Goalkeepers (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Tyler Miller (Los Angeles FC), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew)
Defenders (10): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Greg Garza (FC Cincinnati), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles)
Midfielders (10): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Russell Canouse (D.C. United), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (Los Angeles Galaxy), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)
Forwards (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Christian Ramirez (Los Angeles FC), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)
The Union will open their 2019 season with a home game against Toronto FC at at 1 p.m., Saturday, March 2. It will be Major League Soccer’s first game of the year.
The Reds will have just come off playing in the Concacaf Champions League round of 16. If the Reds beat Club Atletico Independiente of Panama -- the games are on Feb. 19 in Panama and Feb. 26 in Toronto -- the quarterfinals will start March 5.
Last year, the Union’s game at Seattle was moved from March to September because of the Sounders' participation in the Champions League.
The Union’s second game will be Sporting Kansas City’s home opener, at 3 p.m., Sunday, March 10.
MLS will unveil the full 2019 schedule in January, and the Union will confirm TV plans thereafter.
Here’s the schedule of 2019 home openers:
1 p.m.: Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC
2:30 p.m.: Orlando City vs. New York City FC (Orlando City Stadium)
4:30 p.m.: Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls, FC Dallas vs. New England Revolution
6 p.m.: Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids vs. Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Minnesota United
8 p.m.: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire
10 p.m.: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Montreal Impact, Seattle Sounders FC vs. FC Cincinnati (Cincinnati’s first-ever game)
6 p.m.: D.C. United vs. Atlanta United
8 p.m.: Los Angeles FC vs. Sporting Kansas City
1 p.m.: Chicago Fire vs. Orlando City
2 p.m.: New England Revolution vs. Columbus Crew
6 p.m.: Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Rio Tinto Stadium)
3 p.m.: Sporting Kansas City vs. Philadelphia Union, New York City FC vs. D.C. United
5 p.m.: Atlanta United vs. FC Cincinnati
Time TBD: New York Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes
1:30 p.m.: Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution
5 p.m.: FC Cincinnati vs. Portland Timbers (Cincinnati’s first home game)
1 p.m.: Montreal Impact vs. Columbus Crew (the Impact’s home opener is later to keep them out of the cold weather)
5 p.m.: Minnesota United vs. NYCFC (The first game at new Allianz Field)