Anthony_hudson_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_colorado_-_perry_mcintyre_-_2019 Perry McIntyre/ISI Photos
U-20 analysis

A look at hiring Anthony Hudson and the new U-20 roster for January

With the U-20 January camp set to open this week, U.S. Soccer finally hired its new coach in former Colorado boss Anthony Hudson. ASN's Brian Sciaretta looks at Hudson's hire, the challenges the team faces in a U-20 schedule that is rushed, and Hudson's first roster. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 08, 2020
9:00 AM
ON WEDNESDAY, U.S. Soccer formally named Anthony Hudson as the new head coach of the United States U-20 national team. Hudson will replace the successful Tab Ramos who has led the previous three U-20 teams to World Cup quarterfinal appearances.

Hudson, 38, takes over after previously coaching the Colorado Rapids, New Zealand’s national team, and Bahrain’s U-23 team. Born in Seattle, Hudson was raised in England where he developed as a player and as a coach.

He will now oversee his first camp which is set to open today in Florida.

Here are a few thoughts on Hudson and the state of the U-20 team at the start of the cycle.

Little time to learn

The schedule for this U-20 cycle is far different than any other cycle over the past 20 years. CONCACAF World Cup qualifying will take place this summer – which is nearly a full year before the 2021 World Cup in Indonesia. As a result, Hudson will have only a few camps before he must decide on his World Cup qualifying team.

In recent cycles, coaches usually have several camps which are used to sort through a large number of players before deciding on a core group. In this case, Hudson is going to have to essentially know his team in the coming months.

From another perspective, if the U.S. team qualifies for the World Cup, there is plenty of time to sort through the player pool.

Much is known about this team

The good news for Hudson is that there are not many unknowns with this group. The 2002-birth year recently had a terrible U-17 World Cup and many of those players probably won’t be able to move to the older U-20 group anytime soon.

As a result, the 2001-birth year will have to lead the way. That group is pretty strong and between those on the current U-20 roster and players like Uly Llanez and Julian Araujo on the full team, U.S. Soccer has identified the best of this age group.

When you add in other 2001-born players who were not released by their clubs (Indiana Vassilev, Charlie Kelman, Owen Otasowie) plus the 2002-born players who are ready (Gio Reyna), Hudson is essentially being saved a lot of work. Previous U-20 head coaches like Thomas Rongen and Tab Ramos would often call-up dozens and dozens of players (Rongen called up over 100 players in a few of his cycles) to identify his players.

Hudson seems to have a decent and known core being handed off to him and should be spared a lot of that work of going through many different experimental camps. Of course, there are always late-bloomers but most likely they will have to wait after World Cup qualifying, if the team is successful.

Hudson’s uneven past

Hudson’s resume is uneven. His most recent tenure as the Colorado Rapids head coach was poor and it had an ugly end.

He was fired after an 0-7-2 record to start the 2019 season. What doesn’t reflect well on Hudson is that his successors, interim manager Conor Casey and permanent replacement Robin Fraser, had far mor success with the same group of players. Following Hudson’s dismissal, the Rapids finished the rest of the season with 12-9-4 and were just two points out of a playoff spot.

Hudson finished his tenure as the Rapids head coach with a 8–26–9 record. But it was his comments after his final game (a loss to Atlanta), which drew a lot of attention.

"We are fighting at the bottom with a bottom group of players and we have to find a way to pick up results whilst also being a team that tries to play a certain way," Hudson said after the loss to Atlanta. "And we just have to find that balance…The only way it’s going to be a quick fix is if you wave a magic wand at it and throw lots of money at it. Clearly, we’re not doing that. I’ll go back to this: Every single game we go into, whether it’s Nani, whether it’s [Wayne] Rooney, whether it’s [Lucho] Acosta — every single week there are players in this league making a difference and the gap in quality is huge …There are teams with a lot more quality than us. And that’s what we’re competing against. And no one talks about it.”

The problem for Hudson is that U.S. U-20 managers have had success over the past 20 years getting results against opponents with more talent (Sigi Schmid’s team beat Messi and Argentina, Thomas Rongen beat Brazil and Uruguay with the likes of David Luiz, Renato Augusto, Marcelo, Willian, Pato, Suarez, Cavani, and Tab Ramos had success beating talented Colombia and French teams). With his successors in Colorado having success with the same players, what will Hudson’s approach be when he has to take on talented opponents? After all, that was his problem in Colorado.

But while his tenure with Colorado was poor, the U-20 job is relatively minor and is only rarely going to go to established coaches – who would typically prefer to be at a club level. So the mostly likely candidates for the U-20 job are going to be up and coming coaches with little coaching experience (like Ramos had when he was hired in 2011) or coaches who are looking for a reset. Hudson is one of the former who is simply looking to move beyond Colorado. In terms of coaching, he is still relatively young and if he’s learned from his experiences with the Rapids, he might find a way to find success. His ability to speak Spanish is an asset.

Another aspect of this hire and this team to watch is the implementation of tactics that are in-line with how Gregg Berhalter is playing with the senior team. Will Hudson have flexibility to adjust those tactics to this player pool? What happens if the players struggle under that style?

The new roster

Hudson was hired after this roster was assembled but his first camp will consist of 24 players in Florida and two games against Mexico.

The Roster is as follows

GOALKEEPERS (4): David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City/ENG; London, England), John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; Bakersfield, Calif.), Patrick Schulte (St. Louis University; Saint Charles, Mo.)

DEFENDERS (10): Jacob Akanyirige (San Jose Earthquakes; Pleasanton, Calif.), Nico Benalcazar (Wake Forest; Wilton, Conn.), Kevin Bonilla (FC Dallas; Dallas, Texas), Nathan Harriel (Philadelphia Union; Oldsmar, Fla.), Ian Hoffmann (Karlsruher/GER; Bethany Beach, Del.), Blake Malone (North Carolina; Las Vegas, Nev.), Kurowskybob Pierre (Real Salt Lake; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Andre Reynolds II (Chicago Fire FC; Chicago, Ill.), Stuart Ritchie (Hannover 96/GER; Pleasanton, Calif.), Leonardo Sepulveda (Salamanca/ESP.; Corona, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; Littleton, Colo.), Leon Flach (St. Pauli/GER; Bad Schwartau, Germany), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew S.C.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Marcelo Palomino (Houston Dynamo; Houston, Texas), Thomas Roberts (FC Dallas; Little Rock, Ark.)

FORWARDS (5): Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; Greensboro, N.C.), Cameron Harper (Celtic/SCO; Roseville, Calif.), Matko Miljevic (Argentinos Juniors/ARG; Miami, Fla.), Dante Sealy (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Marlon Vargas (Seattle Sounders FC.; Bakersfield, Calif.)

As mentioned, many of the top known players from this team are with their clubs or with the senior national team (Otasowie, Sousa, Reyna, Vassilev, Cardoso, Llanez, de la Fuente, Kelman, Araujo, Kayo) but it is a solid foundation that should provide the core of the team for qualifying.

Matko Miljevic is one of the most impressive names on the team. The tri-national has played for Argentina’s U-20 team and Croatia has also expressed interest. The Florida-born Miljevic has been seeing first team minutes as a No. 10 for an Argentinos Junior’s team that sits atop Argentina’s Primera.

Cole Bassett will also be one to watch. He succeeded in the last U-20 camp in September under Tab Ramos and has played a lot for Colorado. He has played under Anthony Hudson, who has made very positive comments about Bassett’s future.

This team is set in a lot of different areas when at 100%. Wings have Cameron Harper, Konrad de la Fuente, Uly Llanez; The No. 10 will be Miljevic, Gio Reyna, or Indiana Vassilev; forwards are Charlie Kelman, Ricardo Pepi, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez; central midfield is Thomas Roberts, Cole Bassett, Bryang Kayo, Johnny Cardoso and Otasowie; fullbacks are Travian Sousa, Julian Araujo, Ian Hoffmann, and George Bello. Goalkeeping is as strong as its been in ages with David Ochoa, Damian Las, and Chituru Odunze.

But central defense is not great and it will be interesting to see how that position unfolds and if any players emerge over the next few months with their clubs.

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