U-23 analysis

A look at the 31-player U.S. U-23 traveling roster ahead of qualifying

The U.S. U-23 team has a huge month ahead of it and head coach Jason Kreis made his first big set of decisions on Friday when he named his 31-player traveling roster that will open pre-qualifying camp in Mexico on Monday. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks it down - including a surprising cut and a surprising non-release.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 28, 2021
9:30 PM

ON FRIDAY, U.S. U-23 head coach Jason Kreis announced the 31-player traveling roster that will travel to Guadalajara to prepare for Olympic qualifying. This team will be narrowed down to the final 20 player-roster later in the month.

While it is possible for players (most likely European-based) to be added to this roster during camp, the majority of the Olympic qualifying team will come from these names. Players like Brenden Aaronson were always unlikely but it remains to be seen if Konrad de la Fuente will be added at a later date.

ASN understands that the final cuts will happen on or around March 14. The U.S. will then open its group stage against Costa Rica on March 18, the Dominican Republic on March 21, and Mexico on March 24.

Here is the roster and here are some thoughts

The Roster


GOALKEEPERS (4):Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), Jonathan Klinsmann (LA Galaxy; Munich, Germany), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes, Alamo, Calif.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (10): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompoc, Calif.), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; Douglasville, Ga.), Marco Farfan (LAFC; Gresham, Ore.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; New York, N.Y.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; Arlington,Mass.), Austin Trusty (Colorado Rapids; Media, Pa.), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati; Santa Ana, Calif.), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; Littleton, Colo.), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Denville, N.J.), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Andrés Perea (Orlando City SC; Medellin, Colombia), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; Hoover, Ala.), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; Alexandria, Va.), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)

FORWARDS (9): Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United FC; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; Lynwood, Calif.), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal/CAN; Jacksonville, Fla.), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City/ENG; San Diego, Calif.)


Ebobisse the surprising cut 


While Jeremy Ebobisse has been among the more productive domestic-based forwards from this age group with the Portland Timbers, he has been dropped from this team already. The 2017 U.S. U-20 World Cup veteran scored nine goals last season in 1380 minutes and 11 goals in 2019 over 2374 minutes. Those 20 goals over the last two seasons wasn’t enough to get him even onto the preliminary training squad.

In his place, center forwards Sebastian Soto, Ricardo Pepi, and Jesus Ferreira were taken in his place.

Other players left off like Keaton Parks and James Sands weren’t moderate surprises. This was by far the most surprising roster decision.


Cardoso secures release


It was expected that that Uly Llanez would have been released for this team as his loan to Heerenveen has been extremely poor. Sebastian Soto was also likely to be released given that he is only playing for Norwich City’s U-23 team at the moment.

Johnny Cardoso is an impressive release given that following the conclusion of Internacional’s Serie A season on Thursday (where it heartbreakingly finished in second), local Brazilian tournaments were set to begin. This might have been an opportunity for the Denville, NJ native to play more with his club but apparently Internacional felt it was worthwhile to send Cardoso to this tournament and help him secure a place on the U.S. U-23 team.

Cardoso is very young and is actually also eligible for the U.S. U-23 team in 2024. But he is a physical defensive midfielder who should bring the bite that is often needed in CONCACAF games. 

But it does create a bit of a logjam in defensive midfield. Jackson Yueill, Andres Perea, and Johnny Cardoso are three defensive midfielders who have all been capped by the U.S. national team. Is Kreis going to take three of these players on a small 20-player roster with just 17 field players? It might make for a very difficult cut.

Atlanta releases players

It was revealed later on Monday that that Atlanta was not going to release players to the U-23 team due to quarantine protocols which would force the players to miss the first game of the CONCACAF Champions League. This means George Bello, Brooks Lennon and Miles Robinson won’t take par.


Robinson’s loss is huge for this team which is without Mark McKenzie and Erik Palmer-Brown who both were on the roster in 2020. Robinson started for the U.S. national team in January and scored a goal in a 7-0 rout over Trinidad and Tobago.

Central defense is a position of need on the team. In 2020, the roster included Erik Palmer-Brown and Mark McKenzie so the loss of Robinson (who was not released then) wasn’t a big deal. Now without Palmer-Brown, McKenzie and others such as Chris Richards and Cameron Carter-Vickers make Robinson’s loss significant.

The loss of Bello and Lennon is marginal as it isn’t clear if either would have been a U-23 starter but Robinson was vital.

Atlanta has the right to do this but the failure to release players for enormous youth national team tournaments might make joining their academy a tough sell for elite young players. It also remains to be seen if this creates a rift with U.S. Soccer – despite the soccer decisions at Atlanta United being made by Carlos Bocanegra – who is one of the most popular U.S. national team captains in history.

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