Friday thoughts

A look at the U-19/U-20 rosters, dual nationals in limbo, and a weekend lookahead

ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks down the US U-19 and U-20 rosters with some thoughts while also look at dual nationals in limbo - primarily with the Mexican national team. Finally, we look ahead to the weekend. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
April 22, 2022
12:05 PM

THIS PAST WEEK, U.S. Soccer filled another coaching vacancy at the youth level and announced two important rosters on the men’s side. There was also some news on the dual national front, some games, to follow, and even more games to follow this weekend.

For the first time in a few years, the youth program looks almost fully functional. There are now additional teams outside the U-20 and U-17 teams to keep a large number of players involved. Now with big qualifying tournaments on the horizon, it is becoming important.

Here is a breakdown of the news on the youth front and more.


U-20 and U-19 rosters


The U-20 roster for April training camp


GOALKEEPERS (3): Christopher Brady (Chicago Fire F.C.; Naperville, Ill.), Antonio Carrera (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Xavier Valdez (Houston Dynamo; Bronx, N.Y.)

DEFENDERS (7): Quembol Guadalupe (Orlando City S.C.; Orlando, Fla.), Michael Halliday (Orlando City S.C.; Apopka, Fla.), Jaziel Orozco (Real Salt Lake; El Paso, Texas), Kayden Pierre (Sporting Kansas City; Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Anthony Sorenson (Philadelphia Union; Ann Arbor, Mich.), Devan Tanton (Fulham F.C.; Orlando, Fla.), Thomas Williams (Orlando City S.C.; Titusville, Fla.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Esmir Bajraktarevic (New England Revolution; Appleton, Wis.), Javier Casas Jr. (Chicago Fire F.C.; Addison, Ill.), Juan Castilla (Houston Dynamo; Houston, Texas), Tarun Karumanchi (UCLA; San Ramon, Calif.), Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders F.C.; Las Vegas, Nev.), Niko Tsakiris (San Jose Earthquakes; Saratoga, Calif.)

FORWARDS (6): Damion Downs (1. FC Koln; Schwenbenried, Germany), Kristian Fletcher (Unattached; Bowie, Md.), Luca Koleosho (RCD Espanyol; Trumbull, Conn.), Nathan Ordaz (Los Angeles F.C.; Encino, Calif.), Dante Sealy (PSV Eindhoven; Frisco, Texas), Tyler Wolff (Atlanta United F.C.; Braselton, Ga.)


The U-19 roster for April training camp


GOALKEEPERS (3): Gavin Beavers (Real Salt Lake: Henderon, Nev.), Fred Emmings (Minnesota United, Saint Paul, Minn.), Emmanuel Ochoa (San Jose Earthquakes; Salinas, Calif.)k

DEFENDERS (12): Tyler Bindon (LAFC; Los Angeles, Calif.), Noah Cobb (Atlanta United FC; Chattanooga, Tenn.), Carlos Diaz (LAFC; Baldwin Park, Calif.), Alexander Freeman (Orlando City SC; Plantation, Fla.), Samuel Jones (Wake Forest; Portsmouth, Va.), Nolan Norris (FC Dallas; Dallas, Texas), Curtis Ofori (New York Red Bulls; Hopewell Junction, N.Y.), Mateo Pinilla (Houston Dynamo; Houston, Texas), Justin Reynolds (Chicago Fire FC; Chicago, Ill.) , Nathan Rodrigues (San Jose Earthquakes; Campbell, Calif.), Diego Rossi (New York City FC; New York, N.Y.), Josh Wynder (Louisville City; Louisville, Ky.)

 MIDFIELDERS (10): Gonzalo Agustoni-Chagas (Orlando City SC; Kissimmee, Fla.), Reed Baker-Whiting (Seattle Sounders; Seattle, Wash.), Caleb Borneo (Columbus Crew; Morgantown, W.V.), Osvaldo Cisneros-Reyes (Sporting KC; Omaha, Neb.), Benjamin Cremaschi (Inter Miami CF; Miami, Fla.), Robert Deziel Jr. (Bayern Munich/GER; Palm Beach, Fla.), Ethan Kohler (San Jose Earthquakes; Campbell, Calif.), Bryan Moyado (LAFC; La Puente, Calif.), Sergio Oregel Jr. (Chicago Fire FC; Chicago, Ill.), Brooklyn Raines (Houston Dynamo; Maricopa, Ariz.)

FORWARDS(8): Bryan Arellano (Austin FC; San Antonio, Texas), Favian Loyola (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Rodrigo Neri (Atlético Madrid/ESP; Madrid, Spain), Korede Osundina (Orange County SC; Redmond, Wash.), Nighte Pickering (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Anthony Ramirez (FC Dallas: Little Elm, Texas), Alixson Soukup (LAFC; Canoga Park, Calif.), Ethan Subachan (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.)


Mitrovic hired

U.S. Soccer announced on Wednesday that it hired Marko Mitrovic as the head coach of the U.S. U-19 team. Mitrovic has been a long-time assistant coach of Velko Paunovic at several different levels. He was an assistant on the Serbian U-20 team that won the 2015 U-20 World Cup, then with the Chicago Fire, and again with Reading FC.

Mitrovic worked as a head coach for two years in the Red Star Belgrade academy, where he also developed as a youth player. He enjoyed a 14-year playing career – during which he competed in the top divisions of Serbia, Hungary, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. In his first professional season, he won the Serbian Cup with Red Star.

It is important to note that the U-19 program on the men’s side of U.S. Soccer does not have a World Cup or any official competition. It essentially operates as an extension of the U-20 team by allowing more players to be scouted and stay in the fold of playing for U.S. Soccer. More players are monitored and part of the program while ewer players slip through the cracks when the U-19 and U-18 teams are operational.

For Mitrovic, it is far less about winning and losing. It is more about scouting, identifying players who are ready to join the U-20 team – and make them prepared when they do make the jump. It’s also about giving young players a positive experience playing for the United States so that it remains a goal of theirs to earn future call-ups.

Mitrovic has resume that seems about what you would want. He is unproven but this job is rarely going to attract a fully proven coach. Mitrovic has coaching licenses and been around highly accomplished youth teams as well as American teams. All that makes for a good starting point.

It would be nice to use these positions to develop promising young American coaches but that is a question for U.S. Soccer and not an indictment of Mitrovic.


Rosters aimed at depth


The U.S. U-20 roster indicates that this April training camp is mostly about building depth and looking to address weak spots on the team. Most of the top U-20 players are not involved – Kevin Paredes, Paxten Aaronson, Jack McGlynn, Diego Luna, Quinn Sullivan, Caden Clark, Obed Vargas, Dan Edelman, Brian Gutierrez, Caleb Wiley, Cade Cowell, Justin Che and Gabriel Slonina are 13 key players who are absent from this roster.

Those players were unlikely to be released by their clubs anyway. But both the U-19 and U-20 rosters about building up the entire pool of players. The 13 players listed above are known. After that, the program is still trying to get a better handle on the youth talent level after COVID shut down the youth program for nearly two years. With the youth levels, things can change very quickly.

With these two rosters, it’s primarily focused on the U-20 team. The U-20 roster seems to be looking more at immediate options for players who can help the team with the upcoming qualifying tournament in June. That tournament is extremely important as it will serve as qualifying for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

The U-19 roster seems to be looking more at players who can help the U-20 team if it qualifies for the U-20 World Cup. There will be nearly a year gap between qualifying and the World Cup and a lot can change. Young players who are still green now, could be ready later in the year.


Dual national heavy


U.S. Soccer has made a push for a number of dual national players – several of whom were developed primarily outside American channels.

Nathan Ordaz is one of the best players in the LAFC system and has been called up to Mexico’s youth national teams.

Luca Koleosho is a winger that was able to leave for Spain at an early age because of an Italian passport through his Canadan-born mother. Canada has also been in touch with the winger at Espanyol.

Devan Tanton is a right back at Fulham’s U-18 team who was born in the United States but who was primarily raised in England.


Positions of neeed


The U.S. U-20 team is in pretty good shape in a number of areas but it is also thin in other areas.

The team’s strengths are in midfield, wings, left back, and in goal. The weaknesses are in central defense and at the No. 9. There is also need for more right back options.

With that said, there are a few players who I think have a very good chance at this camp.

Devan Tanton, previously mentioned, has an opportunity at right back to perhaps get into the team.

Josh Wynder is an excellent central defender, albeit on the younger side at 16. He could be a player who emerges later in the U-20 cycle should the team qualify.


Gomez on Mexico’s roster


Tata Martino today announced his roster for the Mexican national team’s upcoming friendly against Guatemala on April 27. In it, it included three Americans: Real Salt Lake’s David Ochoa, Club America’ Alejandro Zendejas, and Real Sociedad B’s Jonathan Gomez.

Ochoa represented the United States at the 2019 U-20 World Cup while playing up a cycle. Zendejas was part of the U.S. U-17 World Cup team in 2015 that also fielded Christian Pulisic, Luca de la Tore, and Tyler Adams.

Gomez, meanwhile, is the one player of the three who might still be undecided. He has played for both the United States and Mexico, and made his full USMNT debut in December as a late sub in a 1-0 win over Bosnia. He was also the likely U.S. U-20 left back this cycle along with Caleb Wiley.

Mexico has been aggressive with is recruiting of dual national, Mexican-American players. It should be expected that they will prevail a high number of times given the popularity of El Tri.

Gomez has stated that he wants to play for both the USMNT and El Tri before making his decision. Whether this is part of that, or whether he has decided to play for Mexico – his U.S. future is in doubt.

There are a few thoughts about this. It remains to be seen if Gomez is truly a high-level prospect. After playing for Louisville City in USL, he joined Real Sociedad’s reserve team in January and his performances have been up and down.

The U.S. has been impressive lately at producing left backs at the youth level. The 2019 U-20 cycle had Sam Vines (who has since become a better option than Chris Gloster who started at the U-20 World Cup). The 2021 U-20 team would have had George Bello and John Tolkin. Gomez and Caleb Wiley would have been the top options this 2023 cycle although it remains unclear if Gomez was a head of Wiley who has been very good for Atlanta. There are also players like Joe Scally who are right backs but can play effectively on the left.

Never before has U.S. Soccer been in as strong of a position to lose a left back prospect. That being said, it can’t be in the habit of bleeding off prospects. As Poland has shown with Gaga Slonina, young Americans who have dual nationality will get recruited by other countries. But the battle over Mexican-Americans is always going to particularly intense given the rivalry, the popularity of El Tri inside the USA, and just the overall large size of the Mexican-American community.

There are a number of very good Mexican-American players now that will be interesting to follow in the years ahead. Seattle’s U-20 midfielder Obed Vargas comes to mid as a top option right now.


Richards’ season is over


Chris Richards played for Hoffenheim last Sunday but was forced off at halftime in a 0-0 draw with Greuther Furth. He will miss about a month but that will include all of Hoffenheim’s four remaining games.


It is an open question what happens with Richards. He will return to Bayern Munich, likely for the start of preseason. But does Bayern have plans for him? Or will they loan him out again? If so, it seems like Hoffenheim is the best place. It would be his third loan there, but would Bayern or Hoffenheim want it to be a sale?

This past season was pretty good for Richards. He will finish having played 1300 Bundesliga minutes – that will be 42% of a season for Hoffenheim. Multiple injuries robbed him of being more productive but he generally played well when on the field.

He is a player with a big summer ahead in terms of an important preseason followed by decisions over his 2022/23 season.


Weekend lookahead


For Americans abroad, it’s hard for things to be worse than last weekend but right now there seems to be more players in relegation battle than ever.

Josh Sargent and Norwich host Newcastle United and a loss and possibly a draw would see it relegated from the Premier League. Tyler Boyd and Rizespor were blown out 5-0 by Fenerbahce and their relegation could be sealed this weekend depending on results. Jose Gallegos and Sonderjyske are nine points deep in Denmark. Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, and their Venezia team are six points deep in Serie A. Matt Miazga and Deportivo Alaves are in last in Spain’s La Liga. Matthew Hoppe and his Mallorca team are hovering just over the line. Erik Palmer-Brown and Troyes are only two points clear in Ligue 1 after a tough loss to last-place Clermont Foot. Troyes have a very difficult schedule ahead. Julian Green and Greuther Furth will be relegated soon. George Bello and Arminia Bielefeld are three points away from automatic safety. Pellegrino Matarazzo’s Stuttgart team occupies the relegation playoff position.

That’s potentially 10 players.

Then when you combine it with injuries to Brenden Aaronson, Chris Richards, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and seasons where other top players like Tyler Adams and Sergino Dest have seen their minutes decline – it’s been a tough season and it will be good when it is over.

From an individual standpoint we should look at the goal scorers. In Turkey, Antalyaspor host Kayserispor and Haji Wright has five goals in his last five Super Lig games. Can he keep it going on Saturday? In Switzerland, Jordan Pefok leads the Swiss League's Golden Boot race with 19 goals (24 in all competitions). He has goals in his last two games and his Young Boys team hosts Servette on Sunday.

This weekend in MLS, we should learn a lot more about several different teams.

Nashville has 11 points from seven games to start the season. That is more than respectable when you consider every one of their games has been on the road. Saturday's visit to the Galaxy will be tough but it would really set up Nashville nicely for the rest of the season.

Orlando and the New York Red Bulls are two teams that have been up and down to start the season. The Red Bulls need to find a way, anyway, to score. Orlando, however is trending up. The two meet in Orlando on Saturday.

Toronto has been trending up, as has NYCFC with their CCL campaign over. Those teams meet on Sunday in New York.

Teams we want too know are for real: Inter Miami and Austin. Miami has been playing well as of late with two straight wins. Austin has 14 points from seven games, albeit a weaker schedule. Austin has a great chance to keep it rolling at home vs. the Caps. Inter Miami host a tricky Atlanta but underperforming Atlanta team.

From an individual race, it is also about the American players impressing in goal production. Brandon Vazquez, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Jesus Ferreira each have five goals. Midfielders such as Djordje Mihailovic and Frankie Amaya have impressed in their creation of opportunities.

Those are the top games I will be watching.

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