USYNT analysis

Both U-23 and U-19 teams open important camps ahead of summer tournaments

ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks down the rosters for the U.S. U-23 and U-19 teams for these very important March camps. Both teams have important tournaments just four months away and these camps are critical to building towards successful summers. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 19, 2024
6:30 AM

THIS MARCH WINDOW will be an important period for the U.S youth national teams as the U-23 team will be in Spain and France as part of their second to last camp before the Olympic games this summer. Meanwhile, the U-20 team (called the U-19 team until the fall) begins the cycle and will prepare for U-20 World Cup qualification this summer.

The U.S. U-23 camp will take place in Spain and France where the U.S. U-23 team will face Guinea on Friday, March 22 in Olot, Spain, and then take on Olympic hosts France on March 25 in Montbeliard.

The U.S. U-19 team will have a camp in Morrocco at the national training center in Rabat. They will face England on Sunday, March 24 and Morocco on Tuesday, March 26. This team is led by head coach Michael Nsien.

Here are the rosters and the thoughts on both teams.


U.S. U-23 training camp


The roster


GOALKEEPERS (2): Chris Brady (Chicago Fire FC; Naperville, Ill.), Patrick Schulte (Columbus Crew; St. Charles, Mo.)

DEFENDERS (7): George Campbell (Montreal Impact; Atlanta, Ga.), Maximilian Dietz (Greuther Furth/GER; Frankfurt, Germany), Nathan Harriel (Philadelphia Union; Oldsmar, Fla.), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo/BEL; Fort Worth, Texas), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.), Jonathan Tomkinson (Bradford City/ENG; Plano, Texas), Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United FC; Atlanta, Ga.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Paxten Aaronson (Vitesse/NED; Medford, N.J.), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; Greensboro, N.C.), Daniel Edelman (New York Red Bulls; Warren, N.J.), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Queens, N.Y.), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), Tanner Tessmann (Venezia/ITA; Birmingham, Ala.)

FORWARDS (7): Esmir Bajraktarevic (New England Revolution; Appleton, Wis.), Cade Cowell (Guadalajara/MEX; Ceres, Calif.), Johan Gomez (Eintracht Braunschweig/GER; Keller, Texas), Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake; Sunnyvale, Calif.), Duncan McGuire (Orlando City SC; Omaha, Neb.), Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg/GER; South Riding, Va.), Griffin Yow (Westerlo; Clifton, Va.)

NOTE: Chris Brady replaced Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina on Monday due to injury


Strong team


This is a strong U.S. U-23 roster. Head coach Marko Mitrovic was able to get a strong group that includes 14 players who have already made their senior national team debut. It’s clear that most of the team’s core has been identified. Aidan Morris, Tanner Tessmann, Gianluca Busio, and Jack McGlynn have been regulars in the midfield.

In the front three, Esmir Bajraktarevic and Duncan McGuire continue to impress. While in the back, Bryan Reynolds and John Tolkin look like the starting fullbacks.

What makes this camp particularly interesting is that it includes a few “bubble players” who could go either to the full USMNT or the U-23s but were brought to the U-23 team this camp, which could signal that they are more likely to be with the Olympic team than the Copa America team this summer (absent injuries or drastic changes in form). The biggest examples are Kevin Paredes and Paxten Aaronson who have both been called up to the USMNT on international windows late in 2023.

If both these players are with the Olympic team this summer, the team’s chances of advancing out of the group stages increase substantially.


Surprise inclusions


Kevin Paredes and Paxten Aaronson: as mentioned, their inclusion in this roster is a huge boost because they were on the bubble of the senior USMNT. If this is a signal that they will more likely be on the Olympic team than the Copa America team, the Olympic team could be quite strong.

Griffin Yow: Without a doubt, Yow is the player who did the most to force his way onto the roster. Never an important player for DC United, Yow moved last year to Westerlo in Belgium where he has started to produce at an impressive level. He will now get a good chance to audition for the Olympic team.

Johan Gomez: With other center forwards starting to make a case to be Duncan McGuire’s backup, Gomez got the call despite a tough season in Germany with Eintracht Braunschweig.

Daniel Edelman: While he had not been part of the U-23 team this cycle after having a big role with the U-20 team last cycle, Edelman gets the nod after a good start to the season with the New York Red Bulls.


Surprising exclusions


Brian Gutierrez: The Chicago Fire attacking mid can also play as a winger but he continues to be absent from this group and it was confirmed by the Fire that he was not invited (as opposed to declining an invite or the club refusing to release). Despite Mitrovic knowing Gutierrez from when he was a Fire assistant, Gutierrez was part of the October U-23 camp, but he was not invited to be part of the November U-23 camp, the USMNT January camp (that was heavily Olympic eligible players), and is now not part of the March camp. These doesn’t seem to bode well for his chances of going to Paris despite Gutierrez being a highly rated player for Chicago.

Rokas Pukstas: The Hajduk Split midfielder was part of the U-20 World Cup team last summer but has not been part of this U-23 team (although Mitrovic told ASN in December that he tried to have Pukstas involved in the fall camps). But Pukstas is young as a 2004-born player and this team is deep at midfield. The fact he is yet to be involved in the team’s first three (of four total) camps, makes making the Olympic team a longer shot for him.

Kahveh Zahiroleslam: The St. Truiden forward has done well in his first season as a professional. Over the weekend he scores his fifth goal of the Belgian season against Club Brugge. It seemed as if an audition could have been given to Zahiroleslam but Mitrovic went with Gomez instead behind McGuire.

Josh Atencio: The Seattle Sounders midfielder was part of the November U-23 camp but was not selected. It seems as if Atencio lost a competition to Dan Edelman.

Bernard Kamungo: The FC Dallas winger is a promising player who had a good U-23 camp in October but who probably lost out on a tough numbers game.

Damion Downs: The German-American forward recently returned from injury and has been logging some Bundesliga minutes for Koln. He even scored a dramatic equalizer on a nice goal against Borussia Monchengladbach. But for Downs, 19, his return from injury probably came to late to get into a position where Mitrovic is already comfortable with existing options. 


No Overagers yet


Marko Mitrovic has opted to wait until the team’s final camp in June to bring overage players into the mix. This puts him under a lot of pressure to get it right that the overage candidates he identifies will be strong fits within the squad and will immediately adapt. He will instead have to hope the players do well right away.

It seems rather obvious that at least one, and quite possibly two, of the three overage picks will go to central defenders. This team does have a lot of options among age eligible players. Walker Zimmerman would seem like an obvious pick but perhaps Mitrovic could secure the release of Mark McKenzie or Auston Trusty to bolster the backline.

Center forward also seems like a great area to supplement the team as Duncan McGuire has been the only age-eligible player to impress with the team, so far. Brandon Vazquez seems like a good pick here given that Liga MX is not active during the Olympics as Mexican teams are involved in the Leagues Cup.

Historically, overage players have been used at goalkeeping positions but this U.S. U-23 team has one of the best goalkeeping classes at this age group in a long time.


Attacking mid/wingers intense competition


The big competition for this U.S. U-23 team right now is at the attacking midfield and wing positions, often lumped together because many of these players can play at both the No. 10 and wing positions.

But if you want to know how tough the competition is, consider that the roster size is just 18 players. Then consider that Mitrovic will take two goalkeepers, at least three fullbacks, at least three central defenders, four central midfielders (No. 6 and No. 8 positions), and two No. 9 center forwards.

That leaves four players for the wings and the no. 10 positions.

Essentially there is a list of at least 11 players for this group: Kevin Paredes, Paxten Aaronson, Esmir Bajraktarevic, Griffin Yow, Taylor Booth, Cade Cowell, Diego Luna, Brian Gutierrez, Bernard Kamungo, Benja Cremaschi, Cole Bassett, Quinn Sullivan.

Those 11 players are going for four positions.

That is remarkably intense. Mitrovic will hope this camp provides some answers.


Camp objectives


This team needs to be a cohesive unit throughout camp. Aside from Yow and Edelman, this is a group that has all been together. Mitrovic has identified most of his core in the fall camps and then January’s USMNT build upon that foundation for most of the players.

This has to be a camp where the team puts it all together. While the results in the friendlies don’t matter, the performances do. Even against a very talented French team, the U.S. team needs to have a plan where they aren’t on their back foot and can at least generate chances.


U.S. U-19 Camp

The roster


GOALKEEPERS (3): Gavin Beavers (Real Salt Lake; Henderson, Nev.), Julian Eyestone (Duke University; Dallas, Texas), Diego Kochen (Barcelona/ESP; Miramar, Fla.)

DEFENDERS (8): Matai Akinmboni (D.C. United; Upper Marlboro, Md.), Noahkai Banks (Augsburg/GER; Dietmannsried, Germany), Luca Bombino (LAFC; Saugus, Calif.), Aiden Harangi (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; Reston, Va.), Drew Murray (Freiburg/GER; San Jose, Calif.), Nolan Norris (FC Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas), Neil Pierre (Philadelphia Union; Hershey, Pa.), Diego Rossi (Parma/ITA; New York, N.Y.)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Taha Habroune (Columbus Crew; Columbus, Ohio), Ethan Kohler (Werder Bremen/GER; Campbell, Calif.), Cruz Medina (San Jose Earthquakes; San Francisco, Calif.), Sergio Oregel Jr. (Chicago Fire FC; Chicago, Ill.), Paulo Rudisill (Feyenoord/NED; Irvine, Calif.), Pedro Soma (UE Cornella/ESP; Coconut Creek, Fla.), David Vazquez (Philadelphia Union; Los Angeles, Calif.)

FORWARDS (6): Cole Campbell (Borussia Dortmund; Peachtree City, Ga.), Kristian Fletcher (D.C. United; Bethesda, Md.), Favian Loyola (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Rodrigo Neri (Valencia/ESP; Madrid, Spain), Nighte Pickering (Memphis 901 FC; Birmingham, Ala.), Marcos Zambrano (Vitoria Guimaraes/POR; Gladwyne, Pa.)


Many top names missing


With the 2025 U-20 cycle being comprised mostly of the 2005 and 2006 birth years, the 2005 birth year should be the leaders. Yet on this roster, only 11 are from the 2005 birth year.  12 are from 2006 birth year and Philadelphia Union defender Neil Pierre is the lone 2007 representative and that makes him eligible for the 2027 U-20 World Cup as well.

But of that strong 2005 birth year, there are many top names missing. None of the three players on the 2023 U-20 World Cup team who are eligible for this team are in this camp. Benfica defender Josh Wynder is hurt, Niko Tsakiris from San Jose is also hurt. Defensive midfielder Obed Vargas remained with Seattle this camp. Brooklyn Raines remained with Houston this camp as well.

Other top 2005-born players are out for various reasons. Benja Cremaschi is injured and has seen time with the U-23 team and the full national team. Seattle’s Reed Baker-Whiting is also likely going to be important to this team at right back and he is injured. Esmir Bajraktarevic is with the U-23 team but could play with this team.

Keyrol Figueroa is a 2006 at Liverpool, but will miss this camp with an injury.

The start of a U-20 cycle typically doesn't have too many players getting a lot of first team minutes, but this roster is especially light. 


Interesting picks


Despite some key players not being released or being injured, head coach Michael Nsien made some solid picks in some certain areas.

Matai Akinmboni has played first team minutes for DC United in central defense but was one of the tougher cuts from the last U-17 team. He seemed to have a strong case to be part of that squad but struggled to get regular callups under Gonzalo Segares. On top of that, Noahkai Banks was good for the U-17 World Cup team and will now move up. Neil Pierre is a good central defender and might not get called up regularly if Wynder plays for the U-20 team, but as a 2007-born player, Pierre has a long future ahead.

The last two U-20 cycles have not been strong in central defense and this team could/should buck that trend.

Cole Campbell was reported by ESPN to have chosen to play for the United States over Iceland internationally. He is a good prospect at Borussia Dortmund who should factor heavily into this U-20 team this cycle.

David Vazquez also recently signed a lucrative deal with the Philadelphia Union and is one of the promising players moving up from the U-17 World Cup team.

Kristian Fletcher should be one of the top attackers on the team as he has been taking on a bigger role with DC United after his offseason loan to Swansea City’s U-23 team in the fall.


Time is ticking


U-20 World Cup qualifying is only four months away and this is the team’s first camp. With such little time for preparation, Nsien will have to get a lot right in this camp. This camp will have to provide him with a firm direction of how to quickly have this team ready for important games in July.

If he doesn’t have a core in mind for this summer after this camp, Nsien will be in trouble. After qualifying there can be a lot of changes, but he needs to find a group and a system that works with this group.

This is the latest ever start to a U-20 cycle the federation has had in modern times. Yes, it’s easier now to find players given the structure now in place domestically and the scouting done abroad. But at the same time, what happens in camp is still important and this is the most important first-camp the U-20 team has had.

Post a comment