Morning update: roster talk, MLS youth report, midweek games, & more
March 15, 2023
IT’S THE IDES of March and today should be a fun day, the USMNT roster will be coming out for March today and later this week we should be getting the U-20 roster for its very important camp in Spain. Meanwhile, the CONCACAF Champions League and Championship games are in full force.
Let’s start up with Roster talk
As for the rosters, this month is an odd time. These Nations League games are simply not challenging and with MLS games going on, it’s tough to see the benefit of calling in everyone
Meanwhile U.S. Soccer announced on Tuesday that the national team will host Mexico in the inaugural annual series where the team will face a team from North, Central, or South America. This game will be on Wednesday, April 19.
Here is how I predict things will play out. The USMNT roster for March will be heavily European-based and MLS players will be allowed to stay with their clubs. In return for not calling up MLS players this camp and missing games, MLS teams will release players for the Mexico game. Since it is a midweek, one-off, it would not require them to miss club games.
That would work out well for MLS-based players. A solid performance against El Salvador or Grenada isn’t going to mean nearly as much as a solid performance against Mexico. Even if Mexico selects only North American-based players, they would be a far superior opponent to a full-strength Grenada or El Salvador team.
It’s going to be a busy summer with the U-20 World Cup, the Gold Cup, the Nations League, along with a new Sporting Director and maybe a new manager. After that, the U.S. U-23 team will likely start up in preparations for 2024.
U.S. Soccer is going to need a ton of players over the next 18 months.
MLS Youth report
Normally, ASN runs a separate MLS Youth Roundup column on Tuesday. But the Alston and Bird report simply took up too much time. Given the anticipation and the people involved, that required an in-depth piece.
But we don’t want to not do an MLS Youth Round column this week where we look at the Olympic and U-20 eligible players in the league. For the most part, it’s been a very good start to the season for young American players. Typically, these players get eased in during the middle months of the season. But now, they’re making inroads right away.
Here are some of my notes on who impressed the most.
Caleb Wiley: Was obviously the big talk around the league. He scored two goals and added an assist as Atlanta United crushed Charlotte 3-0. Wiley has been playing out of position at left wing as opposed to left back and it has fit him. I do think he will eventually return to left back, but it is really good to see his ability to play different roles.
For those who like to think of these things as “stock watches,” I would buy lots of Caleb Wiley stock right now. Physically, he fits what you want in a modern fullback. He is big and physical while also being able to cover the sides well – both offensively and defensively. It’s an exciting time for him and you can see 2023 is going to be a big year for him.
And in the first 45 minutes of the first game of the weekend, the MLS Player Week has already been awarded to Atalanta United’s Caleb Wiley. The teenage left back, who is playing left wing, has 2 goals & 1 assist to give Atlanta a 3-0 HT lead. Not bad pic.twitter.com/sA31I4sa0q— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) March 11, 2023
Owen Wolff: Sure, Austin FC’s exit from the Champions League was ugly but that wasn’t really on Owen Wolff. That was more on his father Josh for selecting a terrible lineup in the first leg. Owen Wolff, 18, remains one of the top young prospects in the league. His first career goal on Saturday in a 2-1 away win over Real Salt Lake.
Really good day for young players. Caleb Wiley and now Owen Wolff. Two players born 8 days apart at the end of 2004. Wolff is another player who is playing his way onto the U.S U-20 World Cup - if his father releases him. Very nice goal pic.twitter.com/oPQHPHR8Hr— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) March 12, 2023
Aidan Morris: The Columbus Crew defensive midfielder continues to have a nice start to the season. In the 1-1 draw with Toronto over the weekend, he was impressive again. I think he’ll be a regular with the U.S. U-23 team.
John Tolkin: The Red Bulls left back is also at a stage of what you want to see from players in the older stages of the youth ranks, he is consistently good. He picked up his first assist of the season for the Red Bulls in a 1-1 draw with Minnesota.
Indiana Vassilev: The former U.S. u-17 midfielder had a rough patch in two seasons on loan from Aston Villa to Inter Miami but is among many people thriving at St. Louis, which has nine points from three games.
Miguel Perez: at just 17, he continues to be one of the more surprising young teenagers in MLS to start this season. While many expected Tyler Wolff and Caleb Wiley to impress, few pegged Miguel Perez but the young St. Louis midfielder is standing out. It’s probably too late for him to make the U.S. U-20 team this cycle, but he’s eligible for the next cycle.
Ted Ku-DiPietro: The DC United winger is one of the bright spots on DC United and is dangerous even when he is not scoring or assisting. In his 57 minutes, he impressed for DC United in a 1-1 draw with Orlando.
Duncan McGuire: The Orlando forward scored his team’s only goal in a 1-1 draw with DC United. Yes, he benefitted from an Orlando team rotating its squad for the Champions League but it’s a start.
John Pulskamp: The Sporting KC goalkeeper had a cleansheet in a 0-0 draw with the Galaxy. It’s good to see a 21 year old goalkeeper starting and succeeding in the league. It should keep him in the mix for the Olympics, despite the inclination of using an overage player in that spot.
The big story is that Austin FC was not able to complete its comeback in the CONCACAF Champions League and lost to Violette of Haiti 3-2 on aggregate. On Tuesday, Austin FC started most of its first team players (unlike in the first leg) and won 2-0 but it wasn’t enough. The game was tough to watch. Austin had two goals called back and had a penalty shout denied after a very long VAR review. It was typical CONCACAF.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia handled things the right way. They strolled through the away leg at 0-0 against Alianza using mostly reserves and then on Tuesday, coasted to a 4-0 win at home with most of their top players.
In the Championship, Austin Trusty went the distance for Birmingham City at left centerback in an ugly 3-0 loss to Watford. Birmingham City is just coasting now at lower-mid table without much threat of relegation and no hope for the playoffs.
Finally, it was a blown opportunity for Zack Steffen and Middlesbrough who tied Stoke City 1-1. With the result, they remain three points back of Sheffield United for second place and automatic promotion (while Sheffield United has played one fewer game). Steffen made four saves in the draw.