Morning update

Morning update: Sullivan lifts Philly, Lund's banger, USMNT prelim roster, U-20 path revealed

ASN's Brian Sciaretta kicks off your Wednesday looking at the USMNT preliminary roster, the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the Philadelphia Union, Americans in Europe, and the path ahead for the U.S. U-20 team.. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 28, 2024
6:10 AM

WE’VE REACHED THE midway point of the week and there is news coming into the fold from MLS, Concacaf, Europe, and U.S. Soccer. It’s mild after a wild weekend where we had a historic three days for Americans abroad and the MLS opening weekend, but there is always plenty to talk about.

We can start with the United States men’s national team.


USMNT Nations League preliminary roster


CONCACAF released the 60-player preliminary roster for each of the four Nations League teams remaining. From these lists, the teams will select a final 23-player roster for the March games that include the semifinals and the final.

Goalkeepers (8): Drake Callender (Inter Miami), Ethan Horvath (Cardiff City), Sean Johnson (Toronto FC), Diego Kochen (FC Barcelona), Patrick Schulte (Columbus Crew), Gaga Slonina (KAS Eupen), Zack Steffen (Colorado Rapids), Matt Turner (Nottingham Forest)

Defenders (19): John Brooks (Hoffenheim), Reggie Cannon (Queens Park Rangers), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic FC), Sergiño Dest (PSV Eindhoven), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution), Kristoffer Lund (Palermo), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC), Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg), Tim Ream (Fulham FC), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace), Antonee Robinson (Fulham FC), Miles Robinson (FC Cincinnati), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Auston Trusty (Sheffield United), Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

Midfielders (16): Brenden Aaronson (Union Berlin), Paxten Aaronson (Vitesse), Kellyn Acosta (Chicago Fire), Tyler Adams (Bournemouth), Esmir Bajraktarevic (New England Revolution), Taylor Booth (Utrecht), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Johnny Cardoso (Real Betis), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake, Lennard Maloney (Heidenheim), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew), Yunus Musah (AC Milan), Tanner Tessman (Venezia), Timmy Tillman (LAFC)

Forwards (17): Folarin Balogun (AS Monaco), Cade Cowell (Guadalajara), Benja Cremaschi (Inter Miami), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Bernard Kamungo (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Ricardo Pepi (PSV Eindhoven), Jordan Pefok (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Christian Pulisic (AC Milan), Gio Reyna (Nottingham Forest), Josh Sargent (Norwich City), Malik Tillman (PSV Eindhoven), Brandon Vazquez (Monterrey), Tim Weah (Juventus FC), Haji Wright (Coventry City), Griffin Yow (Westerlo), Alejandro Zendejas (Club América)

Overall, there aren’t many surprises on this list. Gregg Berhalter took the players who played with the team from the fall along with a few who have had multiple call-ups over the years (Ferreira, Cannon, Pefok, Moore, Brooks, Acosta) and then he supplemented it with the most of the mainstays of the U.S. U-23 team from the first few camps.

There are a few tidbits to take away.

First, Diego Kochen made it after an injury kept him off the U.S. U-17 World Cup team in the fall. This is both a nod to his talent and the fact things are not great with the goalkeeping pool right now.

Tyler Adams made it although that seems more of a long shot, at best, given that he is only still training with Bournemouth. On a 60-player roster, a coach can take a few chances and leaving the light on for the captain seems like the right thing to do.

Benja Cremaschi made it despite being out with a sports hernia.

Overall, the roster is practical and straightforward. There aren’t any picks that came completely out of nowhere or included players we didn’t even know were eligible or considering the United States. It’s almost newsworthy in how unnewsworthy it is.

It was probably more revealing with the United States U-23 team as many of the players are eligible for that team and many of this roster will take part in the U-23 camp in March in France. It is just telling which of those U-23 players are in the USMNT pool. In that regard, perhaps it was a little surprising to not see Rokas Pukstas or Brian Gutierrez on the preliminary list.


CONCACAF Champions Cup update


The CONCACAF Champions Cup round of 32 had games on Monday and Tuesday with a few more coming on Monday. Overall, there haven’t been many surprises.

Orlando easily got past Cavalry FC 3-1 on Tuesday for a 6-1 aggregate win. The game was never in doubt. One takeaway is that Luis Muriel started and played 79 minutes for Orlando. It gave us an extended look at the team’s new DP forward who assisted on the team’s opening goal. Fitness was always the issue with him early since joining and Ducan McGuire will still play a lot.

Ramiro Enrique, take a bow.  

Orlando next will face Tigres in what should be a very tough assignment.

Houston got past St. Louis 1-0 (2-2 aggregate) and advanced under the old away goal rule. It’s funny to see that originally, CONCACAF was criticized for not having away goals when Europe was using it. Then CONCACF switched to using away goals and then Europe began moving away from it. For me, I never was a fan when Europe was using it and I still don’t like it. CONCACAF was right the first time.

But Houston deserved to go through as they were the better team over both legs. Houston is dealing with a wave of injuries and that is probably going hurt their chances this season, but they are gritty and are playing as well as you can expect given the players they have currently.

As for St. Louis, things are going to be much harder in 2024 than they were in 2023.

Houston will take on Columbus in the round of 16 with the Crew being the favorites.

Finally, the big game on Tuesday was the Philadelphia Union advancing past Saprissa 3-3 AET (6-5 on aggregate) with Mikael Uhre scoring the winning goal in stoppage time after the Union were down to 10 players following the dismissal of Jack Elliot. Uhre slammed home a corner that was delivered by Jack McGlynn and horribly defended by Saprissa.

The ending of the game was wild as Saprissa had a sequence with two shots hitting off the frame in the 119th minute that would have forced penalties.

Two takeaways from this game. First, the Union’s normally strong central defense pairing of Jack Elliot and Jacob Glesnes has been very poor through the first three games of the season in all competitions. Between the two, it’s been one costly mistake after another. This game should have been easily winnable.

Second, what has gotten into Quinn Sullivan? The 20-year-old winger/attacking mid has been on fire to start the season and has been absolutely massive in all three games, so far. This includes a goal and an assist against Saprissa.

But in addition to Sullivan, Jack McGlynn and Nathian Harriel have also been very strong. The Union’s youth continue to shine.

Next up for the Union is Pachuca.

On Wednesday in the CONCACAF Cup, Nashville host Moca FC and have a 3-0 lead from the first leg. Cincinnati host Cavalier FC and are up 2-0 from the first leg. Both MLS teams should easily advance.


Yanks in Europe


There were a few games in Europe involving Americans on Tuesday. 

In Serie B, USMNT left back Kristoffer Lund scored a nice goal for Palermo that was made possible by Ternana’s leaving Lund open for a shot and failing to close down on him as he took his kick.

That was the good news for Lund. The bad news was worse in that Ternana ended up finding a way to win 3-2 in Palermo. Palermo now sit fifth in Serie B this loss will be a significant blow in their hopes to finish in the top two for automatic promotion. A spot in the promotional playoffs is more likely.

Also in Serie B on Tuesday, two Americans featured in the Derby del Lario which features the two teams from Lake Como. Como defeated Lecco 3-0 away in this one. Andrija Novakovich started and played 75 minutes for Lecco, who are in last. Nicholas Gioacchini played the final 12 minutes for Lecco. It wasn’t a memorable game for either American but Como moved into third place with the win and are in a big race for promotion.

Also in Europe, Hajduk Split moved into the semifinals of the Croatian Cup with a 5-0 win over Varazdin. Rokas Pukstas played the second half as he looks to win his second straight cup in 2024.


U-20 Qualifying takes shape


CONCACAF announced that the region's U-20 World Cup qualifying will take place July 19-August 4 in Mexico with the host cities being Irapuato and Celaya.

The U.S. team will be the top seed having won the last three tournaments.

As always, the big issues for the U.S. team will be player releases and getting a favorable draw. Ideally, the U.S. team wants to avoid hosts Mexico through the quarterfinal.

This tournament will overlap entirely with the Olympics, so a player like Esmir Bajraktarevic cannot play in both tournaments.

In terms of player releases, it’s good that it won’t affect much by way of MLS games. Leagues Cup is at this time and MLS teams will probably cooperate more in allowing players to miss that as opposed to league games. Some players the U.S will want are Esmir Bajraktarevic (unless he is at the Olympics), Kristian Fletcher, Benja Cremaschi, Obed Vargas, Josh Wynder, Gavin Beavers, Diego Kochen, Niko Tsakiris, Reed Baker-Whiting, plus the top players from November’s U-17 World Cup team.

The big issue for the team is preparation. Typically, the U.S. U-20 team would begin a cycle with a camp in the fall after the U-20 World Cup. This team has not had a camp yet, although one is scheduled for March. There has been no announcement of the coach although Michael Nsien is rumored to have the job through qualifying.

As is the norm, the four winners of the quarterfinal games in this tournament will qualify for the 2025 World Cup in Chile.

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