On Tuesday, the USA released its preliminary roster for the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying rounds scheduled for late March.
The roster featured 27 U-23 selections, and the USA will select 20 players from the preliminary list to its final squad.
Recently departed Philadelphia Union star Brenden Aaronson was named to the squad as was Union backup goalkeeper Matt Freese and former Union homegrown Auston Trusty. Aaronson, who is quickly settling it at RB Salzburg under Jesse Marsch, is one of seven overseas players in the squad, along with Konrad de la Fuente of Barcelona and Bryan Reynolds, who was recently acquired by Roma from FC Dallas.
FIFA does not mandate clubs to release players for Olympic qualifying matches as they do for standard international windows, so it remains to be seen whether we’ll actually see Aaronson suiting up for the Stars and Stripes in March.
Mark McKenzie, another recent Union departure, was eligible for this squad, but has proved himself too important to Genk’s success to be considered for a release. He was in the January squad along with Reggie Cannon, who is in a similar situation currently with Boavista. Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie technically fall into this category, but they are firmly entrenched in the senior team and play important roles at their European mega-clubs.
Aside from a few missing eligible stars, U-23 head coach Jason Kreis has a talented squad at his disposal, highlighted by a talented crop of MLS standouts in Jackson Yueill, Gianluca Busio, Eryk Williamson, and Jeremy Ebobisse along with the aforementioned Aaronson. All five of those players were among the best at their positions in last year’s MLS campaign.
In addition to Yueill, Busio and Williamson, three central midfield powerhouses, Kreis has defensive stopper Hassani Dotson at his disposal, and some creative options in Brooks Lennon and Djorde Mihailovic.
The selection of defenders lacks some of the ‘wow’ factor as the rest of the squad, but Justen Glad, Henry Kessler and Aboubacar Keita are about as reliable of center backs as you can find domestically. Reynolds and Julian Araujo are dynamic fullbacks while Vines still could be a senior-team choice left back due to the overall pool depth of the federation’s weakest position.
The goalkeeper group features a bunch of relatively unproven talent with JT Marcinowski owning the most experience. Freese has a real chance to grab a starting role if he impresses in camp.
Caden Clark, Cade Cowell and Ricardo Pepi are the three youngest players in the squad, and all three homegrown strikers are still eligible for the U-20 team. Pepi in particular is a forward I have my eye on, and while I might be giving too much weight to his solo goal against Portland in the MLS Cup Playoffs, his physicality and confidence in the box portends years to come of menacing opposing backlines.
LA Galaxy starlet Efrain Alvarez was included in both the USA and Mexico preliminary squads, which should make for some good theater in the run-up. Both federations are pulling out all the stops to secure the commitment of an 18-year old with 32 MLS appearances already under his belt.
Philadelphia Union II forward Shaynder Borgelin is on the Haiti’s preliminary roster. Red Bulls II forward Sebastian Elney, a YSC Academy grad, is also on the Haiti roster. YSC Academy grad and former Union II goalkeeper Tomas Romero is on the El Salvador roster.
The Olympic Qualifying Tournament starts on March 18, and the USA faces a tough group in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. The top two teams from the group advance, and the two semifinal winners in the competition advance to the Olympics in Tokyo this summer, if that event can proceed as planned.
The full squad is below:
Goalkeepers: Drake Callender (Inter Miami), Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union), Jonathan Klinsmann (LA Galaxy), JT Marcinowski (San Jose Earthquakes), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (Austin FC).
Defenders: Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), George Bello (Atlanta United), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls), Marco Farfan (LAFC), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Chris Gloster (PSV), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Donovan Pines (D.C. United), Bryan Reynolds (Roma), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (NYCFC), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids).
Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Efrain Álvarez (LA Galaxy), Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids), Gianluca Busio (Sporting KC), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal), Keaton Parks (NYCFC), Andrés Perea (Orlando City), Brandon Servania (St. Polten), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes).
Forwards: Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen), Benji Michel (Orlando City), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Sebastian Saucedo (Pumas), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City).