LOS ANGELES — Over the past month, the United States men’s soccer team has been in the news for mostly negative reasons. Drama surrounding the team revolving around Gregg Berhalter, Gio Reyna, his parents and the 2022 World Cup. Then there was the firing of general manager Brian McBride. But the USMNT was able to briefly push that to the side Wednesday as January camp kicked off with a 2-1 loss to Serbia at BMO Stadium.
First goal of 2023 goes to …
Brandon Vazquez delivered in his first national team cap. He had the first scoring chance of the game for the U.S. a few minutes into the game but hit it just a bit wide. In the 29th minute he received a perfectly placed cross from Julian Gressel and flicked a clean header past Serbia goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic.
Vazquez scoring goals is nothing new as he rapidly ascended over the past year with 18 for FC Cincinnati. One of the larger talking points when looking at the USMNT roster in relation to the next few years ahead of the 2026 World Cup is of course the striker position. Vazquez should be a feasible option if his trajectory continues. The problem is Mexico finds itself in largely the same situation and Vazquez is a Mexican American dual national. What he’s thinking in terms of a decision of what country he will represent in the future is still to be ironed out, but maybe this start to the year and camp can play a role in convincing him to wear the red, white and blue.
Cowell stands out
When you look at the 24-player roster for this camp, Cade Cowell is one of the names that stands out. The 19-year-old forward has progressed tremendously for the San Jose Earthquakes, becoming one of the most exciting young players to watch in MLS. He’s fearless on the ball, dangerous in transition with his speed and also a good passer. The finishing touch is lacking a bit and that was on display versus Serbia.
He had a great opportunity in the first ripping across the field and receiving a ball from Alan Soñora, but the shot ended up off target. For a 10-minute stretch in the second half he took over the game, hitting the post twice in the 55th minute.
Then moments later he got another chance and sent it wide. Despite not getting on the scoresheet, his quality is evident as he was the best USMNT player on the night in the 72 minutes he played. He should be a key piece to the U.S. squad in the U-20 World Cup, and more performances like these will only keep boosting that stock.
“Cade, wow, what a performance. I’m so proud of him,” said USMNT interim head coach Anthony Hudson. “He was just outstanding today. Really direct, aggressive, brave — I’ve seen him have some amazing moments, I think tonight was another level.”
Gaga solid in net
It might be odd to talk about the keeper after giving up a pair of goals in a loss. But when that keeper is an 18-year-old that plays for Chelsea, it’s justified.
Gaga Slonina became the youngest goalie to play for the USMNT on Wednesday and actually had a decent night. The two goals he conceeded were due to the wall breaking down on a free kick and a bad defensive blunder that left him in a vulnerable position. Otherwise he had some big stops, including a frantic double save in the 30th minute to keep the game still scoreless at that point.
The goalkeeper pool for the national team is crowded with names like Matt Turner and Sean Johnson leading the pack, but Slonina will be in the mix and you should keep a close eye on him in this new World Cup cycle.