There is no such thing as a meaningless national team match without consequences. It is still a great honor for the players involved, there are a few FIFA ranking points at stake and you visible Twitter during a US men’s team game? Existential fear pervades all furniture, even in the most mundane setting.

However, the men’s national team’s upcoming friendlies – against Serbia in Los Angeles on Wednesday night and Columbia in Carson, California on Saturday night – are going with little to no consequences.

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The next World Cup is still a long way off, with only two players out of a list of 24 belonging to a European top league club (Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina and Paxten Aaronsohn, whose journeys with Chelsea and Eintracht in Frankfurt are just beginning). and only five players were in the US roster at the recent World Cup in Qatar. The roster consists mainly of MLS players and Scandinavian clubs, and neither Serbia nor Colombia bring their respective teams to the city either. Oh yeah, and there’s no manager in the US right now. Maybe you have heard?

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However, friendlies are an opportunity to watch intriguing young players making their national debuts and trying to leave an impression for later. From veteran players like Walker Zimmerman, Kellin Acosta and Paul Arriola to younger players looking to play for the USA jersey a second time (Cade Cowell, Jonathan Gomez, Paxton Pomykal), let’s focus on the debutants.

Thirteen of them are looking for their first caps in the coming days; let’s welcome them to the party. (Note: in each position group, the players were “ranked” in order of my personal level of interest/curiosity.)


Brandon Vasquez

  • Position: center forward

  • Club team: FC Cincinnati (Major League Soccer)

  • Age: 24

When camp invitations were announced last week, you could almost hear a chorus of American fans screaming “FINALLY!” in unison. Even as the US struggled for 9th last year, Berhalter didn’t seem to pay much attention to Vazquez, the 2022 MLS breakout star.

Somewhat of a late heyday, the 24-year-old scored 19 goals for the Cincinnati, and although his profile is similar to many American forwards – reliable shooting quality, questionable shot count, only a small amount of participation in terms of passing – he was more experienced at it. style than anyone else in the player pool lately. He’s 6ft 2ft tall and steady in the air (six of his 19 goals were headers, including two from set pieces), and after flirting with the idea of ​​accepting an invitation to the Mexican national team if it came through, he finally gets his shot with USA

Vazquez may be too old to be considered a true prospect, but he is only now entering his prime and could play a more important role in both the national team and the European club in the coming years.

Alexander Zendeyas

  • Position: Right wing

  • Club team: Club America (Mexican MX League)

  • Age: 25

To date, the history of Zendejas is controversial. With more than 30 caps for the U.S. junior national team, the El Paso Via Juarez native made two friendly appearances for Mexico without applying for the required one-off substitution. Mexico was recently fined and ordered to forfeit those two friendlies (a small loss, but still), and now it looks like Zendejas is applying for a one-time transfer back to the US to make things worse.

It’s a dirty story, but Zendejas brings courage to the national team. He has scored eight goals in 22 Liga MX matches for Club America this season, six of them from at least 13 meters away. He scours the edge of the penalty area, looking for dangerous opportunities – he has three passes out of 27 chances created and has 49 fouls – and if he has the opportunity, he fires one into the net.

The US has plenty of options on the flanks, and many of them are younger than Zendeja. But he has blossomed over the past two seasons – he now has 19 goals and five assists since the start of the 2021/22 season – and he has a great opportunity to impress this week.

Emmanuel Subby

  • Position: Centre-Forward/Right Winger

  • Club team: Odense (Danish Super League)

  • Age: 24

His parents are from Ghana. He was born in Italy. He grew up in Ohio. He signed a youth contract in Spain. He made his professional mark in Denmark.

Subby’s backstory is dizzying, but he’s slowly built up a solid portfolio. First for Hobro and then for Odense, he scored 23 goals and made nine assists in about 98 of the 90s in Denmark. He missed quite a bit due to injury in 2022 but returned to score twice and provide two assists in just four games in the fall. (The Danish Superliga stops playing in mid-November and resumes at the end of February.)

Subby is a bit of a teenager; he’s strong enough to play forward even though he’s only 5’10” and a good enough passer to play on the wing, but he can’t match the speed of the other players in the pool. He’s still intriguing. And if or when he takes the field in California, he will become the 10th U-20 player at the 2017 World Cup to earn a cap.


Paxten Aaronson

  • Position: Attacking midfielder

  • Club team: Eintracht Frankfurt (German Bundesliga)

  • Age: nineteen

Through a combination of intensity and creativity, 22-year-old Brenden Aaronsohn has not only earned a permanent role in Berhalter’s team, but also made his Premier League and World Cup debuts over the past year. His little brother somehow might be more insane, more bold and more creative.

In 450 minutes last year for the Philadelphia Union, mostly as a super substitute, Aaronson scored one goal and created five chances, but most of his work consisted of pushing the ball into danger zones. He was a pressure machine, he completed 83% of his passes into the attacking third, and he made 63 combined progressive passes and carries – about 12.6 in 90 minutes. He is a busy man and he joins the Eintracht club who are interesting and upbeat in attack.

It’s an exciting game, but before he can make his Bundesliga debut, he’ll make his international debut.

Alan Sonora

  • Position: Central midfielder

  • Club team: Unattached/free agent

  • Age: 24

“FINALLY!” the chorus might not be so loud about it, but… finally! I was personally interested in Sonora – the younger brother of another national team candidate, Joel – for a while. He may be the best free-kick taker in the American player pool and is on the Try Stuff All-Stars first team.

Over the past two seasons with Independiente Argentine, Sonora has scored 10 goals on six assists from 63 chances created in the league and Copa South America. In nine free throw attempts, he hit the target four times and scored twice from distances of 20 and 28 meters. He hasn’t been asked to contribute much in terms of ball pressure, which makes him very different from current U.S. first-choice linebackers, but he succeeds and finally gets his chance to impress. (He may be joining the MLS team soon.)

Aidan Morris

  • Position: Defensive midfielder

  • Club team: Columbus Crew (Major League Soccer)

  • Age: 21

Sure, he’s only 2.5 years younger than Tyler Adams, but if you’re looking for a next Adams, Morris could be your boyfriend. The crew member turned 21 in November, and although he occasionally played an attacking role, he was mostly asked to cover a lot of territory, like Adams, from a defensive midfield role.

In 2022, he averaged about 6.0 rebounds and 12.3 defensive interventions per 90 while completing 88% of his passes (89% in the attacking third) and creating 13 chances. Clearly, Adams’ role on Team USA’s starting lineup for the foreseeable future will be filled by Adams when he is healthy. However, Morris ticks a lot of boxes and could end up playing a major role when Adams is unavailable.


John Tolkien

  • Position: Left back

  • Club team: New York Red Bulls (Major League Soccer)

  • Age: 20

The US is full of exciting young quarterbacks. Current players Anthony Robinson (25) and Sergino Dest (22) are just starting to near their peak, Joe Sculli of Borussia Mönchengladbach (20) should make his way into the next manager’s plans and George Bello of Arminia Bielefeld (21) has already made seven caps . . But perhaps it’s not too late for Tolkien to find his niche.

The Jersey-born Red Bull calmed the frantic team by averaging 1.3 chances created and 13.3 defensive interventions per 90 minutes. just called him the most promising left back in the game. Not bad.

DeJohn Jones

  • Position: Left back / Right back

  • Club team: New England Revolution (Major League Soccer)

  • Age: 25

A bit late to the national stage, Jones did his best to make up for lost time. After a full four seasons at Michigan State, he won the MLS combine ahead of the 2019 SuperDraft and was selected 11th overall at age 21. He racked up nearly 1,400 minutes in his rookie season, and his tally has been increasing every year since.

Playing mostly on the left for Revolution, he scored four goals on 12 assists from 81 chances created…