The US men’s national team’s abbreviated, domestic-heavy January camp hits second gear Wednesday evening at LAFC’s home venue with a friendly against fellow 2022 FIFA World Cup participant Serbia – formally starting the three-and-a-half-year buildup to co-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
USA Team News
Fresh off a Round of 16 exit to the Netherlands in Qatar, the USMNT are in a state of flux. Assistant coach Anthony Hudson is overseeing this camp, and the program is without a formal manager after Gregg Berhalter’s contract expired and because the U.S. Soccer conducts program-wide review amid off-pitch drama.
But in the actual January camp, the games represent an opportunity for rookies and fringe players hoping to earn a more significant role. Only five players (out of a total of 24) have been to the World Cup and more than half (13) of the roster have no senior international appearances.
The latter include FC Cincinnati forward Brandon Vazquez and New York Red Bulls left back John Tolkin, two of 15 MLS call-ups. It also features two prominent MLS exports: midfielder Paxten Aaronson (ex-Philadelphia Union) and Gaga Slonina (ex-Chicago Fire FC), domestics who joined German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt and English Premier League side Chelsea in multimillion-dollar deals this winter. transfers.
One of the more interesting invitees is Club América forward Alejandro Zendejas, a former US youth international and one-time FC Dallas home player who has been snapped up by Mexico’s senior team. Zendejas only competes against Serbia before returning to his Liga MX team as their Clausura campaign continues.
Key Contextual Point: Since the USMNT’s January camp takes place during a non-FIFA international window, clubs don’t have to release players (MLS teams are in preseason, while European teams are mid-season). So there will be a lot of faces looking for a stepping stone, all in the midst of a special time for the program overall.
Serbia Team News
Those hoping to see the Serbian stars who competed in Group G at the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be disappointed. Head coach Dragan Stojković has called up a squad with four combined cap experience – all from three MLS players.
The trio consists of New England Revolution goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic, LA Galaxy forward Dejan Joveljic and Vancouver Whitecaps FC defender Ranko Veselinovic. Petrovic was a finalist for the 2022 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and 2022 MLS Rookie of the Year awards, while Joveljic was LA’s second-leading scorer last year with 11g/3a.
Although the Serbian team is light on experience and heavy on youth, their players – much like those in USMNT colors – will be hoping to leave a strong impression. For a program that has gone to three of the last four World Cups (but hasn’t reached the playoffs since 1998), that could be a dangerous recipe for the Yanks.
This January clash marks just the fourth meeting between the USMNT and Serbia in history, with the hosts holding a 0W-2L-1D record since their first meeting against then-Yugoslavia in the 1956 Olympics.
USMNT probable lineup
The USMNT lost one game during the 2022 World Cup, but they had a good overall record with two draws and a 1-0 win against Iran.
Most of the top USMNT players play in Europe, they have the right players to win another local tournament.
This is the likely USMNT’s lineup for this game: M. Turner, T. Ream, W. Zimmerman, A. Robinson, S. Dest, T. Adams, C. Pulišić, W. McKennie, Y. Musah, T. Weah , J. Ferreira.
Serbia probable lineup
Serbia are known as a squad with a tough defense and willing to withstand any type of attack against two or more forwards, but during the World Cup they were not as efficient as expected.
Within Serbia’s squad is Vlahovic one of the best forwards in Europe, he plays for Juventus and he is lethal in Serie A.