Llanez, Ferreira head US men’s Olympic qualifying roster
CHICAGO (AP) — Forwards Ulysses Llanez and Jesús Ferreira were among 20 players picked for the U.S. men’s Olympic soccer qualifying roster, a group missing top young American players because of FIFA rules.
Jeremy Ebobisse, Jonathan Lewis and Sebastian Saucedo were the other forwards on the roster announced Sunday night by U.S. coach Jason Kreis for the qualifying tournament of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, which starts March 20.
Olympic qualifying is limited to players under 23 at the start of 2020, but clubs are not required to release players to Olympic teams. The U.S. Soccer Federation said it had no hope of obtaining Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent, who have become regulars on the senior national team, and 17-year-old Gio Reyna, who is slated to join the senior team for exhibitions this month. Even if they had been available, Pulisic and Adams are injured.
Many second-tier players also were omitted, but it was unclear whether because of injury, club refusal or coaching decisions. That group included defenders Cameron Carter-Vickers, Antonee Robinson and Miles Robinson; midfielders Chris Durkin, Alex Mendez, Keaton Parks and Brandon Servania; and forwards Konrad de la Fuente, Brooks Lennon, Sebastian Soto and Indiana Vassilev.
The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and the senior team then didn’t reach the 2018 World Cup. At the qualifying tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico, the Americans open Group A against Costa Rica on March 20, then plays the Dominican Republic on March 23 and Mexico on March 26.
Group B includes Canada, El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras. The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals, and the semifinal winners on March 30 qualify for the 16-nation men’s Olympic tournament in Japan, to be played at Saitama, Tokyo and Yokohama from July 23 to Aug. 8. At the Olympics, each men’s team can include up to three players over the age limit on its 20-man roster.
Ten players have appeared for the senior U.S. team, including three at least year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup: Lewis, defender Reggie Cannon and midfielder Djordje Mihailovic. Llanez scored in his senior debut on Feb. 1, a 1-0 exhibition win over Costa Rica.
Defender Erik Palmer-Brown was selected best player of the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
Fifteen players are from Major League Soccer, two from the Netherlands’ PSV Eindhoven and one each from Austria Vienna, Germany’s Wolfsburg and Mexico’s Pumas.
Kreis, a former U.S. national team player, was hired last March after coaching in MLS with Salt Lake (2007-13), New York City (2015) and Orlando (2016-18).
The Americans failed to advance from the group stage of 2012 qualifying, beating Cuba 6-0 but losing to Canada 2-0 and tying El Salvador 3-3. The U.S. lost to Honduras 2-0 in the semifinals of 2016 qualifying.
Goalkeepers: Matt Freese (Philadelphia), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose), David Ochoa (Salt Lake)
Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Dallas), Justen Glad (Salt Lake), Chris Gloster (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Aaron Herrera (Salt Lake), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia), Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Vienna)
Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago), Paxton Pomykal (Dallas), Jackson Yueill (San Jose)
Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland), Jesús Ferreira (Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg, Germany), Sebastian Saucedo (Pumas, Mexico)