U.S. men end training camp in scoreless draw with Colombia

January 29, 2023 GMT
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Colombia's Diego Valoyes, left, dribbles the ball past United States' Aaron Long during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Colombia's Diego Valoyes, left, dribbles the ball past United States' Aaron Long during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

CARSON, Calif. (AP) — The annual January training camp for the U.S. men’s national team is a chance for young, inexperienced players to build their skills for international competition, and interim head coach Anthony Hudson’s young U.S. squad got plenty of foundational work done this month.

While the Americans didn’t get a win or more than one goal, he’s still confident they’ve laid the groundwork for something bigger.

Sean Johnson kept his sixth career clean sheet, and four more U.S. players made their senior international debuts as the men wrapped up their first competitive period since the World Cup by playing to a scoreless draw with Colombia on Saturday night.

“Overall, I think we achieved our objectives,” Hudson said. “There’s a bunch of players we wanted to see with us, to see in competitive situations. It was a case of being able to look at those players in our environment and being able to get through two games physically.”

The Americans scored only once and went 0-1-1 in their two friendlies in Southern California this week. But after a handful of important practices and a competitive 2-1 loss to Serbia this week, Hudson got another 90 minutes of experience for his youngsters with only five members of last year’s World Cup team on the U.S. roster.

Eight players made their U.S. debuts Wednesday night against Serbia, the most in one match in over 30 years. The 12 total debuts are the most ever made for a U.S. team in this January period, topping eight debuts in 2006.

“It’s a great group of players, and that speaks to the depth of our player group,” said Johnson, the 2021 MLS Cup MVP who signed with Toronto last month. “There’s good times ahead for us. We would have loved to win, and we had our chances, but it was solid all around. As a group, I feel like this camp was a step forward.”

Frankfurt midfielder Paxten Aaronson, the brother of Brenden Aaronson, and New York Red Bulls defender John Tolkin made their U.S. debuts as starters against Colombia, while Emmanuel Sabbi and Sam Rogers debuted as second-half substitutes.

Hudson’s first U.S. team showed resilience on defense and aggression with the ball against a Colombian team also featuring mostly inexperienced international players and several MLS-based players, including Los Angeles FC star Cristian “Chicho” Arango.

“What I saw from the touchline, it could easily have been a qualifying game,” Hudson said. “Such is what both teams were putting into it. It was a very intense game. For some of the younger guys, it will be a great experience for them.”

Hudson received praise from his players in their first week of work together since the veteran coach took over for Gregg Berhalter, whose contract expired at the end of last year. Berhalter, who led the U.S. to the round of 16 at the World Cup in Qatar, is under investigation by the U.S. Soccer Federation for a domestic violence incident that occurred in the early 1990s, and it is unclear whether he has a chance of resuming his job.

U.S. Soccer is in upheaval after the departures of sporting director Earnie Stewart and men’s general manager Brian McBride earlier this month. The governing body will select a new sporting director who will hire the permanent men’s head coach, but the process could take many months.

That means Hudson will still be in charge in March during the next series of games, which are in a FIFA window, unlike this January camp. The Seattle-born Englishman seems likely to run the team all the way through the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, culminating July 16 at nearby SoFi Stadium.

“Until I’m told otherwise, I’m going to do my best for the team and the players,” Hudson said.

The scoreless first half featured several decent chances for both teams in front of a sellout crowd at the LA Galaxy’s home stadium in the suburbs due south of downtown Los Angeles. The crowd included thousands of roaring Colombian fans from across North America wearing the national jersey and waving flags for Los Cafeteros.

Jesús Ferreira, a Colombia-born American forward, made a beautiful pass to put Matthew Hoppe alone on net in the 32nd minute, but the Middlesbrough forward shot directly at goalkeeper Alvaro Montero.

LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta put a free kick dangerously into the box in the 90th minute, but his U.S. teammates failed to bang it home.

Colombia’s Frank Fabra made a run deep into the U.S. box in the final minute of injury time, but botched his shot attempt.

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