The U.S. men’s national team was held to a goalless draw by Colombia in their second game since the 2022 World Cup in Carson, Calif., on Saturday. The stalemate comes three days after a 2-1 loss to Serbia in another friendly, and the Americans, who had just five World Cup roster spots available for this month’s two friendlies, will have to wait at least until March to get their first win of 2023. .
Here are three quick thoughts on Saturday’s game and the overall opening pitch of the year.
A January without earnings despite improved US performance
All five Qatar 2022 veterans were in caretaker boss Anthony Hudson’s starting line-up for this one, but Los Careferos were a formidable opponent despite having significantly less experience than the hosts. And for a scoreless game, it was an entertaining affair.
The sloppiness that is a staple of any game where most players are between seasons was evident, but both sides battled hard from the opening whistle.
“It could have easily been a qualifying game, that’s what the players put into it,” Hudson said afterward. “It was a very intense game.”
The United States almost opened the scoring through debutant Paxten Aaronson, the younger brother of Leeds United striker Brenden, twice in the first half. World Cup vet Jesús Ferreira, playing against his home nation, wasted the best chance of the competition in the second. The U.S. also had two penalty shouts turned down by the officials, who did not have the benefit of a video assistant referee for this display.
That’s not to say there was no goal on Saturday, no victory to celebrate in this first meeting of the 2026 World Cup cycle. Add to Thursday’s midfield bombshell that US Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart will be leaving along with the USMNT general manager Brian McBride and World Cup coach Gregg Berhalter’s uncertain future with the program, and it hasn’t been the best month for the USA men. Still, this camp served its purpose overall.
“The point of this camp was to look for new players,” Hudson said. “I think we have achieved our goals. There are a lot of players that we wanted to see with us, that we wanted to see in competitive games. It has given us the opportunity to do that.”
Several young Americans show potential
U.S. U20 star Paxten Aaronson showed both his promise and his inexperience against Colombia, but he was also heavily involved in his first international appearance.
Saturday’s other debutant, left-back John Tolkin, didn’t look out of place in one of the lowest positions in the group of players either.
“He’s a confident kid,” Hudson said of Tolkin. “I think that situation didn’t phase him at all.”
In a somewhat surprising start over fellow striker Brandon Vazquez, Matthew Hoppe put in a much better performance than he produced off the bench against Serbia. While his decision making was suspect, his fighting was not.
“I imagine for defenders it’s horrible to play against him,” Hudson said of Hoppe, who has struggled in his first season with Middlesbrough and was allowed to feature in those games by the English second-tier club. “It just doesn’t stop.”
The rousing performances of Aaronson, Hoppe and Tolkin on Saturday follow those of teammates Cade Cowell and Gaga Slonina and the 24-year-old Vazquez against Serbia. A win would have been nice, but it’s hard to ask for much more than that.
“It was a really good test for our players, and especially some of the younger guys,” Hudson said. “This will have been a great experience for them.”
Bigger tests for the USMNT
The cold truth is that in the grand scheme of things, these two games don’t mean much. The 2022 World Cup ended last month. Only a handful of regulars were available for this camp. The team is being overseen by a lame duck coach. Add to that the off-field drama that has dominated conversation around the national team since Qatar, including Thursday’s news that Stewart and McBride are out, and it should come as no surprise that this group hasn’t set the world on fire this week week These are glorified pre-season friendlies. The results literally don’t matter.
This will not be the case in March, June and July. The Americans have two CONCACAF Nations League group stage games in late March, with the finals in early June and the Gold Cup to follow. The entire player pool will then be available. This will provide a better gauge of where the US stands early in the cycle in 2026. The mood around the program could also be lighter.
“We have an amazing group,” Hudson said. “A lot of players aren’t here, but I can tell you they love playing with this team. They love coming to represent the national team, and working with a group of players like that is a real privilege.”
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