Less than two months after the 2022 World Cup qualifiers ended with a round-of-16 loss to the Netherlands, members of the United States men’s national team face off in the second match of the national team’s 2023 knowing the program will soon be without an entire front office in addition to not having a full-time head coach.
Saturday’s friendly against Colombia (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT, Peacock, Universo) comes after Thursday’s bombshell that USMNT general manager Brian McBride and US Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart will step down from their roles in the coming days and weeks. The future of World Cup coach Gregg Berhalter was already in limbo as the USSF awaits the results of an investigation into a 1991 domestic incident involving Berhalter, as well as the behavior of midfielder Gio Reyna’s parents before that they report the episode to Stewart. Berhalter has been replaced, for now, on an interim basis by assistant coach Anthony Hudson.
It’s a lot for players to process. A young, inexperienced squad missing European standouts such as Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie (most of the regulars are on club duty until the next FIFA international window opens at the end of March) could be expected to be distracted or find restless Instead, it has mostly been business as usual.
“It’s a time of transition, but for us as players, the continuity of how we’re playing and implementing what we’ve been doing for the last four years, it doesn’t change too much for us right now at this point,” he said. defender Walker Zimmerman, one of five participants in this field, which is made up mostly of MLS players in the off-season, who went to the World Cup in Qatar. “We’ll continue to do that and continue to try to make an impression every time we play in the United States.”
Still, it’s a strange time for the USMNT. Hudson was only supposed to play in two low-profile January exhibitions; he must now remain in charge for two official competitions at the end of the year, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the League of Nations, before the new sporting director appoints a new coach.
Players have tried to stay above the fray; Zimmerman said he has been in contact with both Berhalter and Reyna in recent weeks. He revealed that Stewart, who has accepted the job of technical director at Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, pulled several of the veterans aside to tell them himself the night before the announcement. McBride’s departure was previously reported. Both men will be missed.
“Always two starter guys,” Zimmerman said of the pair.
Management turnover is normal in top-level sports, but Stewart’s revelation in particular blindsided almost everyone. That it happened between games wasn’t ideal either.
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The US men dropped their first game of the new year on Wednesday, falling to Serbia 2-1. Despite fielding eight uncapped players, the Americans were spirited and aggressive, with forwards Cade Cowell and Brandon Vázquez and 18-year-old goalkeeper Gaga Slonina among those who impressed. The US still lost, though. “The result was very hard to take,” Hudson said Friday.
The matchup against a dynamic Colombian team featuring elite MLS forwards Cristian Arango and Cucho Hernandez likely won’t get any easier. “It’s a different kind of test than the other night,” Hudson said. “They’re a good team.”
The Coffee Makers they will also have their supporters behind them. A U.S. Soccer spokesman said the federation is close to selling out 27,000 seats at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., and most attendees are expected to support the visitors..
Meanwhile, Hudson’s lineup options are limited by fitness restrictions; Zimmerman was the only World Cup player able to start earlier this week. The rest of the squad is also in pre-season form.
“We have to have a minimum of players who can play 90 minutes,” Hudson said. “That in itself has been a challenge.”
He has been one of many in this camp. Qatar vets — Kellyn Acosta, Jesús Ferreira, Sean Johnson and Aaron Long are the others — along with popular American winger Paul Arriola, have been instrumental in maintaining a sense of normalcy within the group.
They even received good news on Friday; The United States will host the Copa America tournament in the summer of 2024, giving the hosts a chance to face the likes of Brazil and World Cup champions Argentina heading into the 2026 World Cup. “It’s huge for us,” Zimmerman said. “It’s something to look forward to.”
First, they want to finish the current camp on a strong note.
“He’s been calm. He’s been focused. He’s been professional,” Hudson said of the USMNT’s weeklong stay in Los Angeles. “The senior boys have helped drive expectations on and off the field. So overall the players and staff together have created a field that has been really nice to be a part of.”
Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.
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