The United States men’s national team played Colombia to a scoreless draw in Carson, California Saturday in its second match since the 2022 World Cup. The stalemate comes three days after a 2-1 loss to Serbia in another friendly, leaving the Americans — which had just five holdovers from the World Cup roster available for this month’s two friendlies — to wait until at least March for their first win of 2023.
Here are three quick thoughts on Saturday’s match and the year-opening camp overall.
A winless January despite improved U.S. performance
All five Qatar 2022 veterans were in interim boss Anthony Hudson’s starting lineup for this one, but Los Careferos were a formidable opponent despite having significantly less experience than the hosts. And for a game without any goals, this was an entertaining affair.
The sloppiness that’s a staple of any match in which most players are between seasons was obvious, but both sides fought hard from the opening whistle.
“It could easily have been a qualifying game, such was what the players were putting into it,” Hudson said afterward. “It was a very intense game.”
The U.S. nearly opened the scored through debutant Paxten Aaronson — the younger brother of Leeds United attacker Brenden — twice in the first half. World Cup vet Jesus Ferreira, playing against his birth nation, squandered the best opportunity of the contest in the second. The U.S. also had two penalty shouts waved away by the officials, who didn’t have the benefit of a video assistant referee for this exhibition.
That doesn’t chance that there was no goal to be had on Saturday, and no victory to celebrate in this first get-together of the 2026 World Cup cycle. Add in Thursday’s mid-camp bombshell that U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart is leaving along with USMNT general manager Brian McBride plus World Cup coach Gregg Berhalter’s uncertain future with the program, and it hasn’t been the best month for the U.S. men. Still, this camp served its purpose overall.
“The objective of this camp was to look for new players,” Hudson said. “I think we achieved our objectives. There’s a bunch of players in there that we wanted to see with us, we wanted to see in competitive games. It’s given us the opportunity to do that.”
Several young Americans showcase potential
U.S. under-20 national team star Paxten Aaronson displayed both his promise and his inexperience against Colombia, but he was also heavily involved throughout his first international appearance.
Saturday’s other debutant, left back John Tolkin, also didn’t look out of place in one of the shallowest positions in the player pool.
“He’s a confident kid,” Hudson said of Tolkin. “I don’t think this situation phased him at all.”
In a somewhat surprising start over fellow striker Brandon Vazquez, Matthew Hoppe turned in a far better performance than he produced off the bench against Serbia. While his decision-making was suspect, his fight wasn’t.
“I would imagine, for defenders he’s horrible to play against,” Hudson said of Hoppe, who has struggled in his first season with Middlesbrough and was allowed by the English second tier club to participate in these matches. “He just doesn’t stop.”
Encouraging performances by Aaronson, Hoppe and Tolkin on Saturday follow those of fellow youngsters Cade Cowell and Gaga Slonina and the 24-year-old Vazquez against Serbia. A win would’ve 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 to come 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 squad is being overseen by a lame duck manager. Add in the off-field drama that has dominated the conversation around the national team since Qatar, including Thursday’s news that Stewart and McBride are out, and it shouldn’t be surprising that this group didn’t set the world on fire this week. These are glorified preseason friendlies. The results literally do not matter.
That won’t be the case in March, June and July. The Americans have two CONCACAF Nations League group stage games in late March, with the finals set for early June and the Gold Cup after that. The entire player pool will be available then. That will provide a better measure of where the U.S. is early in the 2026 cycle. The mood around the program might be lighter then, too.
“We’ve got an amazing group,” Hudson said. “A large number of the players are not here, but I can assure you they love playing for this team. They love coming to represent the national team, and to work with a group of players like that is a real privilege.”
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