This was always going to be a strange January camp for the USMNT with it directly following a World Cup. As usual it falls outside a FIFA international window, so the roster will be composed of MLS players, but now we also know that the team will be guided by an interim manager, Anthony Hudson.
Hudson steps in following the expiration of Gregg Berhalter's contract at the start of the new year. Berhalter might still be the man in charge after January camp, but U.S. Soccer said it's reviewing the USMNT program following the conclusion of the World Cup and awaiting the results of an ongoing investigation after Tuesday's revelation that Berhalter had been blackmailed during the tournament. That was followed by Wednesday's confession from Gio Reyna's mom of actually doing the blackmailing.
It's all a massive telenovela at this point, but ultimately the USMNT has friendlies against Serbia (Jan. 25) and Colombia (Jan. 28) to prepare for with the Nations League, FIFA U-20 World Cup and Gold Cup on the horizon. Here are five questions facing the U.S. in Carson, California.
#1. What's the mood at a first January camp without Berhalter since 2018?
Berhalter was named USMNT manager on Dec. 2, 2018. His first real experience with the team was then the 2019 January camp, which culminated in a 3-0 friendly win over Panama. That camp roster actually had four players who'd go on to make the World Cup squad four years later: Sean Johnson, Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman and Kellyn Acosta.
This'll be a whole new exercise with Hudson, fellow World Cup assistant B.J. Callaghan and U.S. U-20 coach Mikey Varas running the show.
#2. Is Hudson's role just like Dave Sarachan before him?
Before Berhalter was named U.S. coach, Sarachan (a former assistant under Bruce Arena) took the interim role for 12 matches. It was a foggy time for the program after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and Sarachan wasn't an inspiring name, but he did hand out 23 first caps during his short reign (Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Tim Weah among them).
Hudson's last managerial job with the Colorado Rapids was an absolute train wreck, but he was fired in 2019 and joined U.S. Soccer in January 2020 as coach of the U-20 team before becoming Berhalter's assistant in 2021.
With U-20 manager Varas helping Hudson select players and the U-20 World Cup taking place in May, expect Hudson to name a bunch of young MLS talent that could feature at that tournament in the squad. Many of them will be receiving their first caps over the two friendlies.
#3. So who can we expect on the roster?
We'll see a lot of the stars of the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship, except 19-year-old Paxten Aaronson because of his recent move to Eintracht Frankfurt. But other possible names include Quinn Sullivan, Jack McGlynn (both Philadelphia Union), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy), Chris Brady (Chicago Fire), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes) and Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake).
There'll also be guys who challenged for the World Cup roster like Brandon Vazquez (Cincinnati), Paxton Pomykal (Dallas), John Tolkin (NY Red Bulls) and Eryk Williamson (Portland).
For a couple meaningless friendlies directly following the greatest show on Earth, there's still reason to believe we could have some fun out there.
#4. What can we expect from Serbia and Colombia?
The U.S. has played Serbia in its January camp before. Back in 2017 (after Arena had just replaced Jürgen Klinsmann) Serbia visited San Diego and earned a 0-0 draw. Without its stars, Serbia played with a lineup that had totaled just five previous international appearances. Expect something similar this time. However, the Serbian SuperLiga doesn't resume until Feb. 4 so we'll be looking at some talented players from clubs like Red Star Belgrade and Partizan.
After failing to qualify for the World Cup, Colombia hired Néstor Lorenzo to lead the program forward. The Argentine is finally getting his chance after serving as an assistant under José Pékerman at three World Cups. We obviously won't be seeing any of Colombia's European-based players, but los Cafeteros can draw talent from Categoría Primera A and other top South American leagues.
#5. Then what?
The United States isn't back in action until finishing out the Nations League group stage in March with games against Grenada and El Salvador. You wouldn't expect Hudson to sill be around then with the interim tag, but I never expected things like this either:
I still support Zinedine Zidane for the full-time job but France and Brazil aren't engulfed in blackmail scandals and are leading the chase. That's on you, Earnie Stewart.