LOS ANGELES – The United States men’s national team will have to wait until March for its first win of 2023.
After a 2-1 loss to Serbia on Wednesday, a fully rotated starting XI didn’t offer the same quality across the pitch to find that one crucial goal against Colombia, which ended in a 0-0 draw on Saturday.
Paxten Aaronson, making his first USMNT appearance, had two marquee chances to go in front in the first half, with Matthew Hoppe also having one. Jesus Ferreira offered the best moment just at the hour mark, but failed to get a shot off.
With the scoreless tie against Los Cafeteros in the books, let’s delve into some broader takeaways from the contest:
What’s next for Anthony Hudson?
As the search for a new USMNT manager could take until summer with Gregg Berhalter’s future in limbo, it’ll be interesting to see how long Hudson’s stay lasts. He’ll be disappointed not to see a “W” on the team’s calendar against two teams the U.S. probably should’ve beaten, but he didn't do himself too many favors, especially in the second game.
With 10 minutes to go and a chance to put all the chips on the table against a mostly reserved-filled Colombia side with a loss meaning nothing, he brought on 29-year-old right back Julian Gressel when the game desperately needed more directness in attack. The U.S. played most of the second half in either midfield or in their own defensive third, with youngsters like Cade Cowell, who shined on Wednesday, sitting on the bench.
The next two USMNT games aren’t until March, which is the CONCACAF Nations League. If Hudson is still the man roaming the touchline, he’ll have the team’s biggest stars at his disposal with it being a FIFA-recognized international break compared to January. That could give him an improved opportunity to show his managerial skills with better talent, but his overall coaching record doesn’t take his side in the battle.
Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long should be phased out
Games like these should have the youngsters playing more. LA Galaxy’s 19-year-old center back Jalen Neal got the start against Serbia and shone apart from one mistake, but Hudson went with the veteran duo of Zimmerman and Long against Colombia, which does little to give the youth a pathway.
Zimmerman and Long were both fortunate to not see their mistakes end in a Colombia goal within the game’s opening minutes, and their ball-playing abilities just haven’t enhanced, no matter how much it’s forced. Neal and Sam Rogers, who earned his first cap off the bench in place of Long, should be two of the youngsters getting more reps with their potential being far higher than the former pairing.
Zimmerman and Long are solid in duels and defending in their own box, but that’s the borderline ability a center back should have. Other than providing those traits and veteran expertise, they don’t level up the USMNT.
Jesus Ferreira underwhelms in first January appearance
The FC Dallas forward got on the pitch for the first time in January after being an unused substitute against Serbia, but it ended as an underwhelming outing. He exited in the 63rd minute and will regret not getting a shot off just four minutes prior after Paul Arriola’s set up from the right flank.
Ferreira ended the game with no shots, one dribble attempt that failed, 18 touches, two out of eight ground duels won and 9-for-11 completed passes, with one being a sizzling through ball that should’ve been an assist to Hoppe after a powerless strike. Still, Ferreira didn’t do himself any favors in the ongoing search for the USMNT’s starting No. 9.
Paxten Aaronson logs a full 90 in a left-sided midfield role
The 5-foot-9, 139-pound 19-year-old, whose older brother is Leeds United key man Brenden, earned his first cap on Saturday. Having just recently inked a move to Eintracht Frankfurt of the Bundesliga, it became evident why the German side pursued his signature.
At that frame, thriving – let alone playing – in a midfield role is extremely strenuous. Hudson played Paxten on the left side of a 4-3-3 shape, with Aaronson taking up more advanced zones where he could cut in on his stronger right foot. Those opportunities presented themselves in the first half, but he couldn’t find the back of the net.
The second half required him to do more defensive work, and he looked up to the task. He never shied away from contact, winning nine of 19 ground duels against physical midfielders and adding five tackles and two clearances to his name. Whether that’s his long-term position is up in the air, and he could also occupy the same zones on the opposite side, but there’s a player here for the future. Seeing him get minutes alongside Brenden would be riveting, and it's a positive sign to see him play all 90 minutes in the taxing position.
John Tolkin could be a left back for the future
Going into the World Cup in Qatar, plenty of attention followed Antonee Robinson’s health. Without him storming up and down the left flank supplying attacking help, the team just didn’t have the same width and balance.
But 20-year-old John Tolkin may be the name that bestows that much-needed depth. He was a player to watch coming into January, but didn’t get to play against Serbia. He then earned his first cap with a start against Colombia and arguably was the best player on the night.
Tolkin flourishes most when helping the attack, but the U.S. rarely found itself in those opportunities. He impressed defensively with four clearances, three tackles, winning five of seven ground duels and logging an interception. He also completed 4 of 8 long balls, with the left-hand side looking the better of the two. Getting him minutes alongside a more direct, pure winger like Cade Cowell – similar to the Robinson-Christian Pulisic combo – could be one to develop going forward.