January 30, 2017
If you missed Sunday's match between the United States and Serbia, you need not watch the replay.
A team of MLS-based players settled for a scoreless draw with a team of Serbian second stringers.
Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya started and played 65 minutes as a right-sided midfielder in a shape that sort of alternated between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3. He put in a decent, if unspectacular, two-way effort in front of right back Graham Zusi (more on that later).
The best moment of the game was the entrance of Chris Pontius, who earned his very first cap for the United States national team. Pontius had been involved in previous U.S. camps but did not find his way onto the gameday roster for winter friendlies. This time, he got 25 minutes in the second half as a straight swap for Bedoya, his club teammate.
Pontius had a chance to win the game in the dying minutes but fizzed a shot just wide of the post. A game-winning goal would have been the perfect way to kick off 2017, but he'll just have to be content with his first U.S. appearance after recovering from career-threatening injuries.
A Philadelphia Union player just replaced a Philadelphia Union player in a US national team game. This is not a drill. pic.twitter.com/IGWgTaXOF6— Dave Zeitlin (@DaveZeitlin) January 29, 2017
Oguchi Onyewu's training stint with the Union lasted about a week. The veteran American center back was officially added to the roster Monday morning as a "discovery signing", which is another goofy MLS mechanism. How do you "discover" a guy who played in the World Cup?
Anyway, I like Onyewu as a veteran presence who can aid the growth of Josh Yaro, Richie Marquez, and Ken Tribbett. Onyewu is 34-years old with a recent injury history, so I can't see him playing a ton of games, but that's not really the point either. You're still trying to develop the young center halves on your roster and that has to be the first priority.
Josh Yaro did miss a number of games last year, so there was room for a third center back to play, and Ken Tribbett logged a lot of minutes when he probably shouldn't have. I think the team is in much better shape if Onyewu can stay healthy and impart wisdom to a young CB corps.
The third Union player who took part in January camp was sent home early and didn't appear in this game.
Instead of giving Keegan Rosenberry a shot at right back, Bruce Arena went with 30-year-old converted midfielder Graham Zusi.
There are a few things to process here.
1. I don't think Keegan is ready quite yet, and I'm not surprised that he was sent home early. That said, this was a great opportunity to get a taste of international-quality play. Remember, Jack McInerney was sent home early when he was called to the Gold Cup in 2013. Be disappointed if you want, but everybody has to start somewhere.
2. Graham Zusi at right back is a Jurgen Klinsmann-type of move. I understand that DeAndre Yedlin and Timmy Chandler are not part of this camp. I also understand that the current qualifying predicament and recent coaching change places a bit more importance on these friendlies. Now isn't the time to give a 23- year old his first cap when a new manager needs to get things sorted out quickly. I understand that sentiment.
3. But – I know for a fact that a 30-year-old converted midfielder is not the right back of the future. If you know that Yedlin and Chandler top the RB depth chart on a full strength squad, then why even bother with the Zusi experiment? You might as well have given the 90 minutes to Rosenberry instead of wasting them on an out-of-position veteran.
4. For what it's worth, Zusi played fine in the game. We just don't need utility guys on the USMNT. We need the best players in our country playing in their natural positions. And I'm not on the Rosenberry bandwagon just because he's a Philadelphia Union player. I would prefer to see any young, natural right back on the field before a converted veteran midfielder. We have to be better than Zusi and Brad Evans playing right back.
Zusi and Beasley are on the #USMNT squad for the weekend, & Rosenberry was sent home. Yeah, Arena will make USA soccer great again, alright.— Matty Sunday (@mattsunday) January 27, 2017
The Union are off to Clearwater on Tuesday morning for phase two of preseason training camp.
They'll play three scrimmages in Florida, none of which are open to fans or media. That means we probably won't get a good look at the team until the February 18th Suncoast Invitational game against Tampa Bay. In years past, there was usually a phase two friendly against Jacksonville that was streamed live over the internet.
Here's how the schedule looks:
Tuesday, January 31st – club leaves for Clearwater
Wednesday, February 1st – training in Clearwater
Thursday, February 2nd – training in Clearwater
Friday, February 3rd – training in Clearwater
Saturday, February 4th – closed door scrimmage vs. D.C. United
Sunday, February 5th – off
Monday, February 6th – training in Clearwater
Tuesday, February 7th – closed door scrimmage vs. U.S. U-17 national team
Wednesday, February 8th – training in Clearwater
Thursday, February 9th – closed door scrimmage vs. Chicago Fire
Friday, February 10th – fly back to Philly
Saturday, February 11th – off
Sunday, February 12th – off
Monday, February 13th – training in Chester
Tuesday, February 14th – fly back to Clearwater
It's nice to have that day on February 13th when we can get down to Chester for media access. There should also be weekly conference calls during the Florida trip, but little access to any kind of game footage.
The Union held their second annual media day on Saturday, which included an "ask me anything" event on Reddit featuring participation from most of the team. An "AMA" thread on Reddit basically allows fans to speak directly with the players.
• Roland Alberg is an Arsenal supporter
• Fabian Herbers is a Liverpool supporter
• When asked if a hot dog is a sandwich, Warren Creavalle says he "doesn't see why not". Josh Yaro agrees, but Ken Tribbett does not think that a hot dog is a sandwich.
• Maurice Edu once stole Andrew Wenger's car and moved it across the parking lot at Talen Energy Stadium. He denied involvement but was caught on camera.
• Ray Gaddis says that Rio Tinto Stadium is the toughest road environment in MLS due to the altitude
• Brian Carroll takes a nap before games
• The locker room music is controlled by Warren Creavalle, Maurice Edu, and C.J. Sapong
California surfer guy
Head coach Jim Curtin did an appearance on Comcast SportsNet and took part in the rapid fire question segment called "Quick Six."
Curtin named Josh Yaro as the player who would take the biggest leap forward in 2017.
He also explained why he cut his hair after retiring to become a coach.
"I had the long hair as a pro but they did random drug testing back then and I was always on the list for some reason. I was clean. But the hair maybe looked a little 'California surfer guy.'"
You can watch the full segment below.