After two friendlies and a couple weeks of training, the January camp is wrapped up. A few players stood out, and others didn’t impress. After a few days to watch the games again and sit on our thoughts, we have our winners and losers.
Our first game came against Panama, the team who made the 2018 World Cup over us. In case you forgot, Panama gave up 11 goals in the World Cup and lost all three games. This Panama squad was obviously very weak compared to their actual squad, but so was the USMNT. The highlights from the Panama game are below.
The second game came against Costa Rica, a familiar foe over the last few years. A weakened squad compared to usual, Costa Rica was missing some of the names you might be familiar with. Such as Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell, and Bryan Ruiz. The highlights from this game are below.
Winner: Djordje Mihailovic
I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t know a ton about Djordje going into the first game, but I was really impressed by his ability on the ball. Looking calm for the most part, Djordje stood out amongst a crowd of relatively unfamiliar names. Getting his first international goal in his first cap is obviously something to be very proud of. Not only did he chip in with the goal scoring, Djordje created multiple chances and looked like the most composed player in the attacking half. Only 20 years old, Djordje has many years ahead of him before he will reach his prime. This should just be the start of things to come for the young American, who plays at the club level for the Chicago Fire.
Winners: Walker Zimmerman & Aaron Long
These two impressed me immensely in defense for the USMNT. Aaron Long was much faster than I realized, covering balls that he had no business getting to. The partnership of Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long were rock solid in defense, with neither teams scoring in both games. Zimmerman also capped off the first game with a goal from a towering header. Something you MLS fans have seen a few times over the years from Zimm.
While many of us assume Matt Miazga and John Brooks will be the center backs in more meaningful games, I think Aaron Long made a case he could partner Brooks. At the least, Long is very versatile to the different formations that Berhalter could use in the future.
Loser: Kellyn Acosta
Not that long ago, Acosta seemed like a mainstay in the national team fold. After an apparently turbulent January camp, Acosta didn’t make the cut and was sent home before getting to play in either game. This was a huge blow to a player who would like to think he is better or just not as good as guys like Will Trapp. Berhalter said he told Acosta what he needs to improve on to get back into the squad, but being cut from the B-team doesn’t bode well for when the stars come back into midfield.
Loser: Greg Garza
Now, this is no fault of his own, but Garza was sent home before being to play in either friendly. Suffering a “low-grade quad strain” was enough to have Garza miss out on the opportunity to impress Berhalter and make an impression as one of the possible fullbacks in the future. Injuries have plagued Garza in his career, but he will hope to stay healthy and push for a fullback spot that needs more veteran players badly. As a new signing to FC Cincinati, Garza will have the chance to play reguarly and prove his worth to Berhalter.
While the January camp was succesful as a whole, the word loser was a little harsh for both Acosta and Garza. No one really lost, but those two guys would not be considered winners of the January camp. With the Gold Cup coming up this summer and a few more friendlies in March, everyone will be hoping they did enough to make those squads.
Off to a perfect start in the Berhalter era, hopefully this is a sign of positive things to come. The process of the hiring wasn’t great but the hiring has seemed good so far. A clear system and two victories, not much more you can ask for in the January camp.