Zelalem, Hyndman join U.S. U-23s for last pre-Olympic-qualifying friendlies
In its final camp ahead of the Olympic qualification tournament, the United States Under-23 men's national team will travel to England in September with a 24-man squad. The team includes seven players from the U.S. U-20 team that went out in the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup, but not Jordan Morris, whose college season at Stanford starts Friday night.
Playmakers Gedion Zelalem and Emerson Hyndman are the most notable inclusions among the U-20-aged contingent, but goalkeeper Zack Steffen, center backs Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga and forwards Rubio Rubín and Maki Tall are also on the list. The U-23s take on England on Sept. 3 and Qatar on Sept. 8 in their final friendlies ahead of qualifying, which commences Oct. 1.
“We have a strong group of players that we believe in, and now we are able to look as some of the guys who did very well with our U-20 team,” coach Andi Herzog said in a press release. “This is really the last chance for all of the players to make an impression before we select the final roster for qualifying.”
With that in mind, Morris’s exclusion from the squad likely signifies that his spot is secure for the CONCACAF tournament in October. Fighting it out in his place to make the Olympic squad will be Rubín and Tall, who scored in the U-20s’ World Cup opener against Myanmar before breaking his toe.
Morris seems to have recovered completely from summer surgery to correct a stress fracture in one of his legs, and he’ll feature for Stanford in its season opener at Santa Barbara on Friday.
Meanwhile, Zelalem just completed a loan move to Scottish club Rangers from Arsenal, and he assisted twice in a 5-0 Scottish League Cup victory over Airdrieonians on Wednesday. West Virginia-born Southampton youth product and current Chesterfield winger Gboly Ariyibi, also eligible to represent Nigeria, earned a call-up as well after previously appearing once for the U-20s, in a 1-1 draw against Argentina in 2014.
Julian Green is not on the squad, though, despite scoring for Bayern Munich II in Germany’s fourth division on Tuesday. The Olympic team could eventually feature any or none of Green, John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin, none of whom were called into this camp. Sporting Kansas City center back Erik Palmer-Brown was also omitted, called in instead for a U.S. U-20 camp.
The entire England camp falls within a FIFA international window, making their exclusions slightly more notable, especially considering the proximity of their home clubs to the U.S. training site. Just over three weeks after the camp ends, Olympic qualifying kicks off.
However, the first two matches of the group stage (against Canada and Cuba on Oct. 1 and 3, respectively) take place outside of the FIFA window, meaning clubs won’t have to release players until the latter stages of the tournament.
As such, the federation could find it difficult to call in European-based players or those whose presence will be vital in the Major League Soccer playoff push.
Nine MLS players are on this roster despite the league not stopping for international breaks, including Chicago Fire holding midfielder Matt Polster, who has impressed enough in his rookie season to earn his first look at the youth national team level.
Here is the full U.S. Under-23 roster:
GOALKEEPERS: Cody Cropper (MK Dons), Ethan Horvath (Molde), Zack Steffen (Freiburg)
DEFENDERS: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), Boyd Okwuonu (Real Salt Lake), Shane O'Neill (Apollon Limassol), William Packwood (Unattached), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy)
MIDFIELDERS: Gboly Ariyibi (Chesterfield), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Benji Joya (Club Necaxa), Marc Pelosi (San Jose Earthquakes), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Gedion Zelalem (Rangers)
FORWARDS: Alonso Hernández (C.D. Juarez), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Mario Rodríguez (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Rubio Rubín (Utrecht), Maki Tall (FC Sion)