USMNT's messy January camp ends with scoreless draw vs. Colombia

Colombia's Cristian Arango, left, takes a shot on goal next to United States' DeJuan Jones during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

CARSON, Calif. — The U.S. men's national team closed out January camp Saturday with a scoreless draw versus Colombia in a physical game that didn’t feature many chances for either side. Here are some takeaways from the match.

What’s next for USMNT?

Well, the answer is nobody knows. Not even the United States Soccer Federation. The Gregg Berhalter investigation is already one pain point, but add the exits of general manager Brian McBride and sporting director Earnie Stewart and we have a complete mess. What is clear is that interim coach Anthony Hudson will continue to be in charge as things move forward. The CONCACAF Nations League is only two months away, and things happen quickly. The construction of that player pool will be something to watch for amid any news coming from leadership positions. Hate it or love it, Hudson is calling the shots until further notice.

"Until I’m told otherwise, I’m going to do all I can to help the players, try to improve the team, try to take the style of play forward," Hudson said. "We just want to keep improving things, so that’s where my focus is going forward."

Heavy MLS influence

Thirteen of the combined starters in Saturday’s friendly currently play in Major League Soccer. Four of those were on the Colombian side with the rest representing the USMNT.

For January camp it makes sense, especially considering this is Colombia’s only game — using stateside players just seems easier. And besides Juan Camilo “Cucho” Hernandez and maybe Cristian “Chicho” Arango, I wouldn’t expect to see many MLS players on a Colombia roster when it’s loaded. But there is something to be said that perhaps one of their best players on the night was Dylan Borrero, who is a midfielder for the New England Revolution.

On the U.S. end, this continues to be a stage for MLS players to prove themselves. There clearly isn’t much direction within the federation at the moment, but players like Walker Zimmerman, Sean Johnson and Kellyn Acosta are mainstays at this point. Others like Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira did little to help their case in a game where both were mostly irrelevant.

If I had to pick a player that boosted his stock, it’s DeJuan Jones. He played about 30 minutes in Wednesday’s game against Serbia and went the full 90 on Saturday. In the first half he displayed his ability to contribute to the attack, something Revs fans have grown to love. But in the second frame he reverted to a more solidified defensive role and did a solid job clogging up the left side of the attack for Colombia.

"He has a lot of qualities that can really help this team — super athletic, extreme speed and he's a physical body," said Acosta of Jones. "He's going to be challenging for that right and left back position. A lot of promise, he just has to continue to grow and develop."

Notable atmosphere

Wednesday’s USMNT game against Serbia was largely criticized in terms of attendance as only about 11,000 made the trip to BMO Stadium. But a midweek game against a rival like Serbia in Los Angeles was never going to sell many tickets.

Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park was a different story. A sold-out crowd of 27,000 was in Carson and the atmosphere reflected it. The majority of the crowd supported the visitors, and they made sure that was known as Colombia chants took over many times throughout the night. The U.S. fans tried to drown out the echoes and occasionally started their own. The important part is that the game felt like anything but a friendly. It was loud and feisty with a few stoppages due to brief pushing and shoving. The parking lots opened four hours prior to kickoff and the tailgates were in full swing all throughout.

There will always be criticisms about where the USMNT chooses to play games and why. But as momentum shifts toward the recently announced 2024 Copa America, which will be held in the U.S., and of course the 2026 World Cup, a crowd like Saturday’s bodes well for the future.

Don’t forget that these two teams opened up Copa America Centenario in 2016 and packed almost 70,000 into Levi’s Stadium up in Santa Clara, California.