With mere hours left in 2019, the US men's national team got a head start on 2020.
The roster for the annual January camp dropped this week with a heavy dose of youth and hope. It's an annual tradition. The squad includes a number of highly-rated youngsters, even with the nation's brightest European stars unavailable with their own seasons.
Still, the 25 players will board a plane to the Aspire Academy in Doha, Qatar, before going to California for a friendly against Costa Rica. It's as competitive a roster as in recent memory, with a number of players left behind. Here are a few of the biggest snubs:
Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore
First off, the obvious ones. For the sake of being concise, it makes sense to group them all together because it's more than likely down to: They're veterans. What do they have to prove to Gregg Berhalter?
Jozy Altidore has had his well-documented struggles with staying fit, the latest of which during Toronto FC's run to MLS Cup where Altidore worked like hell to convince Greg Vanney to let him play. He had exactly one full training session before featuring in their loss to Seattle. A full offseason is most important for Altidore.
One of 2019's breakout stars, Robinson broke into the national team before season's end. And then he was a late injury replacement in October before being injured himself, in a post-match training session. Then he missed all of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. Frank de Boer was publicly very much not pleased with the entire situation.
Can confirm via a team spokesperson that #ATLUTD denied to release Miles Robinson, Brad Guzan and Brooks Lennon for the #USMNT January camp. The team has preseason opening very soon and CCL in mid-February.— Rob Usry (@RobUsry) December 30, 2019
A player synonymous with the Berhalter regime in both Columbus and now with the national team, Trapp has been left off a USMNT squad for the first time since Berhalter took over.
Perhaps he could be grouped with the likes of Bradley, Altidore and Guzan, though it may not be that simple. If it's exclusively a technical decision, then, well, it's pretty big news. As Matt Doyle noted a few weeks ago, it looks like Jackson Yueill passed Trapp on the depth chart. Trapp's deficiencies to cover ground at the international level may be too big a hurdle to climb, despite his passing range. There's only so many long diagonals he can hit.
Or maybe there's another reason! Who knows! He has been lightly rumored as a transfer target in Europe -- or something else we aren't yet aware of. With Tyler Adams (currently) fit plus the likes of Brandon Servania, Hassani Dotson and Cappis coming, this roster may well be ominous for Trapp.
Alex Mendez, Richie Ledezma
With Uly Llanez on the squad, a few other Euro-based U-20 standouts may have been within the picture for January.
Like Llanez, Mendez (Ajax) and Ledezma (PSV) have yet to make their first team debut. Like Llanez, Mendez and Ledezma enjoyed bright moments at the U-20 World Cup. Like Llanez, Mendez and Ledezma are players the USMNT-supporting Twitter mob are dying to see.
Though his production tailed off towards the end of 2019 — he scored just twice in his final 12 appearances — Toye is a big prospect for both Minnesota United and the USMNT. With Jeremy Ebobisse injured, Altidore left behind and Josh Sargent busy with Werder Bremen, Toye could have risen to the senior side behind Gyasi Zardes.
Instead, Zardes is the only out-and-out No. 9. The squad includes Jesus Ferreira, who is best suited as a second-striker role rather than spearheading Berhalter's 4-3-3, as well as Jordan Morris, who broke through as a forward, but has settled well as a winger.