USMNT vs. Slovenia three things to watch as Gregg Berhalter looks to prepare USA for Olympics and Copa America

Saturday the 2024 United States men’s national team season will get underway with a friendly against Slovenia but familiar names like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Folarin Balogun will be missing. That’s due to this being a January camp that regularly takes place outside a standard FIFA international window, causing Gregg Berhalter to bring in a more domestic-based roster. With Copa America, the Olympic Games and the Concacaf Nations League semifinals on the horizon, this is a big opportunity for players to show what they can do in a pressure-filled environment to make those teams, with Berhalter and his staff, including U-23 coach Marko Mitrovic watching over this camp.

“For some of the younger players to feel the pressure and have to go out there and perform and get a victory, I think is an important psychological barrier that we need to overcome,” Berhalter said about the upcoming match. “But aside from that, we’ve been working on a number of things from a midblock defensive shape to some attacking rotations, and it’ll be nice to see how that plays out on the field tomorrow.”

Two players called in who won’t be featuring during the match on Saturday are Cade Cowell and Jackson Ragen. Cowell recently completed a transfer from the San Jose Earthquakes to Chivas de Guadalajara and has departed camp to get settled in Mexico while Ragen has aggravated a knee injury and returned to the Seattle Sounders for treatment. But for the 23 members of the squad who remain, here are a few things to watch for.

Which uncapped goalkeeper will standout?

While Berhalter wasn’t able to provide his lineup in his pre-match presser due to the team not knowing who would feature yet, he did state that a keeper would be getting their first cap during camp not that it should come as a surprise. Without Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, and Ethan Horvath in camp, all three keepers chosen combine for zero caps. Inter Miami’s Drake Callender has been a member of two USMNT camps previously, but has yet to get a cap while Roman Celetano and Patrick Schulte are new inclusions after strong MLS seasons. It would make sense for Callender to get the nod in the match for his first USMNT cap and due to the uncertainty around Matt Turner’s playing time with Nottingham Forest, Callender could quickly become the keeper with the best club situation.

One eye on the Olympics

With 16 uncapped players and 19 being age-eligible for the Olympics, Mitrovic’s watchful eye may be more important than Berhalter’s for upcoming tournaments. Berhalter did acknowledge that it will be a lot to take into consideration with that Olympic roster.

“There are some complications with the fact that clubs don’t have to release the players. So that’s the first barrier. The second barrier would be participation in Copa America, and then the overall load of that entire summer are things that we’re considering,” Berhalter said about how the Olympic roster is taking shape. “Taking into consideration what the players have done in the previous year and what we’d project them to do in the next year. We don’t want to overload them we want them to go into 2025 healthy.” 

With such a busy summer upcoming he’ll need all the depth that he can get, and some of that will come from this camp, while other players will certainly come from talent based in Europe. Since every player can’t feature in all three tournaments, performances from camps like this one could loom large while looking to round out the rosters.

Looking to Miles Robinson

During these camps, the elder statesman role is an important one and with some experienced names like Jesue Ferreria, Walker Zimmerman, and Jordan Morris being left with their clubs, that role will fall to new FC Cincinnati defender Miles Robinson. With 27 caps, Robinson has almost as many caps as the rest of the team combined with the next most caps going to Shaq Moore with only 17. Looking to cement his place in the first team defense, his leadership credentials will be tested as making sure that the young players of the USMNT are in the correct position will take excellent communication from him.

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Saturday, Jan. 20 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • Location: Toyota  Park — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: TNT  | Live stream: MAX
  • Odds: United States -155; Draw +250; Slovenia +390

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