Five Things to Know About MNT October Camp

Some of the storylines to follow as the MNT gets set to face Colombia and Peru in the October Kickoff Series matches.
By: Jeff Crandall

MNT players have begun arriving in Tampa and the team will train for the first time on Monday ahead of Kickoff Series matches against Colombia and Peru.

Here are five things you should know going into the USA’s upcoming matches:

Veterans Return

While the emphasis from the past year has been placed on bringing along the MNT’s next generation, the master plan has always included the return of key veteran players into the mix. As a result, the October matches presented the right to begin the reintegration process, with MNT head coach Dave Sarachan tapping midfielder Michael Bradley and goalkeeper Brad Guzan to return to the squad.  

“When you are building a team, at some point there has to be the proper blend of youth and experience,” Sarachan told last week. “As we head into these last four friendlies of the year, I felt the timing was right to begin that transition. I think it’s important to do it earlier than a week before the Gold Cup or a World Cup Qualifier. Bringing in players like Michael and Brad, who have a vast amount of experience and can be a great resource for our younger players – both on and off the field – is an important step for us at this point in time.”

The duo returns after a year-long absence. Bradley ranks fourth all-time in appearances for the Men’s National Team and is tied for second with assists (22). Guzan ranks in the top five among MNT goalkeepers with 58 caps (fifth), 30 wins (fourth) and 18 clean sheets (fifth), and is currently minding the nets for MLS Supporters Shield leaders Atlanta United FC.

Newbies in Camp

While some vets are back, three first-timers – Jonathan Amon, Reggie Cannon and Ben Sweat -- are also taking their first steps with the senior team this camp

Just 19 years old, Amon has made waves scoring and setting up goals as part of a young roster with Danish Superliga side Nordsjælland. While he’s earned his way to an MNT call-up through his play in Denmark, the path he took to get there and sign with the club is intriguing in its own right.

Meanwhile, Cannon (right back) and Sweat (left back) are defenders that are in the midst of stellar seasons in M.L.S. Cannon has appeared in every match for Western Conference leaders FC Dallas this season, while Sweat – a native of nearby Tampa suburb Palm Harbor -- has been a near constant in the New York City FC lineup.

If you haven’t already taken the opportunity to click the links above, go ahead and utilize this one to read more about the trio of newbies.

Injuries…They Happen

Originally announced as part of the 24-player roster last week, injuries have forced midfielders Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic to withdraw from the squad.

While the trio will be missed, their absence has opened the opportunity for Marky Delgado and Fafa Picault to join the team in Tampa.

Delgado made his MNT debut during the 1-0 win against Paraguay in March and took part in both of the team’s matches last month. Picault’s lone cap came during a 3-1 win against Puerto Rico on May 22, 2016 and rides a fantastic season for the Philadelphia Union, including a two-goal effort on Saturday, into his second MNT camp.

Knowing Colombia and Peru

This month’s matches against Colombia and Peru represent a continuation of the Kickoff Series, a challenging slate of games lined up to test the MNT at the beginning of the new World Cup cycle.

Both South American sides took part in this summer’s World Cup in Russia. Colombia advanced to the Round of 16, while Peru’s enthusiastic play turned heads and won over many neutral observers.

Also at the beginning of a new cycle, the two nations have brought strong rosters of their own for their sets of matches in the U.S.

Fast Facts (to impress your friends)

  • With the withdrawals of Adams, McKennie and Pulisic, the average age of the roster has gone up a bit, but still comes in relatively young at 24 years, 47 days.

  • Six players on the squad are eligible for the 2020 Summer Olympics: Amon, Cannon, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Antonee Robinson, Josh Sargent and Tim Weah.

  • The 23-player roster totals out at 407 caps, with an average of 17.
  • Fifteen players have earned their first caps for the MNT in 2018. Newbies Amon, Cannon and Sweat, as well as September camp returnee Aaron Long, could take that number to 19 by the end of the match against Peru on Oct. 16. 
  • Having clearly taken the opportunity presented to him, with his next appearance goalkeeper Zack Steffen will tie the MNT record for caps earned by a goalkeeper during a debut year with the National Team in the modern era (1990-present). Steffen trails Kasey Keller (1990) and Troy Perkins (2009), who each recorded six caps during their first years with the MNT.
  • On the flip side, with his next appearance Michael Bradley (140) will tie now-retired striker Clint Dempsey (141) for third on the MNT’s all-time caps list.