Meet the 2023 USMNT January Camp Newbies

Eleven Players Will Experience Their First USMNT Camp Ahead of This Month’s Friendlies Against Serbia and Colombia
By: Michael Lewis


Paxten Aaronson experienced a whirlwind 2022. He was a vital member of the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team that captured the Concacaf U-20 Championship, qualifying for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup as well as the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. During the qualifying tournament in Honduras, Aaronson tallied seven goals to claim the tournament’s Golden Boot and was also awarded the Golden Ball as best player. After recording a brace in the 2-0 semifinal win over Costa Rica, the 19-year-old midfielder scored the first goal in a 3-0 win against the hosting Catrachos in the final. On Nov. 5, the attacking midfielder later played 36 minutes for runner-up Philadelphia Union in the MLS Cup final.  The Medford N.J. product has shown similar promise to his older brother and 2022 FIFA World Cup veteran Brenden Aaronson of late, earning a transfer to Europe when he joined Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt in November and now has gained his first senior team call-up. Born on Aug. 26, 2003, Aaronson played for the Union in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy before he was promoted to Union II. He joined the MLS side in 2021, recording four goals in 37 appearances over two seasons. Should he play in either match, the Aaronsons would become the eighth set of brothers to both earn caps for the USMNT and the first pair to do it so Pedro and John DeBrito, who earned their debuts in 1983 and 1991, respectively.

Roman Celentano, GOALKEEPER

Roman Celentano, 22, established himself as FC Cincinnati's No. 1 goalkeeper in his rookie season, starting 27 regular season contests. He finished with a 1.02 goals-against average and five shutouts en route to a 10-5-12 record. As the second overall selection in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, he became the highest goalkeeper chosen since the Philadelphia Union took Jamaica international Andre Blake in 2014. Celentano was a rare first-year player from the college ranks to make a difference for his MLS team in the net. At Indiana University, he became the first Big Ten player to win goalkeeper of the year twice while backstopping the Hoosiers to a pair of Big Ten championships. Celentano, who hails from Naperville, Ill., allowed only 33 goals in 52 matches while recording a 37-10-5 mark with 28 clean sheets. Even though the Hoosiers lost the 2020 College Cup final to Marshall University in extra time, 1-0, Celentano was named the outstanding defensive player of the tournament. Prior to college, Celentano featured for Chicago Sockers in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.


German-born Julian Gressel became eligible to play for the USMNT when he earned U.S. citizenship in November. He brings plenty of experience to the squad, having made 184 MLS regular season appearances since 2017 – for Atlanta United, D.C. United and most recently Vancouver Whitecaps. He has accrued 21 goals and 60 assists while playing as a right back, wing back and forward. Born in Neustadt, Germany on Dec. 16, 1993, Gressel is the oldest of the newcomers on the January camp roster at 29. He started his soccer career in the youth academy of Greuther Fürth and Quelle Fürth before competing in the fifth tier of German regional soccer. As a senior at Providence College, he connected for 15 goals and six assists while earning All-American honors. He scored a career-high six goals with Atlanta in 2019 and handed out a personal-best 14 assists in 2018, helping Atlanta win the MLS Cup. After being taken eighth overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Gressel earned league rookie of the year honors.


After competing one year at Indiana University, Morris was signed as a homegrown player by the Columbus Crew in 2020 and made his professional debut during a 4-0 win against FC Cincinnati at the MLS is Back Tournament that summer. At 19, he became the youngest player to start in MLS Cup, helping the Crew register a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders later that year. A member of the Crew SC Academy from 2017-19, the central midfielder played for the academy side that finished third at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Under-19 tournament during the 2017-18 campaign. Morris, who was born in Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 16, 2001, also has played for the U.S. U-18 and U-20 squads.


An LA Galaxy Homegrown signing, 19-year-old Jalen Neal has been involved with the club since 2016. He started with the LA Galaxy Academy, competing in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy before moving up to LA Galaxy II in 2020. Neal signed with the first team in January 2021, making his debut in a 3-2 win over the California United Strikers in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 last May. Born in Lakewood, Calif., Neal was one of seven U.S. players who earned Best XI honors at the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Championship, at which the Americans qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Neal, who scored a goal in the tournament, helped the USA record five shutouts in as many starts at center back. As good as he is on the field, Neal is involved in community projects, helping the LA Galaxy Foundation and volunteering at a Carson, Calif. school.


A Seattle, Wash. product, Sam Rogers played for the Seattle Sounders at three levels before his 2021 move to Norway. After joining the Academy side in 2013 he signed a letter of intent to play at Villanova University in 2017 before changing his mind to instead turn pro with Seattle Sounders FC 2 (now the Tacoma Defiance) in the USL Championship. He played for the Defiance for four years before joining OKC Energy in 2021. That led to him being loaned to HamKam in the Norwegian second division later that year. Since 2022, Rogers has played for Norwegian giants Rosenborg in the first division, where the center back has tallied six goals in 23 matches. Born on May 17, 1999, Rogers was a member of the U.S. U-20 Men's National team that captured the 2018 Concacaf Under-20 Championship.


Born to Ghanaian parents in Schio, Italy, Emmanuel Sabbi grew up in the U.S and plays his professional soccer for Danish SuperLiga side Odense where the winger has tallied eight goals in 60 games since joining the side in 2020. After his parents settled in Ohio, Sabbi helped Ohio Premier reach the 2014 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships as he won Golden Boot honors and was named his age group's MVP. He played with Chicago Magic PSG from 2014-16 before joining Las Palmas (Spain) in 2017. He eventually moved to the Danish club Hobro IK (13 goals in 69 appearances) later that year, playing there until 2020. He signed with Odense on a free transfer that year. Sabbi was teammates with 2022 FIFA World Cup players Tyler Adams, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luca de la Torre and Josh Sargent at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, where he appeared in two matches during the team’s run to the quarterfinals.  He is also eligible to represent Italy and Ghana.


Soñora is following in the footsteps of his father Diego Soñora, a defender-midfielder who forged a 14-year career with Boca Juniors (202 matches) in Argentina and with the Dallas Burn, MetrosStars, D.C. United and Tampa Bay Mutiny in MLS. An attacking midfielder, the 24-year-old Soñora recently completed a three-year tenure with Independiente, having found the net eight times in 60 games. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2022, scoring six goals and adding two assists in 42 contests and becoming an adept passer. Soñora’s contract expired in December and the midfielder is seeking a new club. Born in the New York area, he is eligible to play for the USA and Argentina. His older brother Joel also plays professionally with Maritimo in Portugal and was a member of the USA squad at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

JOHN tolkin, defender

Just 20-years-old, John Tolkin already has established himself as the New York Red Bulls' first choice at left back, making 51 appearances in his first two MLS seasons. Since his 2021 debut, he has made great strides on both sides of the ball. The New Jersey-based club was so impressed with Tolkin's performance and progress, it signed him to a five-year contract extension last season with an option for 2028. Watching the MLS team while growing up in the Chatham, N.J., Tolkin joined the Red Bulls Academy in 2015 and played 79 matches for the squad in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, scoring 15 times. Tolkin eventually graduated to Red Bulls II (USL Championship) and also played eight times for the U.S. Under-17 National Team between 2018 and 2019.

brandon vazquez, forward

Brandon Vazquez enjoyed a breakout season for FC Cincinnati in 2022, connecting for 18 goals, tying him for the team lead, and assisting on eight others. Born in San Diego, the 24-year-old Vazquez spent four years playing for the Tijuana youth team in Mexico before signing with Atlanta United in 2016. He saw limited action with the club, scoring three times over 32 appearances in three MLS campaigns. After he was chosen by Nashville SC in the 2019 MLS expansion draft, Vazquez was dealt to Cincy for $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. It wasn't until 2022 that he found his form and became one of the league’s premier goal-scorers. Vazquez recorded three braces (twice against Inter Miami CF and once vs. Orlando City SC) last year. After helping the U.S. qualify for the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, Vazquez scored against Croatia and Chile in the world championship, where he was also teammates with 2022 FIFA World Cup players Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Christian Pulisic and Haji Wright, as well as January call-up Alejandro Zendejas. He also played for the U.S. U-19 and U-20 teams, making a combined 29 appearances while finding the net 10 times.

Alejandro Zendejas, forward

Alejandro Zendejas was born in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, but grew up in the U.S. after his family moved to El Paso. Zendejas, who is considered an excellent passer, made his pro debut with FC Dallas in 2015 after a successful run in the MLS club's youth system and was the first Homegrown player that FC Dallas signed from one of its youth affiliates. Zendejas was a roommate of Christian Pulisic at U.S. Under-17 residency in Bradenton, Fla. for three years and joined Pulisic as well as future 2022 FIFA World Cup players Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre and Haji Wright at the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile. Since 2016, the 24-year-old midfielder-forward has played in Liga MX with Chivas, Zacatepec, Necaxa and most recently with Club America where he’s tallied 11 goals and two assists in 41 matches.