With the USMNT continuing the defense of its Concacaf Nations League title needing results against Grenada and El Salvador, ussoccer.com spoke with Anthony Hudson about the roster, and the objectives for the first international window since the USA’s successful run at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
ussoccer.com: Heading into these matches, the USMNT sits in second place in the group and needs results in both matches in order to advance to the Final Four. What have you laid out as objectives for the camp?
Anthony Hudson: First and foremost our objective is to win both matches. Grenada is not an easy place to play – the last time the U.S. was there it was a 3-2 win – and we know El Salvador is a difficult opponent. We want to defend our Nations League title and also qualify for this summer’s Gold Cup, and to do that we need to get results. From there, we want to maintain the standards that we’ve set and continue to build on the accomplishments of the last four years.
ussoccer.com: This is the first international window since the World Cup. What’s it like to have so many of those players back together?
AH: It’s fantastic. We had an incredibly young team last cycle that was growing all the time. We won the Nations League and the Gold Cup with two almost completely different rosters, we qualified for the World Cup with the youngest team in the world and put in some strong performances in Qatar. We walked away from that World Cup knowing that we are capable of more, and we’re excited to continue to move this group forward.
ussoccer.com: Gio Reyna is one of several players back for the first time since December. How did you approach the decision on his inclusion?
AH: As I’ve said before, the situation during the World Cup was handled as a group, there was a positive response from the player, and we all moved forward.
Clearly it became a bit more complex in the months since the World Cup, but as far as we’re concerned Gio is a part of our program. He’s a good guy and a top talent and he is evaluated like any other player. We made the roster decisions based on what gives the team the best opportunity to win these games, and we brought him in because we think he can help us do that.
ussoccer.com: Miles Robinson is back for the first time since recovering from the Achilles injury he suffered a year ago. He’s also the only MLS player on the roster. What went into those decisions?
AH: As we look at the next several months, we have to balance out a number of factors. We have the Nations League in March, the Allstate Continental Clásico against Mexico in April, and then hopefully the Nations League Final Four in June followed by the Gold Cup immediately after. So that’s a lot of matches with players at different stages of their seasons. Players based outside the United States will need to have a break at some point this summer, and the domestic-based players could wind up missing a number of league games if they played in all the competitions.
We had a similar situation in 2021 and we won both competitions with almost two entirely different groups, so we feel really good about the pool of players.
In the short term, we feel like we have a strong group coming into Orlando and will have another strong group that will have a valuable opportunity against Mexico. In the case of Miles, we haven’t seen him in a year and felt like this was the right opportunity to reintegrate him into the group. Given he is still coming back from his injury and it would be a challenge for him to play multiple games in a week both now and in April, this is the best chance to get him back on the field with the National Team before the summer.
ussoccer.com: You have two uncapped players on the roster in Auston Trusty and Taylor Booth. Each has been in a camp before. Why was this the right time to bring them back in?
AH: In both cases they have done a great job progressing in their club careers. Auston is having a really good season with Birmingham City. Myself and others on the staff have seen him play live and we’re very pleased with his performances in the Championship. Taylor is someone who in his young career is progressing and now he's doing very, very well with Utrecht in the Eredivisie. Both of them deserve a chance.
ussoccer.com: Alex Zendejas is a dual national that you brought into January camp. He seemed to have a great experience and just recently committed to representing the United States What do you think about his choice and how do you see his role in the team moving forward.
AH: First I think it's great for the team. Alex certainly adds more quality and depth to the squad. He’s someone that really impressed us all in January and we've obviously seen a lot of him playing for his club. We are really pleased he has agreed to join us. We see it as being a great addition to the team going forward.
ussoccer.com: There are a few players on the roster who missed out on the World Cup, like Zack Steffen, Ricardo Pepi and Daryl Dike. Have you spoken with any of them, and what’s the message ahead of their return?
AH: We’ve been following all those players and watching their performances. As we have always emphasized, missing out on any one opportunity isn’t the end of the journey. We’re very excited to have Zack back in – he’s been in good form for Middlesbrough – and obviously Pepi and Dike have been scoring goals for their clubs which is what you want to see from your strikers. We’re excited to have them back in.
ussoccer.com: There are also a number of absences. Can you give us an update?
AH: There are a number of guys who are dealing with varying degrees of injury issues. We’ve spoken with the clubs, and in each case we have worked together to make a decision in the best interest of the player and to do our best to ensure they are available for us this summer.