Sebastian Lletget

USMNT power rankings
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Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

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January camp is over following the USMNT’s 1-0 defeat of Costa Rica, but most of the movement on our player pool power rankings comes courtesy of the club game.

Save for Uly Llanez’s “I’m here” performance in that win over Los Ticos, most of the interim has been dominated by Americans Abroad.

Heck, Llanez is included in that; The 18-year-old has 10 goals and three assists in 11 games for Wolfsburg’s U-19 side.

Our first rankings came Nov. 12, four days before Gregg Berhalter’s Yanks rolled over Cuba and Canada to earn a spot in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals.

This ranking comes almost two months before we’ll next see the red, white, and blue; The USMNT visits Netherlands and Wales on March 26 and 30.

As a reminder, here are some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one that could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Chris Richards of Bayern Munich II is a better long-term prospect than 32-year-old Tim Ream, but most would rather have the Fulham man in a big spot right now.

Dropping out of our Top 25 are Cristian Roldan, Ike Opara, Fabian Johnson, Paul Arriola, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Jackson Yueill.

Moving up two spots to second is Weston McKennie, who has become a key piece for another Schalke boss, while Wigan left back Antonee Robinson and Derby County midfielder Duane Holmes enter the list with bullets.

Two other Championship players, Matt Miazga and Tim Ream, slip down the board, but not as far as struggling Newcastle right back DeAndre Yedlin.

Who takes their places? Read on…

Top 25 USMNT players – February 2020

() last month

1. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea# (1) — Get well soon.
2. Weston McKennie, Schalke (4)
3. John Brooks, Wolfsburg (3)
4. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (2) — Healthy, and back starting.
5. Sergino Dest, Ajax (6)
6. Duane Holmes, Derby County (N/R) — Man’s on fire.
7. Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (5)
8. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (7)
9. Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (10)
10. Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic (N/R) — Almost AC Milan!
11. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC (12)
12. Julian Green, Greuther Furth# (15)
13. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (N/R) — What a goal.
14. Timothy Weah, Lille# (14)
15. Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt (N/R) — Incredible resurgence.
16. Tim Ream, Fulham (13)
17. Matt Miazga, Reading (8)
18. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (9)
19. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United (23)
20. Ulysses Llanez, Wolfsburg U-19 (N/R) — Go on, son.
21. Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (21)
22. DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United (11)
23. Reggie Cannon, FC Dallas (N/R)
24. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC# (18)
25. Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy (22)

Next up, established: Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes), Arriola (DC United), Carter-Vickers (Luton Town), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew), Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Opara (Minnesota United)

Next up, youth: Indiana Vassilev (Aston Villa), Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Alex Mendez (Ajax U19), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Donovan Pines (DC United)

Three things we learned: USMNT 1-0 Costa Rica

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The U.S. men’s national team’s B-minus squad earned a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica to open the Yanks’ 2020 slate on Saturday, led by a group of youngsters seeking to establish themselves just under three years out from the 2022 World Cup.

[MORE: USMNT opens 2020 with friendly win over Costa Rica ]

Ulysses Llanez put himself on the radar

The 18-year-old Los Angeles native who moved to Germany last April has quietly, but steadily, been climbing the ranks of Wolfsburg’s second team and will likely be the next young American to reach the first team for a Bundesliga club. On Saturday, Llanez made his USMNT debut and introduced himself to a much wider audience in fantastic fashion.

He scored the game’s only goal, from the penalty spot, and was otherwise the Yanks’ brightest attacking threat during his 73 minutes on the field. Llanez was consistently dangerous down the left flank, most notably when combining with Sebastian Lletget and Sam Vines, and rarely looked timid for a player making his international debut. Of course, everything he saw and tried didn’t always come off exactly how he hoped it would, but Llanez took his opportunity and made the most of it.

He’ll almost certainly be a key figure for the U-23 team when Olympic qualifying gets underway in a few weeks — assuming he hasn’t inched closer to the fringes of the first team at Wolfsburg, thus decreasing the chance he’s released by the club — and that will be a perfect environment to grow with high expectations and something of real consequence on the line.

Reggie Cannon continues to climb

So, here’s a 21-year-old with over 5,000 minutes of professional soccer under his belt already. He quickly ascended to his current standing as one of — if not the — best right backs in MLS, and he’ll likely find himself the subject of multiple bids from mid-level European clubs this summer. Given his vast wealth of experience at such an early age, Cannon should find himself in a starter’s battle in Germany or Belgium come August.

He was excellent once again on Saturday and appears to possess everything you could ask of a right back. He has the speed and change of direction to create and recover on both sides of possession, he’s more than a little clever when combining with wide attackers ahead of him, and he’s a constant threat when he overlaps and becomes the wide attacker most advanced.

Sure, Segiño Dest is the golden boy at the position, but Cannon is a far more accomplished — albeit in a lesser league and at a slightly advanced age — Dutch-born American-committed dual national. Dest’s ceiling is probably higher — perhaps considerably so — but Cannon is the more ready-made player for, say, the start of World Cup qualifying in August.

It’s Olympics or bust

Both Llanez and Cannon are U-23-eligible and should be called in by Jason Kreis, but they’re far from the only intriguing Olympic hopefuls who featured against Costa Rica.

Forward Jesus Ferreira made 33 appearances and logged over 2,400 minutes last season for FC Dallas… as an 18-year-old; he scored 8 goals and had 6 assists. Midfielder Brenden Aaronson was also 18 for the entirety of last season and he got over 1,700 minutes in 28 appearances for the Philadelphia Union. Left back Sam Vines is 20 and logged over 2,100 minutes for Colorado Rapids a season ago. Midfielder Jackson Yueill is 22 and will cross the 5,000-minute threshold for San Jose Earthquakes on opening day.

Every one of those players started and played well on Saturday. As noted in the recap, the interplay was far more cohesive and fluid than January friendlies of years past, and that’s a testament to, among others, this group of talented professionals who have all found their way at the club level at a very young age.

USMNT opens 2020 with friendly win over Costa Rica

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World, meet Ulysses Llanez. Ulysses Llanez, meet the world.

[ MORE: USWNT hammers Panama in Olympic qualifying ]

Llanez, an 18-year-old winger who joined Bundesliga side Wolfsburg last April, made his U.S. men’s national team debut in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Costa Rica and not only scored the game’s only goal, but shone ever so brightly throughout his 73-minute shift.

Saturday’s showing — particularly during the first half — stood in stark contrast to January-camp friendlies of years past, when the possession and build-up play was horrifically disjointed and and had the exact look of what the game really was: an inconsequential game featuring a roster largely on the (far) outside looking in at the first team. Instead of that, Saturday was… good.

Midfielders Ulysses Llanez, Sebastian Lletget and Sam Vines combined down the left wing and found plenty of space to exploit in the final third. Of course, it was either the final pass from Llanez, or the finishing touch from Paul Arriola, that was missing.

[ VIDEO: USMNT MF Holmes uses crafty turn, dribble to set up Derby goal ]

After being under siege and created virtually nothing during the game’s opening 20 minutes, Costa Rica came within inches of opening the scoring in the 24th minute. Set-piece defending has been an issue for the Yanks for years now, though they got away with another poorly defended free kick this time. The service came from 30 yards out and found Johan Venegas near Sean Johnson‘s left-hand post, and Venegas was free to head the ball straight across the face of goal where Giancarlo Gonzalez was waiting all by himself. Unfortunately for Los Ticos, the crossbar made a key save.

The USMNT’s closest scoring chance came with the final kick of the first half, when Lletget slalomed past two defenders and uncorked a right-footed curler toward the far post. Alvarado was, once again, up to the challenge and pushed the ball around the post to keep it scoreless at halftime.

The second half brought a bit more joy inside the penalty area, practically immediately. Reggie Cannon combined with Arriola down the right side of the box and Cannon was pulled down near the end line in the 48th minute. A penalty kick was given and Llanez stepped up and shouldered the responsibility. He sent Alvarado one way and slotted the ball into the corner to the other side.

The USMNT will reconvene with a first-team squad for a pair of friendlies away to the Netherlands and Wales in late March.

FOLLOW, LIVE – USMNT wraps up camp with Costa Rica friendly

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The U.S. men’s national team is set to kick off its 2020 slate of fixtures with a friendly against Costa Rica to wrap up the program’s annual January training camp at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., on Saturday (3:55 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW: USMNT on Twitter for live updates and highlights ]

With an eye toward the semifinals of the CONCACAF Nations League in June, Gregg Berhalter’s side is about to embark upon a very important period with 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign set to begin in August.

Berhalter has opted for a mix of youth and experience with Saturday’s starting lineup, recalling established members like Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman at center back along with Paul Arriola and Sebastian Lletget in midfield, and supplementing them with the likes of Reggie Cannon, Ulysses Llanez, Brenden Aaronson, Jesus Ferreira and Sam Vines.

Hit the link above to follow along with the action this afternoon, and check back on PST for a full recap and analysis after the game.

USMNT looks toward Olympic qualifying

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NEW YORK — USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter will be looking toward Olympic soccer qualifying when the senior national team plays Costa Rica on Saturday in an exhibition at Carson, California.

Thirteen of the 22 players on the American roster are eligible for Olympic qualifying, which is limited to players under 23. The U.S. men failed to reach the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and they are in a difficult qualifying group that includes Mexico and Costa Rica.

“It’ll be nice to give them an opportunity to perform in front of a crowd in a real international game,” Berhalter said during a telephone conference call on Monday.

Twelve players have no previous international experience. The U.S. has used 74 players in 30 matches since the 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances, and 36 players have made debuts: 24 under interim coach Dave Sarachan and 12 under Berhalter, who was hired in December 2018.

“We think this age group is talented for the Olympic age group and we’re excited to see how they navigate through the qualification process and then eventually build the group for the Olympics” Berhalter said.

Olympic qualifying runs from March 20-30 and the U.S. will be coached by Jason Kreis. Since clubs are not required to release players to under-23 teams, top Americans Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest are not likely to be available. Major League Soccer starts Feb. 29, and its coaches may be reluctant to provide players.

“We’re going to need a lot of cooperation from Major League Soccer, and I know that’s difficult given the early stage of their season,” Berhalter said.

If the U.S. does qualify for the Olympics, it would be able to add three players over the age limit. But clubs could decline to release players.

“It would be nice to field our strongest team in the Olympics. We’re just not sure that’s going to happen,” Berhalter said.

Veterans on the roster this weekend include forwards Gyasi Zardes and Paul Arriola, defender Aaron Long and midfielder Sebastian Lletget. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid could make his first appearance since a June 2018 exhibition at Ireland.

On other topics:

-Berhalter did not sound overly concerned about Pulisic’s adductor injury. The Chelsea midfielder has not played since Jan. 1 and is not likely to return until Feb. 17 at the earliest. “He played a lot of games in a short period of time over Christmas,” Berhalter said. “He’s a young player playing at an extremely competitive level and it takes a physical toll on your body. And him coming to terms with that is something that’s normal for the process of adapting.”

-On the best position for Adams, who has appeared at right back and right wing for RB Leipzig: “We see him primarily as a central midfielder. We always have seen him as a central midfielder. But we know that when we when we need to be flexible, he can play that position, as well. We think right now the right back position is filled with depth, and he’ll be most suited in our system in central midfield.”

-On the possibility of Long transferring from the New York Red Bulls to West Ham: “It obviously could be a potential big change in where he’s competing and what level he’s playing at. … That would be a step up for him.”

-Jesus Ferreira, a Colombian-born forward who received U.S. citizenship last month, may not be eligible to play this weekend pending the completion of paperwork.