USA not in ‘nice position’ ahead of friendlies
CARSON, Calif. — For Anthony Hudson, interim coach of the US men’s national team, there is no hiding the obvious. After a successful knockout round at the World Cup, the hope was to build on – and celebrate – that achievement to start the new cycle.
Instead, after a series of bizarre circumstances that contributed to manager Gregg Berhalter’s contract expiring, Hudson admitted a sense of sadness hung over the side eliminated by the Netherlands in Qatar.
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“It’s a shame for everyone involved: players, staff, Gregg, everyone is affected,” Hudson said. “It’s not a nice situation.”
But, said Hudson, this is professional sport. Adversity comes with territory and it’s up to him and the mix of high potential youngsters and World Cup veterans to make the most of January’s annual camp and two friendlies against Serbia and Colombia on January 25 and 28 respectively.
“It was a dream for so many of them – so many of us, but mostly the players,” said Hudson, who was in Qatar as an assistant to Berhalter’s staff. “They set out with a great, lofty ambition, not just to leave [to the World Cup]It’s going there and presenting yourself in a way that people will sit up and take notice of the team.”
“When all of this happened, I think that’s how it was [a feeling] the shame It’s sadness because all attention has gone away from it. All the good work and it’s been moved in a different direction.”
Until US Soccer hires a permanent coach, it will be difficult for anyone to fully continue without acknowledging the state of change. Especially given an ongoing external investigation into a 1991 domestic violence incident involving Berhalter, USSF General Manager Earnie Stewart was brought to the attention of Danielle Reyna, mother of star winger Giovanni Reyna.
US interim coach Anthony Hudson works with the players during the team’s January training camp. Getty Images
“I’ve said yes to that for now and then my next big responsibility is the players,” Hudson said. “Since we can’t bring all of our overseas players due to unavailability, historically this camp opens up a space for new players.
“We have seen that there are more than 30 players who have had their first or second cap in this window in the past and have later been represented [us] at the World Cup.”
Among the players that could fit this profile is goalkeeper Gaga Slonina. The 18-year-old recently made a full move from Chicago Fire FC to Chelsea FC and has pledged his international future to the USA despite qualifying for Poland, where both his parents are from.
“It’s an honor to be here,” said Slonina. “I’m taking this opportunity to show what I can do as a player for the national team, I think that’s very important. The move was great. The training and the level there is something I think every player needs dreams of it.”
“Getting out here and showing what I’ve learned out there in the short time that I’ve been there, I think I can use that to my advantage.”
Slonina is one of the few European-based players to have been approved by the club to attend this camp, which does not take place in a designated FIFA international window.
“[Chelsea is] super proud,” said Slonina. “A club like this I think gives you the most resources to be successful. When they get an opportunity like this, yes, they are super lucky. Told me to enjoy the moment and hopefully get my first cap with the national team.”
Hudson said the group is designed to pair high-potential Olympic-age players with dual-nationality players and players with World Cup experience. The idea would be that the Qatari veterans – Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta, DeAndre Yedlin, Aaron Long, Sean Johnson and Jesus Ferreira – could take on bigger leadership roles and instill the developed culture with the new faces.
“They responded really, really well, as I expected,” Hudson said. “I mean, that’s why we chose them because we know the character of these guys.”
After the two games, Hudson has no clear expectation of what’s next for the team or for himself.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I think we’ll play those two games and I’ll go home and see what comes after that.”