Zendejas, Gressel among 13 who could make US soccer debuts


CHICAGO (AP) — Alejandro Zendejas, a 24-year-old forward who played twice for Mexico, is among 13 players who could make their U.S. national team debuts under interim coach Anthony Hudson in exhibitions against Serbia on Jan. 25 and Colombia three days later.

Julian Gressel, a German-born 29-year-old defender who gained U.S. citizenship in November, also was among 24 players selected Wednesday.

Hudson called in five of the players from the U.S. World Cup roster picked by coach Gregg Berhalter, who is being investigated by the U.S. Soccer Federation following an allegation of domestic violence in 1991.

Others who could make debuts include goalkeepers Roman Celentano and Gabriel Slonina; defenders DeJuan Jones, Jalen Neal, Sam Rogers and John Tolkin; midfielders Paxten Aaronson, Aidan Morris and Alan Soñora; and forwards Emmanuel Sabbi and Brandon Vazquez.

Because the matches are not on FIFA international dates, the only holdovers from the World Cup roster are goalkeeper Sean Johnson, defenders Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman, midfielder Kellyn Acosta and forward Jesús Ferreira.

Paul Arriola, one of the last cuts from the World Cup roster, also was picked.

Seven of the 24 players are from outside Major League Soccer: defender Jonathan Gómez, forward Matthew Hoppe, Aaronson, Rogers, Sabbi, Slonina and Zendejas.

Aaronson, a 19-year-old midfielder who transferred this month from Philadelphia to Eintracht Frankfurt, could join 22-year-old midfielder Brenden as the eighth set of brothers to play for the U.S., the first since Steve and Ken Snow in 1988 and ’89. Brenden, a regular for Leeds, was on the World Cup roster.

Hudson, a former head coach of Bahrain, New Zealand, England’s Newport and Colorado, was hired as coach of the U.S. under-20 team in January 2020 and a year later became an assistant coach to Berhalter. He will not be available to media to discuss the roster until Saturday, the USSF said.

Zendejas, who joined Mexico’s América last January, was a teammate of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Vazquez on the U.S. team at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup, starting all three American matches. Zendejas played for Mexico in exhibitions against Ecuador in October 2021 and Guatemala last April.

FIFA did not respond to a request for comment on Zendejas’ status.

Slonina, an 18-year-old who transferred from Chicago to Chelsea, could become the youngest U.S. goalkeeper. The mark has been held by Tony Meola at 19 years, 106 days when he debuted on June 7, 1988.

Four MLS players from the U.S. World Cup roster were omitted: right backs DeAndre Yedlin of Miami and Shaq Moore of Nashville, along with a pair of Seattle Sounders preparing for their Club World Cup opener on Feb. 4: midfielder Cristian Roldan and forward Jordan Morris.

The U.S. plays Serbia in Los Angeles and Colombia at Carson, California.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Roman Celentano (Cincinnati), Sean Johnson (no team), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea, England)

Defenders: Joanthan Gómez (Real Sociedad, Spain), Julian Gressel (Vancouver), DeJuan Jones (New England), Aaron Long (Los Angeles FC), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy), Sam Rogers (Rosenborg, Norway), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)

Midfielders: Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Kellyn Acosta (Los Angeles FC), Aidan Morris (Columbus), Paxton Pomykal (Dallas), Alan Soñora (no club), Eryk Williamson (Portland)

Forwards: Paul Arriola (Dallas), Cade Cowell (San Jose), Jesús Ferreira (Dallas), Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough, England), Emmanuel Sabbi (Odense, Denmark), Brandon Vazquez (Cincinnati), Alejandro Zendejas (América)


AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports