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March On: USMNT prepares for important Nations League matches

The March international window is almost here and a mainly full-choice roster has been called up for the United States Men's National Team. The 24 selections include Gio Reyna, whose attitude at the World Cup has engulfed the federation in a now-complete investigation.

Anthony Hudson continues to lead the group on an interim basis. The selection of a permanent head coach has been delayed due to the proximity of the World Cup and a need to first hire a sporting director after Earnie Stewart moved on. Lack of leadership at the top of the team means this window cannot be used to install long-term plans, but the two games are still important for the overall trajectory of the USMNT.

(Twitter: USMNT)
Roster Selection

Thirteen players from the World Cup were selected for these matches, with prominent players like Sergiño Dest, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Christian Pulisic, Antonee Robinson and Matt Turner among the group. Also in camp are some who narrowly missed out on a trip to Qatar, including Ricardo Pepi and Zack Steffen.

Hudson explained that choosing to bring in a player like Pepi was based on form. For example, he mentioned Pepi needing time to adjust at the club level after a move to Europe last year.

"He's someone that we value," Hudson explained. "Slowly now he is really finding form, finding confidence and he is doing well."

Managing injuries is also a factor for the squad. Tyler Adams is out with a hamstring injury, but Pulisic is back after making his first Premier League appearance in two months last weekend. On Pulisic, Hudson said the USMNT will know more about any potential minutes or other restrictions in the coming days as the federation maintains ongoing conversations with Chelsea.

"The fact that he’s coming into the group is huge," Hudson said of Pulisic. "He’s one of our top, top players. He deeply cares about the national team."

Center back Miles Robinson is the lone MLS player on the squad. He is making a return of his own after missing most of 2022 with a torn Achilles tendon.

With multiple international windows still to come this summer, Hudson is looking at his player pool based on location. He chose a mostly European-based team for this camp and is expecting to pivot to a more domestic approach moving forward to allow the European players to actually rest during their offseason.

Auston Trusty and Taylor Booth are the lone call ups without a prior USMNT appearance. Other youngsters include Alan Soñora, who made two appearances during January camp, and Alex Zendejas, who announced his commitment to the U.S. this week. Both Soñora and Zendejas are dual nationals and would be officially tied to the U.S. with appearances this month.

(Twitter: USMNT)
The Stakes

Nations League matches were first introduced to try and bring more excitement than friendlies to international competition. While neither Grenada nor El Salvador are top-level opponents, the USMNT still has some work to do in the Nations League standings, and there are rewards at each step of the way.

The winner of the three-team group advances to the Nations League Final in June. The U.S. won the first edition of that competition in 2021, defeating Mexico 3-2 in one of the rivalry's most exciting matches. Returning to the final, which includes a semifinal as well, is important to ensuring the USMNT continues to have meaningful matches against quality opponents.

Also on the line is qualification for this summer's Gold Cup. The top two teams in the Nations League group advance directly to the Gold Cup group stage while the third has to go through an extra qualification round.

El Salvador currently tops the group with five points. The U.S. is in second with four points and Grenada brings up the rear with a single point. Both El Salvador and Grenada have played one additional game when compared with the Americans.

"First and foremost our objective is to win both matches," Hudson said in a press release on his goals for the camp. "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."

In June the USMNT defeated Grenada 5-0 in Austin, Texas, before drawing 1-1 at El Salvador. With El Salvador one point clear, the U.S. will need some combination of results to top the group. The match at Grenada is Friday, March, 24, at 8:00 p.m. EDT. El Salvador then visits the States and Orlando's Exploria Stadium on Monday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

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