The USMNT hopes to bring focus back to the field in the Colombia friendly

Less than two months after their run to the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup ended in a round-of-16 loss to the Netherlands, members of the United States Men’s National Team enter the squad’s second game in 2023 knowing the program will soon be without an entire front office in in addition to not having a full-time head coach.

Saturday’s friendly against Colombia (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT, Peacock, Universo) comes on the heels of Thursday’s bombshell that USMNT general manager Brian McBride and US Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart will leave their roles in the coming days and weeks. The future of WC coach Gregg Berhalter was already in limbo as the USSF awaits the results of an investigation into a 1991 domestic incident involving Berhalter, plus the behavior of midfielder Gio Reyna’s parents before reporting the incident to Stewart. Berhalter has been temporarily replaced by assistant coach Anthony Hudson.

There is a lot to process for the players. One would expect an inexperienced young group that lacks European-based standouts like Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie – most of the regulars are on club duty until FIFA’s next international window opens in late March – to be distracted or unsettled. Instead, it has largely been business as usual.

“It’s a time of transition, but for us as players, the continuity of how we play and implementing what we’ve done for the last four years, it doesn’t change too much for us right now at this moment,” said defenseman Walker Zimmerman, one of five participants in this camp, made up mostly of off-season MLSers, went to the World Cup in Qatar. “We’re going to keep doing that and keep trying to make an impact every time we get to play for the United States.”

Still, it’s a strange time for the USMNT. Hudson was only to go in for two low-profile January exhibitions; now he is set to stay at the helm through two official competitions later this year, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Nations League, before a new coach is finally appointed by the new sporting director.

The players have tried to stay above the game; Zimmerman said he has been in contact with both Berhalter and Reyna in recent weeks. He revealed that Stewart, who has accepted the job of technical director at Dutch titans PSV Eindhoven, pulled several of the veterans aside to tell them himself the night before the announcement. McBride’s departure was previously reported. Both men will be missed.

“Always two up front,” Zimmerman said of the pair.

Turnover among management is normal in top-level sports, but Stewart’s revelation in particular blindsided almost everyone. That it happened between games was not ideal either.

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The American men dropped their first game of the new year on Wednesday, falling to Serbia 2-1. Despite fielding eight uncapped players, the Americans were lively and aggressive, with forwards Cade Cowell and Brandon Vázquez and 18-year-old goalkeeper Gaga Slonina among those impressing. The US still lost. “The result was very hard to take,” Hudson said Friday.

The battle against a dynamic Colombian team featuring elite MLS forwards Cristian Arango and Cucho Hernández is unlikely to get any easier. “It’s a different kind of test than the other night,” Hudson said. “They’re a good team.”

Los Cafeteros also wants the fans behind him. A U.S. Soccer spokesman said the league is in the process of selling out the 27,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., with most of the crowd expected to support the visitors.

Meanwhile, Hudson’s lineup choices are limited by training limitations; Zimmerman was the only World Cup player who could start earlier this week. The rest of the squad is also in preseason form.

“We have to have a minimum number of players who can play 90 minutes,” Hudson said. – That in itself has been a challenge.

This camp has been one of many. The Qatar vets — Kellyn Acosta, Jesús Ferreira, Sean Johnson and Aaron Long are the others — plus popular longtime American winger Paul Arriola have helped maintain a sense of normalcy in the group.

They even got good news on Friday; The United States will host the Copa America tournament in the summer of 2024, giving the hosts the chance to face the likes of Brazil and World Cup holders Argentina in the run-up to the 2026 World Cup. “It’s huge for us,” Zimmerman said. – There is something to look forward to.

First, they want to end the current camp in a strong way.

“It’s been calm. It’s been focused. It’s been professional,” Hudson said of the USMNT’s weeklong stay in Los Angeles. “The senior guys in have helped drive expectations on and off the field. So overall, the players and staff that have pulled together have created a camp that’s been really nice to be a part of.”

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports, and he has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.

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