The U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) will play its first friendly of 2021 against Concacaf rival and FIFA 103rd-ranked Trinidad and Tobago this evening. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. MT on FS1, UniMas, and TUDN. The game will be played before a maximum of 4,500 fans in Orlando City SC’s Exploria Stadium.
At the start of the month, USMNT senior side head coach Gregg Berhalter called up 12 players, while U-23 head coach Jason Kreis called 26 players to train alongside each other on the IMG Academy grounds in Bradenton, Florida. The invitation list included Colorado Rapids midfielder Kelly Acosta, forward Jonathan Lewis, and fullback Sam Vines. All of the players in the camp were from MLS teams, as January falls outside of FIFA international windows.
January marks a very important month for the two coaches who were evaluating both senior and rising players ahead of a year that will be filled with sequential competitive matches. But tonight their focus is on TnT, the 27th meeting between the two national teams. The foes have a trying history — especially when it comes to World Cup qualification.
In 1989, U.S. midfielder Paul Caligiuri’s legendary shot heard ‘round the world sunk Trinidad’s final qualification game and chance to make the tournament. That win sent the Red, White, and Blue to its first World Cup in Italy in 40 years.
Nearly 30 years later on a humid October 10, 2017 evening, certain revenge took place when Trinidad played host to the USA on a rain-soaked Ato Boldon Stadium in the mountainside township of Couva. The USMNT absorbed an ego-bruising 2-1 defeat to the die-hard Soca Warriors. The embarrassing loss kept the USMNT from move forward to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and the entire men’s program took corrective action that we are still witnessing to this day.
Kellyn Acosta, Jonathan Lewis, and Sam Vines
A refreshed and focused Kellyn Acosta has been working towards ‘winning the day’ in hopes of claiming a major role with the U.S. “What really has resonated with me, Robin has told me to play with a type of arrogance,” he said in a pre-camp virtual press conference. “Just be decisive and go out there and show my qualities to the best of my abilities, don’t try to overthink too many things. I think the biggest thing is just go out there and show them what Kellyn Acosta is all about.” He is expected to see considerable minutes tonight under Berhalter’s direction.
Rapids forward Jonathan Lewis has had a golden opportunity to impress in the near month-long camp. With Jozy Altidore out with a muscle strain, Lewis may break into the starting XI. He spoke to the Burgundy Wave at the start of camp and shared his goals. “I just need to keep proving myself,” he admitted. “I think for me, the U-23s are a great stepping stone to prove myself, and that I am ready to play in the senior team, and also to just have eyes on myself and the team. Again, it is a big opportunity to play in the Olympics qualifiers and possibly the Olympics with some of the best young players in the world. It provides me with opportunities to showcase myself to the world.”
Left fullback Sam Vines continues to methodically climb the ladder of success and continues to win over his coaches. This week, head coach Berhalter told the Burgundy Wave, “With Sam, we see an attacking fullback who is calm under pressure ... able to get forward and puts good crosses into the penalty box. And his processing and play really help the team in what we are doing with the ball.” Vines earned a starting role and his second cap last month against El Salvador and helped the USMNT shut out their Concacaf opponents 6-0.
How to Watch
Match Date/Time: Sunday, January 31 at 5 p.m. MT
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, Florida
TV Information: FS1, UniMas, and TUDN
USMNT DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS):
DEFENDERS (9): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; 1/0), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; 0/0), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 18/3), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; 0/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; 2/0), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 2/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 13/2)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 24/2), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 17/4), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Andrés Perea (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 19/0), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 8/0)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 115/42), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 34/6), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 1/0), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 6/0), Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC; 1/2)