Last March, US Soccer released an exciting and promising Olympic qualifying roster, one aiming to bring the USMNT back to the Olympics for the first time since 2008.
A lot has changed in the year since – coronavirus aside. Between transfers, injuries, and changes in form, we can expect the roster that will compete in this year’s tournament to look very different from the one announced last year. Here are five potential changes between the 2020 and 2021 rosters.
Alan Soñora for Richie Ledezma
The most obvious player who will miss out due to injury is Richie Ledezma. The youth team favorite was on the cusp of a breakout for PSV and the US national team when he tore his ACL this December, a heartbreaking end to his first professional season. Hopefully, he will make a speedy and full recovery, but he won’t be ready in time for Olympic qualifying.
Few players in the US pool can replace Ledezma’s creativity at the Number 10 spot, but Alan Soñora certainly has a shot. Soñora is in the midst of his own breakout season in Argentina, and provides skill and guile that could help break down a bunkered CONCACAF defense. It’s unclear whether Independiente would release him, but they might have interest in driving his price up ahead of a possible summer sale.
Andrés Perea for Paxton Pomykal
Although he’s healthy now, Paxton Pomykal’s injury struggles over the past year have the potential to cost him his spot on the qualifying roster. A standout at the U-20 World Cup, Pomykal is still regarded by many as one of our top prospects in midfield. But the unfortunate truth is that by the time Olympic qualifying kicks off, Pomykal will have played just 108 professional minutes in over a year, all of which came back in August. With this lack of game fitness and sharpness, it may be tough for Jason Kreis to trust Pomykal with a spot on the roster.
The player to take his place in the midfield . . .