The United States Men’s National Team opened the annual January camp with a 2-1 defeat to Serbia. Next on the schedule is another friendly, this time with Colombia. The match could preview a future meeting in the Copa América but at least provides an opportunity for young talents to continue meshing into the program. Dignity Health Sports Park – a 27,000-seat venue based in Carson, California – is set to host.
This is the 21st all-time meeting between the two nations and first since 2018, with the visitors holding a 13-3-4 advantage. Ranked at 17th in the world by FIFA, Colombia’s third-place finish at the 2021 Copa América should have foreshadowed success. However, Los Cafeteros (The Coffee Growers) failed to advance to the 2022 World Cup, finishing at sixth in the CONMEBOL qualifying table, one point behind Peru for the inter-confederation playoff spot. The team has played four matches since June, taking down Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Paraguay.
Following the failure to reach Qatar, Néstor Lorenzo was hired in June of 2022 to replace Reinaldo Rueda. The 56-year-old Argentine spent the majority of his coaching career as an assistant before briefly taking charge of Peruvian club FBC Melgar in 2021. His several years under former Colombia manager José Pékerman were pointed to as an asset. He recently expressed a need for “experienced players to lead the way,” hoping to “form a strong, united group that does not settle” and fights to regain possession.
Convocatoria Selección Colombia de Mayores— Selección Colombia (@FCFSeleccionCol) January 18, 2023
Ellos son los elegidos por Néstor Lorenzo para disputar el partido amistoso el próximo 28 de enero.
Lorenzo named a 20-player roster for the friendly against the USMNT, a group with only one call-up having more than five senior caps. Despite the relative international inexperience, the average age of the squad is roughly 25 years old. Nine of the talents compete in the domestic Categoría Primera A, while six are on the books in Major League Soccer.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Álvaro Montero (Millonarios), José Luis Chunga (Alianza Petrolera)
DEFENDERS (7): Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors), Andrés Llinás (Millonarios), Alexis Pérez (Giresunspor), Nicolás Hernández (Athletico Paranaense), Andrés Reyes (New York Red Bulls), Juan David Mosquera (Portland Timbers), Junior Hernández (Deportes Tolima)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Jorman Campuzano (Giresunspor), Daniel Ruiz (Millonarios), Daniel Cataño (Millonarios), Juan Portilla (América), Yilmar Velasquez (Deportivo Pereira)
FORWARDS (6): Diego Valoyes (Talleres), Cucho Hernández (Columbus Crew), Cristian Arango (Los Angeles), Santiago Moreno (Portland Timbers), Dylan Borrero (New England Revolution), Diber Cambindo (Independiente Medellín)
Though early in his tenure, Lorenzo is attempting to establish a high-press with an advanced line of engagement in a 4-3-3 formation. Colombia likes to switch the point of attack and avoid opponents’ overloads, making long passes to the wings before hitting crosses to the far post. Attempts to play aggressively can leave the back line exposed and open up space in the final third, often forcing defenders to foul or allow breaks on goal. In a recent friendly, Mexico’s dynamic front-runners exploited these openings and created several opportunities.
With two domestic veterans at goalkeeper, the manager will likely opt for the younger option, Álvaro Montero. The towering 27-year-old made 59 total appearances last season for Millonarios, which claimed the top overall domestic record and won the Copa Colombia. He is surprisingly agile for his size and gets to ground quickly, possessing an impressive reach. His passing can be a little inaccurate, particularly when trying to play long balls.
One of the centre-back spots could be taken by Andrés Reyes, a 6’3” defender currently with the New York Red Bulls. He burst onto the scene at the 2019 U-20 World Cup but has yet to hit the next level due to a serious foot injury, although tackling and aerial duels remain strengths. His partner should be Andrés Llinás, a 25-year-old who appeared in two friendlies and received a call-up during the previous World Cup cycle. His ability to cover ground helps put out fires, although risky tackles can occasionally get his teams into trouble.
The most experienced member of the roster is Frank Fabra, a 31-year-old left back who competes with the famed Boca Juniors. He has 26 senior international caps and was on the roster for the 2021 Copa América. His touch-line runs are dangerous, sprinting past defenders to become an extra attacker in the final third. The player with perhaps the most to gain from this camp is Juan Mosquera, a 20-year-old defender who recently joined the Portland Timbers from Independiente Medellín and started the final two matches of the MLS season. Rated as one of the top young attacking fullbacks in the world, Cascadia Sports Network describes him as “really good at finding space” with “eye-catching dribbling” and strong “decision-making.”
Anchoring the midfield trio is Jorman Campuzano, who is currently on loan with Giresunspor in the Turkish Süper Lig. He covers acres of space and has his moments of sublime individual brilliance on both sides of the game. Juan Camilo Portilla competes with domestic side América de Cali and serves as an aggressive ball winner, both on the ground and in the air. The 24-year-old does some of his best work in possession, playing a frenetic style that wins back possession and quickly looks to press forward. Occupying the more advanced role, Millonarios’ Daniel Cataño is a successful dribbler and will be mostly relied upon to shuttle up the field. His first look is to the wingers, although his angled crossing from wider areas adds a necessary wrinkle to the squad.
Despite being an inexperienced roster from an international perspective, Colombia has several strong players at the attacking positions. MLS side Columbus Crew SC surprised the footballing world by signing Cucho Hernández from Watford with a reported $10 million transfer fee last summer, but the forward validated the price tag with nine goals and two assists in 16 appearances. A multi-faceted scorer and tireless presser, he is a constant threat from either wing, looking to cut inside and rip a shot from the corner of the box. Having already featured in two World Cup qualifiers, Diego Valoyes of Talleres should line up on the other side of the formation and run behind the back line. The 26-year-old from Cartagena is a smooth dribbler and passer, looking to find teammates with all manner of chipped through balls. The Portland Timbers’ Santiago Moreno, a maelstrom of chaos and technique, could also provide a spark with his frantic pace and long-range efforts.
The formation should be led by Cristian Arango, a 27-year-old centre-forward who recently completed a double-winning season with Los Angeles FC. He contributed 21 goals and four assists in 41 total appearances, while also serving as a creator with dribbling and progressive passing. A deadly finisher from all distances, his ability to work out of pressure gives him just enough space to pick out the corner. To add to his already overflowing arsenal, heading and winning crosses are also assets.
While the results from January camp friendlies are of a low priority, individual performances can propel players from the outskirts of the program into the depth chart, perhaps even onto the roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Nations League matches. Colombia should provide a stern test with several talented attackers who can stretch the USMNT back line. Expect a back-and-forth, high-scoring battle with several moments of individual brilliance.
The match is scheduled for Saturday, January 28th at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 4:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include TNT, Peacock, Universo, Telemundo, and FUBO TV (free trial).