Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes part of 'youthful' roster called up to national soccer team

Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes part of 'youthful' roster called up to national soccer team
Forward Gyasi Zardes works out during a national team practice in November in St. Louis, Mo. (Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

The Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes is among 23 players Coach Juergen Klinsmann has summoned to the U.S. national soccer team's winter camp, which begins Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson.

But more surprising than the players called in are the ones left out, including former captain Clint Dempsey, the team's active leading scorer, and World Cup veterans Nick Rimando, Graham Zusi, Chris Wondolowski, Brad Evans and former Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez.


The result is a young roster, with an average age under 25, as Klinsmann tries to both identify young players who can freshen an aging senior national team and prepare age-eligible players for Olympic play-in qualifiers with Colombia in March.

Eleven of the 23 players on the roster released Wednesday are eligible for the 2016 Summer Olympics, an under-23 tournament. The camp roster is mainly domestic as well, with 20 players coming from Major League Soccer clubs.

Midfielder Jermaine Jones, at 34, is the oldest player called to camp; defender Kellyn Acosta and Matt Miazga, both 20, are the youngest.

A handful of additional players are expected to be added to the camp call-ups in the coming days.

"This camp will be a little bit different because we're going to mix it with almost half-and-half with senior players that are already national team players or some that are older and maybe get the chance to play their first cap, and a lot of the under-23 players that hopefully qualify us for Rio de Janeiro," Klinsmann said in a statement. "This will be more of an identification camp and a development camp. We want to give those players a head start into their very busy year 2016, but we also want to make it clear to them that it's a huge opportunity that you have here to understand what it takes to step it up and to become an international-level player."

The camp will conclude with friendlies against Iceland on Jan. 31 and Canada on Feb. 5, both at the StubHub Center. The next competitive matches on the senior team's schedule are a pair of World Cup qualifiers with Guatemala in March.

Although players aren't required to report until Sunday, some are already in town. Zardes and Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, one of five holdovers from the 2014 World Cup team, were among those who worked out in the rain Wednesday at StubHub Center.

According to Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, the camp was supposed to have opened Monday with the first week dedicated to fitness training. But several veterans on the camp's 36-man preliminary roster objected, and the U.S. Soccer Federation and Klinsmann moved the start of the camp back six days.

Zardes, one of 17 players on the roster born in the 1990s, made his national team debut during last January's camp and went on to play in 19 matches, tying Claudio Reyna's record for most appearances by a U.S. player in his first year with the senior team.

"A January camp with the national team is a huge opportunity for the players," Klinsmann said. "It's a huge chance to get a lot of good education in terms of what does it take to become an international player. It gives us coaches a chance to work with them on a daily basis to see their strengths and obviously to see their weaknesses, to explain to them what they need to improve. And hopefully when they leave that camp after three or four weeks, they go into their club season with a lot more knowledge about themselves and also about the international game. Because it's a completely different level.

"This gives us a chance to help them jump-start into 2016, but also to explain to them that there is a lot more to their job that maybe they sometimes think."

The roster:


Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)

Defenders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC),

Midfielders: Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Jermaine Jones (Unattached), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Marc Pelosi (San Jose Earthquakes), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew SC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Jordan Morris (Unattached/Stanford University), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC), Gyasi Zardes (Galaxy)

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11