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United States Olympic training camp squad: Walker Zimmerman the first over-aged player included in roster

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Ahead of the Olympics, kicking off on July 24 with a tough match against host nation France, United States U-23 head coach Marko Mitrovic has named his final training camp roster for a match against Japan in Kansas City on June 11. In this roster, one overaged player has been included in Walker Zimmerman who can look to bring stability to a young back line and needed USMNT experience to the team as they look to embark on a journey to advance to the knockout stages after having not been at the Olympics since 2008.

Nineteen players are on the roster who have senior USMNT caps, but the decision to only include Zimmerman as an overaged player is an interesting one since Mitrovic can use up to three. This doesn’t stop him from including more names such as Brandon Vazquez in his final Olympic roster, but that is something that would need to be cleared with his club as they don’t have to release players for the Olympics in the same manner that players must be released for FIFA international windows such as the Euros and Copa America.

Mitrovic did mention that the door isn’t closed for anyone to make the final roster, referencing players like Diego Luna and that there is only one overaged player on the roster. Luna has three goals and three assists for Real Salt Lake this season and he made the November camp for the Olympics but then missed the March camp with an injury. Now he’ll have to see how things go during the remainder of this time.

The Venezia duo of Tanner Tessman and Gianluca Busio will be key to the performance of this team getting out of their group, but first they have to focus on getting their club back to Serie A. Facing Cremonese on May 30 and June 2, the duo has a chance to come into this camp on a high note after an impressive season controlling the midfield in Italy’s second tier. That experience will only help with such a young squad of mostly domestic players although the Columbus Crew duo of Patrick Schulte and Aidan Morris can accomplish something similar if they can win the Concacaf Champions Cup on June 1 against Pachuca.

In defense, Jalen Neal’s return to health is also a boost to the side along with Benjamin Cremaschi returning to midfield. Neal has now made five MLS appearances for the Galaxy since returning to health while Cremaschi is produced in a deep Inter Miami midfield. Two players with very high ceilings, they couldn’t have gotten healthy at a better time.

Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Patrick Schulte (Columbus Crew; St. Charles, Mo.), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea/ENG; Addison, Ill.) 
 
DEFENDERS (7): Nathan Harriel (Philadelphia Union; Oldsmar, Fla.), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy; Lakewood, Calif.), Bryan Reynolds (KVC Westerlo/BEL; Fort Worth, Texas), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.), Jonathan Tomkinson (Norwich City/ENG; Plano, Texas), Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United FC; Atlanta, Ga.), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; Lawrenceville, Ga.) 
 
MIDFIELDERS (7): Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; Littleton, Colo.), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; Greensboro, N.C.), Benjamin Cremaschi (Inter Miami CF; Key Biscayne, Fla.), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Queens, N.Y.), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), Rokas Pukstas (Hajduk Split/CRO; Stillwater, Okla.), Tanner Tessmann (Venezia/ITA; Birmingham, Ala.) 
 
FORWARDS (9): Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; Medford, N.J.), Esmir Bajraktarevic (New England Revolution; Appleton, Wisc.), Taylor Booth (Utrecht/NED; Eden, Utah), Cade Cowell (Guadalajara/MEX; Ceres, Calif.), Damion Downs (Köln/GER; Schwebenried, Germany), Johan Gomez (Eintracht Braunschweig/GER; Keller, Texas), Duncan McGuire (Orlando City SC; Omaha, Neb.), Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg/GER; South Riding, Va.), Griffin Yow (KVC Westerlo/BEL; Clifton, Va.) 

Figuring out a balance

Mitrovic broke down how he’s looking at overaged players and the roster build process in general because it’s a complicated one. His standard roster will only be 18 players with four reserves who can be brought to Paris but those reserves can only be used if there is an injury to the core 18 players.

“On overaged players, we have a big pool of Olympic-age group players and then we have had three camps so far, this is the fourth camp. We want to be sure to evaluate all Olympic age group players and that will affect what overaged players will be with us for the Olympic games,” Mitrovic said. “We made a decision for this camp to have Walker Zimmerman with us and we are very happy. Through its process in the last seven, eight months, we defined Walker and center back as a position of need, and with all the qualities that Walker has and brings to the table, we are happy to have him with us in the camp.”

Mitrovic also took things a step further mentioning that discussions are happening about players who could take part in Copa America and the Olympics. A few who come to mind in that sense are midfielders Gio Reyna and Tyler Adams. Neither played much for their clubs which is why two summer tournaments could be a lower workload than for a player like Christian Pulisic who took part in Europe and logged numerous minutes. 

It’s still unlikely that either would take part considering their injury histories for clubs but the fact that discussions are taking place is significant due to what could be possible for the final roster.

“For all the players that are in consideration and registered for the Olympic games, we communicate with clubs. Either those clubs are based in the United States or abroad,” Mitrovic said. “I think that collaboration is very important because as we know the Olympic Games are not mandatory for the players to be released and just that clubs know what’s our program, what are our ideas, and just to educate them about the Olympic Games and our process there and obviously to learn if layers are going to be available.” 

“There is possibility for some guys to play both Copa America and Olympic Games we are working on that but we know that it’s not going to be easy to get players for that and that it’s going to be very case by case, player by player. We cannot put all the players in the same bracket because we know they all play for different clubs, different clubs have different approaches and some players have a different load during the season and for some it would be easier to play both tournaments than others.”

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