Aaronson and Tolkin arrive! USMNT winners, losers and ratings as young stars debut in drab Colombia draw

Aaronson USMNT 2023
Several American starlets earned their U.S. debuts in what was an otherwise forgettable January friendly.

A total of 12 players made their U.S. men's national team debuts this week, and that alone makes this January camp a success. Some day, we may look back at this week and reminisce about the debuts of young stars like Gaga Slonina, Paxten Aaronson, John Tolkin and Brandon Vazquez, among plenty of others.

But the actual games themselves? Pretty forgettable. And, after a 2-1 loss to Serbia that had some excitement to it, the USMNT's clash with Colombia on Saturday night provided little in the way of memorable moments.

The two sides played to a 0-0 draw in a game that was defined by disorganized chaos. This looked like a game featuring two teams hastily put together in preseason and that's because it's exactly what it was.

There were few pretty sequences and, to be fair, few standout performances. This game was an extended runout that will provide all involved with a bit of fitness and little more.

That is, except for those that made their debuts, with several newcomers offering glimpses of their potential. It wasn't enough to salvage this game, but it was enough to add a little bit of meaning to an otherwise dull January friendly.

There are brighter days ahead, and some big decisions as the USMNT prepare for a new leadership structure. This will go down as one to forget, but not for a few players that could play a part under the next regime whenever it does arrive.

  1. The Winners

    The Winners

    Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman:

    Fans will have gone into this game wanting to see young stars show out, but this wouldn't have gone well if not for the two World Cup veterans.

    In what turned out to be a chaotic first half, Zimmerman and Long provided a bit of stability to a totally disjointed USMNT side. January camps are, by nature, disjointed, but the first half was particularly chaotic, with the two teams exchanging counter after counter over and over again.

    And Zimmerman and Long dealt with those counters. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't perfect, but they did keep it scoreless.

    Fans may not have loved seeing two proven veterans in January camp, but this is vital for their fitness too. Both will have some part to play this cycle and both were good in this one.

    Paxten Aaronson:

    A perfect performance? No way, but it was a good look into what the younger Aaronson is and can be.

    The Eintracht Frankfurt earned his first USMNT cap and, by and large, he didn't look out of his depth. He called for the ball and attempted to make things happen when he got it. It could be argued that he deserved at least one goal in the first half.

    Were there weak moments though? Definitely. Physically, Aaronson isn't quite there yet, but few players his age are. Time in Germany will help him bulk up and fill out to help him deal with the more physical side of the game.

    Overall, though, a positive showing on a night to remember for a potential future star.

    John Tolkin and DeJuan Jones:

    The two new fullbacks looked more than ready for this.

    Jones was making his second USMNT appearance, having made his debut against Serbia. Tolkin was making his first. And neither looked out of their depth in the slightest.

    Tolkin played 80 solid minutes, showing plenty of positive signs on both sides of the ball. That trademark confidence was bright with him to the international level, and we should see it a bunch more in a USMNT shirt going forward.

    As for Jones, a solid showing. The New England Revolution defender has speed, but also a bit more nuance to his game in the attacking end. It's a deep right-back pool, but Jones may climb up the rankings a bit.

    Of the two, Tolkin has the clearest path towards more minutes, but both did themselves proud int his one.

  2. The Losers

    The Losers

    Several new faces:

    Yes, this camp is about more than just throwing caps to young players. It's a vital time for veterans to build fitness alongside some new faces, who shouldn't all be thrown in the deep end at the same time.

    With that said, it would have been nice to see some extended minutes for a few players that earned a bit more of a look.

    Cade Cowell is one, especially given how electric he was against Serbia. Jalen Neal is another and, although he did get on the field, he could have benefitted greatly from a few more minutes. Sean Johnson obviously deserved his minutes, but maybe we could have gotten a look at Roman Celentano?

    It's a tough spot for Anthony Hudson, even when looking past his interim tag. He's balancing a lot and dealing with players at all sorts of fitness levels. He gave plenty of young guys a go, but could he have run out a few more?

    The viewer:

    You have to be pretty devoted to be truly invested in January camp, but the hope usually is that you get a few good moments and a few good goals.

    We certainly didn't get that on Saturday night.

    If you stayed in Saturday to watch USMNT-Colombia, you probably weren't left very happy and you probably didn't learn that much that you didn't already know.

    But, hey, there are only two months until the Nations League, so there's that.

  3. USMNT Ratings: Defense

    USMNT Ratings: Defense

    Sean Johnson (6/10):

    Didn't get challenged by anything particularly crazy. Will now head to his new club, Toronto, as he looks to remain in the USMNT picture amid Slonina's rise.

    John Tolkin (7/10):

    Super, super comfortable in his first U.S. appearance. The USMNT has been looking for a backup left back... have they found him?

    Walker Zimmerman (7/10):

    Kept the U.S. in it despite a frenetic first half. Will remain a key contributor going forward, although the U.S. centerback picture does need a bit of refreshing.

    Aaron Long (6/10):

    Could have been better on the ball, but, like Zimmerman, kept things cool in the first half.

    DeJuan Jones(7/10):

    Made a case for more looks at right back, although that's a strength of this player pool.

  4. Midfield


    Kellyn Acosta (6/10):

    His set pieces weren't quite as crisp as usual, which was a bit of a downer in an otherwise okay game.

    Eryk Williamson (6/10):

    Showed signs of what makes him a legitimate No. 8 option for the U.S., but wasn't close helpful enough defensively.

    Paxten Aaronson (7/10):

    Overall, plenty of positives to take away, although he will need to adjust to the physicality of the international game. That will come after some time in Frankfurt.

  5. Attack


    Paul Arriola (7/10):

    Super active and, obviously, very comfortable in his role. Created plenty of danger. You know what you'll get with Arriola, and the U.S. got it.

    Jesus Ferreira (6/10):

    Played an absolutely fantastic ball to Hoppe in the first half and showed why his skillset is still valuable to this team. Still, he needs to be a bit more ruthless in front of goal when given the chance.

    Matthew Hoppe (5/10):

    Needed to tee up Arriola on a first-half chance. Overall, his decision-making was just a bit off, which makes sense given the lack of club minutes.

  6. Subs & Manager
    Getty Images

    Subs & Manager

    Alan Sonora (6/10):

    Overall a decent camp. Now time for him to find a club where he can really shine.

    Brandon Vazquez (6/10):

    He's in the mix, especially after the Serbia game, but was relatively quiet here, which is understandable.

    Emmanuel Sabbi (5/10):

    Got his debut, but it seemed the nerves got to him. Was way too sloppy.

    Jalen Neal (6/10):

    Came on late, but looked pretty good. Bright future ahead.

    Sam Rogers (6/10):

    A cool moment for a player that has taken a wild path towards the national team.

    Julian Gressel (N/A):

    Only played nine minutes.

    Anthony Hudson (6/10):

    Could he have gone a bit younger with the lineup? Maybe, but he was managing fitness levels, to be fair. Still, plenty of debuts over this two-game camp, so we'll call it a success.