The second January camp under U.S. men's
national team head coach Gregg Berhalter features 11 players who attended his first camp a year ago in Chula Vista, California.
Many were fixtures on Berhalter's U.S. squads throughout 2019.
But what is different is the youth in this year's January camp. Of the 26 players who have been in camp, 15 are age-eligible for the Concacaf Olympic men's qualifying tournament that begins in March, and five are teenagers.
"For us, we want to use this camp as an opportunity to evaluate more players," Berhalter said. "It's purposeful that we have a younger roster and the guys have doing well."
The presence of some experienced players -- six played in the 2019 Gold Cup -- has helped the other players get up to speed on Berhalter's system.
"It's young guys, seven new players in camp," he said. "It's a little bit of the same. We have some guys who can help bring the younger guys along. You see some of the same signs, some of the young guys working through it a little bit. It's been good. They have a great attitude."
One of the youngest players in the camp is 18-year-old Ulysses Llanez, who is in his first season at German club Wolfsburg, where he finished with 10 goals in 11 games in the fall for its team in the U-19 Bundesliga. Berhalter played with Wolfsburg sporting director Marcel Schaefer at 1860 Munich.
"We're very close with that club," Berhalter said. "John Brooks is there. We have a close relationship with them. They were excited for him and for him to have this opportunity with the national team. They speak really highly of him, so that's why we are excited to have him in camp. He has grown since this camp has started in terms of his tenacity. We like how he creates but also how he works to try to win the ball back and be aggressive defensively. We have seen a lot of good things from him."
Llanez spent time earlier in his career in Mexico's youth national team program but was a late cut for the 2017 U.S. U-17 World Cup team and played for the 2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup team in qualifying and the finals in Poland.
"We want to create an environment that players want to be in," Berhalter said. "When it comes to dual nationals, they have to choose with their hearts, they have to choose which program puts them in the best possible position. Sometimes, it's going to be us. Sometimes it's going to be other countries. We just want to create an environment that players want to be in."
Berhalter cites the experiences Sergino Dest had with the U.S. youth teams as being instrumental in getting him to commit to the USA over the Netherlands at the senior level.
"Everyone talks about me and [U.S. Soccer sporting director] Earnie [Stewart] going over there and talking with him all the time," he said, "but you go to remember he was part of our U-17 and U-20 program. They laid the groundwork for that decision. Uly has been part of our U-20 program and our youth program, the U-17s. If we can create the environment from top to bottom that players want to be in, we'll see a lot of the players sticking around."