Paxten Aaronson made his international debut. (USA Today Sports)
The U.S. men’s national team wrapped up its year-opening slate with a 0-0 draw vs. Colombia in front of a capacity crowd of 27,000 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Saturday night.
Defender John Tolkin and forward Paxten Aaronson, as well as substitute defender Sam Rogers and forward Emmanuel Sabbi, made their international debuts. A record 12 players earned their first caps during the two matches of this January camp.
The young American team, however, could not find the net.
The game was end-to-end from the start as Colombia’s speed in transition created danger for the U.S. defense. While the South Americans outshot the U.S. 12-5, the USMNT had better quality scoring opportunities and had two shots on goal to one for Los Cafeteros.
Aaronson nearly scored six minutes into his first senior USMNT action when a long ball from Walker Zimmerman found forward Matthew Hoppe on the run into the penalty area. The Middlesbrough-based forward laid it off for the onrushing Aaronson, but his one-time attempt didn’t have enough power and was handled well by goalkeeper Alvaro Montero.
Minutes later, Colombia jumped on a misplayed pass from center back Aaron Long and forward Diego Valoyes made a run down the right wing, driving around his defender and firing a shot on goal that was swallowed up by goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Aaronson had another chance in the 14th minute. After a throw-in near the corner, a fine passing sequence continued with a Paul Arriola backheel to Aaronson near the penalty spot. The teenager’s shot was deflected by the defense and glanced off the left post before rolling out of bounds.
Colombia answered with a dangerous counterattack. Zimmerman wasn’t able to clear a long ball over the top and it fell to Yilmar Velásquez, who snuck past Tolkin and fired a shot wide right. In the 32nd minute, the U.S. threatened on the break with forward Jesús Ferreira finding Hoppe cutting through the defense on the left side, but his chance from close range went right into the chest of the sliding Montero.
The torrid pace of the first 45 minutes continued into the second half. One of its most dangerous opportunities came near the hour mark as Ferreira received the ball in a dangerous spot near the top of the box, but two defenders closed in quickly to prevent him from shooting.
Both teams had a few last-gasp efforts in stoppage time with Kellyn Acosta sending in a free kick just out of reach for substitute forward Brandon Vázquez. Colombia captain Frank Fabra provided Los Cafeteros’ last threat, driving down the left side of the box and hitting his shot wide after some solid defense from teenage center back Jalen Neal.
The USMNT returns to action during the March international window to complete the group stage of the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League at Grenada and against El Salvador. The U.S. won the inaugural Concacaf Nations League in 2021 with a 3-2 overtime victory over Mexico.