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LA Galaxy’s Jalen Neal makes USMNT debut before first MLS appearance

Defender faced club teammate Dejan Joveljić.

Brenton Tse

It was a surprise to see 19-year-old LA Galaxy defender Jalen Neal called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team for their January camp, and it was a further surprise to see him get the first start of the Anthony Hudson era for the USMNT, as the youngster started at center back in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss against Serbia at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles.

Remarkably, Neal got his senior debut for the U.S. before making an appearance in MLS. But that may be changing in 2023, as Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney talked up Neal’s capabilities and hopes of the homegrown defender getting into the rotation this upcoming season.

Neal went the full 90 against Serbia, one of five U.S. players to go the distance on a very young USMNT squad. Of course, one of the players Neal faced was very familiar, in Galaxy teammate Dejan Joveljić, who also started and went the full 90 for Serbia. While the forward didn’t score or assist in the victory for his country, he notched his third senior cap for Serbia and will look to get back on the A-team radar for them.

Brenton Tse

Goals on the night came from Brandon Vazquez for the U.S., followed by two unanswered by Luka Ilić and Veljko Simić for Serbia.

The U.S. have another game scheduled, for Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park, and we’ll see if Neal is involved in that match, against Colombia. Serbia, meanwhile, are done with their international duty, as this was an off-window match anyway. So Joveljić should be back in Galaxy training camp this week.

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