Pulisic, McKennie and Gonzalez headline USMNT squad for March friendlies

Omar Gonzalez is back with the U.S. national team for the first time since the fateful World Cup qualifying loss to Trinidad & Tobago in 2017

The squad for the U.S. national team's March friendlies against Ecuador and Chile is not as young as most fans would have expected, and features one veteran surprise.

Atlas defender and 2014 World Cup veteran Omar Gonzalez has been called in for the USMNT's upcoming friendlies, joining a group led by Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams.

Gonzalez is making his national team return for the first time since his fateful role in the United States' World Cup qualifying loss to Trinidad & Tobago in October of 2017. Gonzalez scored an own goal that day in a loss that led to the USMNT missing the 2018 World Cup.

Gonzalez will be reunited with U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, who was his teammate and mentor with the LA Galaxy back in 2009, Gonzalez's first season as a professional. The 30-year-old defender has established himself as a regular starter for Liga MX side Atlas, and will have a chance to compete in a wide-open race for starting USMNT center-back roles under Berhalter.

Several of the team's top young players are missing from the group called in for the March friendlies, including Tim Weah and Josh Sargent, with U.S. Soccer also convening a U.S. Under-23 national team camp and friendlies that will serve as a chance for players like Weah, Sargent, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Djordje Mihailovic, who are all age-eligible for the next Olympic cycle.

As a result, Berhalter has called in a senior team squad that is older than the squads called up for friendlies in 2018, when caretaker head coach Dave Sarachan focused on integrating young talent. Gonzalez is joined by Michael Bradley and Tim Ream as players in their 30s who are in the group.

“We have been saying all along that we thought it was important to have a veteran presence in the National Team," Berhalter said. "I think it’s really important when you talk about the history, the heritage and culture of what it means to play for the National Team. In Omar and Tim’s case, they’re both playing at a high level, they’re both playing every week and we thought this would be a good camp to evaluate their performance.”

The squad does have a good amount of youth, with Tyler Adams and Jonathan Lewis being the youngest players in the group along with Pulisic and McKennie.

“We had to make decisions for this camp and we looked at the players in a number of different buckets," Berhalter said. "For example, we have some younger guys that aren’t getting the game time that they would have expected and they’re still age-eligible for the Olympics, so we think it’s a great opportunity for them to play two international games with the Olympic team.

"We have other players that we have evaluated thoroughly in the January Camp and we’re going to bring back in the future, but not in this camp. That’s another group. Then we have some guys that are returning from injury and we thought now is not the right time to subject them to the intensity of international soccer and the National Team."

One player making his return to the national team is Seattle Sounders star Jordan Morris, who missed most of 2018 with a torn ACL, and whose last memorable contribution to the USMNT was scoring the winning goal in the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup final against Jamaica.

The United States will play Ecuador in Orlando on March 21 before traveling to Houston to take on Chile at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 26.

Here is the 24-man squad that will convene for the USMNT camp in Orlando beginning on Sunday:

GOALKEEPERS: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew)

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DEFENDERS: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

MIDFIELDERS: Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)

FORWARDS: Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Ramirez (Los Angeles FC), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)