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Crew’s Aboubacar Keita called up to U.S. U-23 camp

The 20-year-old MLS Cup-winning center back has represented the United States before for the U-20 team

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday afternoon, the United States Men’s National Team announced the senior and Under-23 players invited to the January camp that will run from Jan. 9 through Jan. 24 in Bradenton, Florida. Among the U-23 players invited was 20-year old Columbus Crew center back Aboubacar Keita.

Keita will head to Florida for most of January joining other young American talent such as Julian Araujo, Jackson Yueill, and Daryl Dike in the youth camp that will take place simultaneously with the senior national team camp. The Crew Academy product, who was raised in Westerville, is coming off a 2020 MLS season in which he played 11 matches and started 10 games.

The second-year pro started a stretch of six straight regular season games for the eventual MLS Cup champions when senior defender Josh Williams served a suspension. The last game Keita played was in Orlando on Nov. 4 when the Crew lost its final game of the 2020 regular season to Orlando City 2-1. For this January camp, Keita is the only Columbus player invited to the camp.

At 20 years old, this isn’t the first time Keita has been called up to play for a United States youth team. His first youth cap was for the Under-20 team in 2019 when he provided a game-tying assist against France in a friendly. He was also a starting center back for the Under-19 American squad at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland. The U.S. reached the quarterfinals where the team lost to Ecuador.

Keita has also featured for the Under-19 United States squad in 2018 and was called up for the first-time for the youth team when he was 17. At the conclusion of the Under-23 camp, select players from that squad coached by Jason Kreis could continue and join former Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter and the senior team for the remainder of the camp.

This will be a huge 2021 for the United States Men’s National Team with the upcoming World Cup qualifiers starting and this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup to compete in. The American youth invited to this camp likely have one goal in mind: qualifying and playing in this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Keita is hoping to be part of Kreis’ squad that will head to Mexico this March to try and qualify for the Olympics, something the young Americans haven’t done since 2008. Should the Crew center back impress at this month’s camp in Florida, he could be headed to Mexico and possibly Japan in July in the middle of the Crew’s season in 2021 as defending MLS Cup champions.

USMNT Senior Camp Roster

Goalkeepers (2): Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

Defenders (3): Tristan Blackmon (Los Angeles FC), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

Midfielders (3): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jordan Morris (Sounders), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)

USMNT U-23 Camp Roster

Goalkeepers (3): JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (Austin FC)

Defenders (10): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), George Bello (Atlanta United), Chris Gloster (PSV Eindhoven), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)

Midfielders (6): Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United), Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg), Andres Perea (Orlando City), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

Forwards (7): Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Daryl Dike (Orlando City), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Benji Michel (Orlando City), Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal Impact)