Callender to start crucial match against Sporting KC before joining USMNT for Tuesday friendly against Oman

The Inter Miami goalkeeper earned a second call up to international duty but will miss the USA’s match Saturday against Uzbekistan before reporting to camp.
Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender blocks a point-blank shot by LAFC’s Dennis Bouanga during the Herons 3-1 win Sunday.
Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender blocks a point-blank shot by LAFC’s Dennis Bouanga during the Herons 3-1 win Sunday. / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. Men’s National Team Coach Gregg Berhalter invited Inter Miami CF goalkeeper Drake Callender to the USA’s September training camp, but the Miami Herald’s Michelle Kaufman is reporting the 25-year-old shot-stopper will play for the Herons Saturday.

Inter Miami CF v FC Cincinnati - Semifinals: 2023 U.S. Open Cup
Inter Miami players congratulate Callender after a penalty-shot save against Cincinnati in the Open Cup semifinal won by the Herons. / Michael Miller/ISI Photos/GettyImages

My first reaction? YAY! Callender is one of nine Miami players called up during this international window to their various national teams. But Major League Soccer regularly has matches scheduled during FIFA’s breaks, so the short handed Herons will host Sporting Kansas City this weekend in a critical match for both teams. Having the regular keeper between the pipes will be a huge boost for La Rosanegra.

My second reaction? What? Why? Kaufman doesn’t say, and a quick internet search doesn’t reveal any clues. It’s not unheard of for clubs to refuse to release players for friendly matches, but why haven’t we heard that with a player of such consequence to Inter Miami?

Callender has 97 saves in 25 MLS matches, tied for the third most in the league, and he has a knack for the spectacular. Of course, I’m happy to hear he’s available to Miami this weekend but I’m a little disappointed he’s won’t get a full training camp with the national team.

Berhalter called up three keepers for matches against Uzbekistan (Saturday) and Oman (Tuesday, Sept. 12): current No. 1 Matt Turner and Nottingham Forest teammate Ethan Horvath. Turner is considered a lock to start for the foreseeable future, but there is no clear cut No. 2. Candidates include Zac Steffen, Sean Johnson, Gaga Slonina and, I thought, Callender.

Maybe we’ll learn more as the weekend gets closer. As is, I will choose to count my blessings. My favorite club will have its starting keeper in goal against an in-form opponent this weekend AND that goalkeeper has attracted attention from the national team.

Still, if Callender doesn’t get his first USMNT appearance Tuesday against Oman, I’m going to question where he really rates in Berhalter’s eyes. It’s clear, to me at least, that Draco deserves a chance to lock down a spot as the preferred backup to Turner.