Numbers never tell the whole story; that said, Drake Callender's numbers make a good case for starting the Inter Miami keeper in his first U.S. Men's National Team match against Mexico on Wednesday in Glendale, Ariz.
Interim USMNT Coach Anthony Hudson has three MLS goalkeepers --
Callender, Toronto FC's Sean Johnson and FC Cincinnati's Roman Celentano -- in camp for the Allstate Continental Clasico, a glorified friendly between North America's soccer heavyweights. Johnson has 11 caps for the USA and Celentano was in the January camp, but April's USMNT call-up is the first for Callender, whose star is rising since he won Inter Miami's starting job last spring.
Everybodysoccer.com ranked Callender, 25, 10th among American goalkeepers in an article posted Jan. 30 and had this to say: "One to Watch: Drake Callender. Although Callender entered the league in 2020, 2022 was Callender’s first true rookie season. In less than 30 league matches, the Cal alum kept up with the veterans, rarely looking out of step or overwhelmed in the moment. Now in his fourth year in the league, Callender has quickly risen from “promising rookie” to “outside looking in” when it comes to the USMNT depth chart. If Callender can continue this meteoric rise - and possibly jump to a higher level in Europe where he’ll have to embrace even more responsibility in the game - look for him to receive some caps in the next few years."
Johnson has the edge in experience, but neither he nor Celentano are having the season, statistically, that Callender is having for La Rosanegra. In seven matches, the Californian has allowed 8 goals and saved 33 shots, or 80.5 percent of the shots against him. (New England's Djordje Petrovic has 36 saves in eight matches, but Callender's 4.71 saves per game edges Petrovic's 4.5 for tops in MLS). Callender is allowing 1.14 goals per game.
Meanwhile, Johnson has 23 saves in eight matches (71.9 percent save percentage) and is allowing 1.13 goals per match. Celentano has 22 saves in eight matches (71.0); he also is allowing an average of 1.13 goals.
Celentano and Johnson are slightly better passers, statistically: Johnson is completing 65.2 percent of his passes and 30.1 percent of his long balls, while Celentano is at 63.4 and 40.8 percent and Callender connects on 59.8 and 34.9 percent. But, for my money, nobody in the league stops shots like Drake Callender.
Friendly or not, El Tri and the U.S. rivalry is real, and would be a great introduction to international football for Inter Miami's best player.
Match coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday and will be broadcast by TBS, Telemundo and Universo and streamed by HBO Max and Peacock. Jonathan Sigal of MLSsoccer.com had this preview.