Orlando's Andres Perea makes switch to USMNT from Colombia

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Orlando City SC midfielder Andres Perea has been granted a one-time switch from Colombia to represent the United States.

The Tampa native moved to Colombia at an early age, rising through the club ranks at Atletico Nacional. He went on to represent Colombia at the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2017 and U20 World Cup two years later before joining Orlando City on loan last season.

Perea, who is at the January camp with the U-23 U.S. men's team, received the news on his switch from senior side coach Gregg Berhalter. Because Perea played for Colombia in official competition, Perea was not able to take part in the USMNT's 6-0 win against El Salvador last December.

"It was a very important decision for me. Colombia is my country as well, but it's an honor for me to represent the United States as I did Colombia in the past," Perea said.

The players of the U23 side -- which will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics this summer -- are training alongside 12 members of the senior group in Bradenton, Florida, with reports of a friendly match against Serbia in the works.

"Andres we find to be a really, really interesting holding midfield player for us,'' U.S. U23 coach Jason Kreis said during a conference call. "The amount of ground that he's capable to cover defensively, I think it's a little bit different level than some of the other guys that we have in our pool. His processing of the ball, he's still learning a little bit about that.''

Kreis anticipates men's Olympic soccer qualifying for North and Central America and the Caribbean will take place during late March in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the CONCACAF tournament last spring was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kreis said he anticipates it will be difficult to access top Europe-based Americans for qualifying. FIFA does not require that clubs release players to under-23 teams. FIFA extended the age limit by a year, keeping the group for qualifying limited to players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997.

Each team reaching the games in Japan can supplement its roster with three players over the age limit. Top Americans are not expected at qualifying, with clubs expected not to make available Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Joshua Sargent and Giovanni Reyna. All are regulars in league play this season.

"It's always difficult with the European clubs because of their season, because of the extended travel that it takes for the players to get there and back, but also because the tournament is essentially a 12 day to two-week process and then we need some time with the players to prepare them,'' Kreis said.

The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, a slowing development pipeline that contributed to the Americans not reaching the 2018 World Cup. Kreis hopes to get some Europe-based players. Those not regulars for their clubs appear to be more likely to be available.

"I don't think that we'll make some requests that we know for sure we're going to get noes on,'' he said. "But anybody that falls into what we think would be the 10 to 15% chance maybe category, we're going to make those phone calls.''

A delay in the Major League Soccer season because of the pandemic may help the U.S. team.

"If the MLS season hasn't started, now there doesn't seem to be any good reason for any MLS clubs to not release all of their players to us, so we think potentially we have a bigger pool to choose from and then maybe we could have a little bit more time with those players before the actually tournament starts,'' Kreis said. "So we're going to be looking at that possibility, to have a little bit of a longer run-up to the tournament.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.