BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, July 5, 2011
With the 2012 Olympic soccer tournament just a little more than a year away, it will mark the next opportunity for the US to take part in a major international tournament.
In the past, the Olympics have been a very important tournament for the United States as many players have used the Games as a springboard into becoming very important players for the US national team.
In 2008, Stuart Holden, Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Michael Bradley, and Maurice Edu emerged from the Beijing Olympics to take increased roles with the US team.
In the Sydney games in 2000, Landon Donovan, John O'Brien, and Josh Wolff played for the US Olympic team and were then big parts of the 2002 World Cup team that advanced to the quarterfinals.
CONCACAF qualifying for the 2012 Olympics will begin next spring and should the team qualify for the Olympics, there are many players who could once again use the tournament to become key USMNT players.
The key for this team will be selecting players who are versatile. With only 18 rosters spots, every player will likely be needed and having players who can play numerous positions will give the coach more options.
With that said, here is a projected Olympic roster under a strict U-23 age limit and not including any overage players.
18 Tickets to London
Bill Hamid (DC United) – Despite playing for a struggling DC United team, Hamid remains a powerful presence in front of the goal.
Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) – Johnson is a bit raw but has the ability to become a solid keeper. He already has been capped by the US national team in 2011 and should be the frontrunner to be the starting keeper.
Timothy Chandler (FC Nurnberg) – Already a rising star in the Bundesliga with FC Nurnberg, Chandler will be a key player moving forward with the US national team in the 2014 cycle. The speedy right back is also a very capable winger and could see time with the US team there as well.
Brek Shea (FC Dallas) – For most of his young career, Shea has been a versatile player that has never quite settled in a specific position. While mostly playing left midfield at FC Dallas, Shea will be most valuable to the US Olympic team in the backline either at left back or central defense. This US team has a lot of wingers in Chandler, Gyau, Gatt, and Hurzeler but Shea could add much needed size and strength to the defense.
John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin) – Brooks maybe the top young American prospect and this was further solidified in May when he was signed by Hertha Berlin to an impressive four year contract. Has begun to train with the first team in the 2011 preseason and is now even listed on the club's first team roster for the upcoming season. By next year he will likely have made his Bundesliga debut. He is still very young and is actually eligible for the 2016 Olympics.
Perry Kitchen (DC United) – As one of the 2011 MLS draft picks, Kitchen has earned a lot of time with DC United during his rookie season. He passes well out of the back but needs to get stronger. He can also play defensive midfield.
Anthony Wallace (Colorado Rapids) – While the left back position has historically been a weakness for the US national team, Wallace has given some hope at the position. In 2010, Wallace began to start with regularity for Colorado where he won the MLS Cup that year. In the annual January friendly, he won his first USMNT cap.
Zarek Valentin (Chivas USA) – Despite only being an MLS rookie, Valentin is getting regular time for Chivas USA. His ability to play both right back and central defense will give the team options in the back.
Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim) – While he is scheduled to begin playing the 2011/12 season with Hoffenheim's U-23 team, it is likely that he will make his Bundesliga debut this year. Gyau's outstanding dribbling ability will give the team a weapon that not many US teams have had.
Josh Gatt (Molde FK) – When Gatt decided to bypass NCAA soccer and head to Europe to play in the second division in Austria, he was not regarded as one of the top US prospects. Since then, he has moved to Molde FK in Norway and has begun to breakout under head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who has stated numerous times on the record that he believes Gatt will be a top player. Gatt's blazing speed on one wing along with Gyau's quickness and dribbling on the other could be a lethal combination.
Mix Diskerud (Stabaek) – While Diskerud has earned two caps with the US national team and will likely earn more in 2011, he will likely have an important role with the Olympic team. There likely won't be as many players on the team that have had as much first team experience in recent years as Diskerud has had.
Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union) – While most of the midfielders on this Olympic team are very attack minded, Okugo will provide a steady defensive presence just in front of the backline. His ability to also play central defense is very important in giving the team options.
Fabian Hurzeler (Bayern Munich) – Hurzeler is very young and like John Anthony Brooks, is also eligible for the 2016 Olympics. Hurzeler last year was a standout player for Bayern Munich's U19 team and played with the U-23 team in friendlies. At just 17 years old, he even practiced with the first team towards the end of the year. This year it is possible he will sign a professional contract with the powerful club. As a player that can play left midfield, central midfield, and forward, Hurzeler can help this team in many different areas and he is one of the top prospects in US soccer since former US U20 head coach Thomas Rongen convinced him to play for the United States over Germany who he represented at the U17 level.
Moises Orozco (Tigres UANL) – Orozco is one of the more talented American prospects rising through the ranks in the Mexico. Orozco is training with Tigres' senior team this preseason and it is likely he will see his first team debut in the coming months. On the US team he will add an attacking option in the center part of the midfield but he can also play as a withdrawn forward.
Freddy Adu –While only just 22, Freddy Adu has been around within the US Soccer system forever. His career has seen far more downs than ups since he left MLS for Europe in 2007. Part of this could be being handcuffed by the Benfica contract and part is on Adu. Still, the 2011 Gold Cup proved he can still play and Adu will likely be the key creative force as he was for the US team at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing.
Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls) - This past year has been a transformative one for Agudelo as he went from being a 17 year-old MLS reserve player to a US national team situational starter that plays alongside Thierry Henry with his club. As a player that is likely to be on the 2014 World Cup team, Agudelo will be expected to be a key part of the American offense in London.
Jozy Altidore (Villarreal) – Altidore is another player that has seen ups and downs recently for both the US national team and the club team. Before he was injured in the 2011 Gold Cup, however, Altidore was enjoying a strong tournament. He is talented and very physically imposing but he will need to once and for all find a club where he can settle down. In 2012, he is likely to start for the Olympic team.
Bobby Wood (1860 Munich) – While there are quite a few strong young forwards emerging in the US player pool, Wood is one of the most talented. He has a big frame but is fast and can read the game very well. He made his first team debut last season for 1860 Munich but he is likely to see significant minutes this year at just 18 years old. There is already rumored interest from Bundesliga teams and a USMNT cap in the next 12 months is also a strong possibility.
In the mix
Sean Cunningham, Teal Bunbury, Cody Cropper, Adrian Ruelas, Joe Corona, Sebastien Ibeagha, Ike Opara, Diego Chavarri, Conor Doyle, Gale Agbossoumonde, Terrence Boyd, Sebastian Lletget, Mobi Fehr, Luis Gil, Dilly Duka, Jack McInerney, Will Packwood, Kelyn Rowe, Omar Salgado, Alex Zahavi