DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 25, 2016
Stakes are high on Friday evening as the United States U-23 team will face Colombia in the first game of a two-legged battle for the opportunity to participate in this summer's Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
Andi Herzog's squad will try to recover from their disappointing campaign in last October's CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, although face a far tougher challenge against South American sleeping giant Colombia.
Few would consider the United States as favorites in this high-pressure playoff tie, although Herzog does have a highly experienced squad of players at his disposal which could by all means pull off a surprise result.
The defensive side of the field will be the most tried and tested group for the Stars and Stripes, led by European-tested keeper Ethan Horvath and an ample group of defenders in Kelly Acosta, Matt Mizaga, Shane O'Neill, Walker Zimmerman and Eric Miller, who have each had a minimum of one season of starting experience at the MLS level.
The enigmatic, perhaps disappointing Julian Green could have the opportunity to re-ignite his case as a future star for the US squad against Colombia, after spending the nearly 20 months since his memorable World Cup 2014 cameo as either a forgotten man for Hamburg or a big fish in a small pond for FC Bayern's reserve squad.
Fulham youngster Emerson Hyndman could also have extra motivation to display his highly-heralded talent in this pair of games; a stand-out performance would surely pique interest around Europe for the 19 year-old prospect whose club situation has soured just months ahead what expects to the pivotal summer in his young career where he will join a new team.
Seattle Sounders' newest media darling Jordan Morris will undoubtedly lead the attack, and all eyes will be on the former Stanford forward as he tries to build on an impressive seven goals in nine games for the U23 squad.
While his professional career is barely three weeks old, Morris is arguably the member of the team with the most senior experience. He has already been capped by Jürgen Klinsmann for the senior team nine times during his Stanford career, and showed his scoring touch with a winning goal against Mexico in a friendly game last year in San Antonio.