BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, November 15, 2010
As the US national team prepares to take on South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Challenge, one of the young players head Bob Bradley will be leaning on is 18 year old central defender Gale Agbossoumonde.
Agbossoumonde is currently the U-20 national team captain and is considered one of the best prospects in the US youth system. Getting the call up to the senior team took the Togo-born Agbossoumonde by surprise.
"I wasn't expecting it because I was just planning on going to Atlanta with the U-20's," Agbossoumonde told YA. "It's a good opportunity for me. I'm very happy."
Agbossoumonde will arrive in South Africa battling a knee injury that has him not in the best of shape. Despite that, he is still determined to succeed on the field in his debut with the national team.
"It hasn't hit me yet," Agbossoumonde said of the call up. "I have a little injury that I am dealing with. I injured my knee a while ago but then I tweaked it a few days ago. I hope it won't keep me from playing. I trained on it on Friday. It's a nagging kind of thing. I am not 100 percent but I can play."
"If I do play, obviously I am nervous," Agbossoumonde admitted. "But if I couldn't play at the level, I wouldn't be there. I like challenges."
Last year prior to the 2009 U-20 World Cup, Agbossoumonde turned professional when he signed with the Brazilian sports management company Traffic Sports.
Traffic loaned him out to Sporting Braga and over the summer plans were in the works to extend the loan but management at the club changed and plans fell through. His objective is to join a new club in the January window.
However after getting selected by Bradley to be on the US senior national team for the first time, Agbossoumonde will get a confidence boost as he moves forward in his young career. Playing under Bradley is opportunity he is happy about.
"I've met him a couple of times," Agbossoumonde said of Bradley. "He was there when I was training at the Home Depot Center. He would watch us and come down and talk to us. He seems like a good guy but tough. He was kind of an intimidating guy."
The roster that Bradley has selected for the Nelson Mandela Challenge consists of many young players who are inexperienced at the international level but are considered strong prospects for US program.
In addition to Agbossoumonde, others making their debut are 17 year old New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo, 20 year old Stabaek midfielder Mikkel Diskerud and 20 year old Kansas City Wizards forward Teal Bunbury.
"Juan and I are going from South Africa to Atlanta for the U-20 tournament together," Agbossoumonde said of his teammate. "I was happy that someone else I really know was going. Mix Diskerud is going to be going too and he's a really good guy. He's a good player as well."
By being named to this roster, Agbossoumonde has emerged as one of the young players that Bradley will turn to as he builds the core of his team to move forward in the 2014 World Cup cycle.
Agbossoumonde is very much motivated by that and playing in the World Cup is something he has dreamed of since he was little.
"It's a big goal of mine to play in the World Cup," Agbossoumonde concluded. "It's always been a goal of mine. It's a dream and I will keep working."
Agbossoumonde will now look to take the first step towards his goal on Wednesday when the US national team takes on South Africa at Cape Town's Green Point stadium.