OLYMPIC TEAM PREVIEW
EXTRA TIME
Thursday, March 8, 2012
The US U-23 team just wrapped up a very successful camp which concluded with an impressive 2-0 win over Mexico.

Head coach Caleb Porter has his team is in good shape at an important time as the Olympic Qualifying tournament begins later this month

As he prepares to announce his Olympic qualifying roster which will consist of 20 players, here is an educated guess from YA's Brian Sciaretta as to what he thinks the roster will be as well as his breakdown of the team.

We are also going to take a dangerous jump and look at what the roster will look like of the team qualifies for the Olympics. That team will only have 18 roster spots and three overage players will be allowed. So there will be a heavy turnover from the qualifying roster.

For the Qualifying tournament in our 20 tickets to Nashville portion, we are going to cover players who are likely to be released for qualifying. Players like Timothy Chandler, Danny Williams, and Jozy Altidore are unlikely to play as their clubs will not release them.

With regards to Andrew Wooten and Alfredo Morales, both players have earned Bundesliga minutes recently. Given the attacking depth, I think the priority will be with Morales who can play numerous positions.

Hertha may not release him for the whole tournament but they may be willing to let him go for the semifinal game. Porter has said he is willing to explore the idea of getting key players released for the all-important semifinal game.

For the Olympics in our 18 Tickets to London portion, however, we will look at the team as if all the best U-23 players will be available and then asses the individual cases of the overage players.

20 TICKETS TO NASHVILLE

Goalkeepers (2)

Bill Hamid - Hamid is currently the number one for this team. He has had a good start to his young career with DC United and is the likely starter heading down to Nashville.

Sean Johnson - The goalkeeping position of the US U-23 team is strong as Johnson is playing very well right now. Johnson already has two caps for the senior team and it wouldn't be surprising to see him overtake Hamid if he plays well to start the MLS season.

Defenders (6)

Zarek Valentin - Valentin has proven to be a very smooth defender who is well adjusted to play under Caleb Porter who was also his coach in college. Valentin can make great passes out of the back and distribute well. A few months ago central defending seemed like the team's weakness but Valentin's move from fullback to centerback at recent camps has helped immensely.

Perry Kitchen - Kitchen came off a strong rookie campaign with DC United and after an off-season turf-toe injury, he is back on the field. He is experienced and will help in central defense, right back, or even defensive midfield.

Kofie Sarkodie - Sarkodie's inclusions into recent US U-23 rosters has come as a surprise to many. Sarkoide struggled for playing time with Houston in his rookie year but he seems to be preferred at the moment by Porter over Sheanon Williams who has consistently put on strong performances with Philadelphia. The selection of Sarkodie is even more controversial because Porter coached Sarkodie at Akron and if Sarkodie does not play well in qualifying, it could be an ugly situation for Porter. Still for now, the likely reason is that Porter knows how to get the most out of Sarkodie and there is a good chemistry between them.

Jorge Villafana - On this US U-23 team there aren't many left backs. Villafana has done a pretty good job so far with the U23s and the fact that he is a left back means he will likely continue to be called up.

Ike Opara - Opara has had a tough start to the beginning of his MLS career due to injuries. When he has played, however, he has done a nice job. He recently had a good showing at the US U-23 camp and he has been a welcome addition to a very thin central defense.

Alfredo Morales - Morales is a nice addition to the US U-23 team because he has had Bundesliga minutes this season and he can play numerous positions. He can play, d-mid, right midfield, right back, and center back. The topic of whether or not he will be released is an issue but since he is not a regular with Hertha, it is possible they will see the benefit of releasing him to ensure he gets playing time. It is also possible that he is released for just the semifinal game as well.

Midfielders (9)

Mikkel Diskerud - Diskerud is the most experienced professional player on the US U-23 team and it showed in the 2-0 win over Mexico. He will be extremely valuable for the US team in the central midfield.

Joe Corona - Corona has been another welcome addition to the US team since he decided to no longer play for Mexico. He is a versatile player who can play right midfield or centrally in an attacking position.

Amobi Okugo - Okugo is a very good defensive midfielder who can even play in central defense if needed. So far with the U-23s he has played well and will be very important to the team.

Sebastian Lletget - Lletget is still awaiting a break through to the first team at West Ham who are close to earning promotion to the English Premier League. The central midfielder has played well in the US U-23 camps he has attended and he has recently come back from a concussion.

Brek Shea - The very talented left winger will be a key part of the team as he has already been a part of the US national team. Shea did not excel for the US team in the recent win over Italy but at the U-23 level he will likely have more space to maneuver and that is when he is most dangerous.

Dilly Duka - Duka is a crafty player who has regularly played well for the US U-23 team since the team's first camp last November.

Joe Gyau - Gyau is one of the most talented prospects the US has on the wing and he has made the bench several times for Hoffenheim's first team in Bundesliga matches. His speed and talent have him as a top player on the US U-23 team.

Freddy Adu - It's amazing to think that Freddy Adu is still eligible for a US youth team after been in the headlines for nearly a decade. What's even more amazing is that he is still as much of a mystery as ever. He has continuously struggled at the club level - even last season at Philadelphia. Still he has shown moments of brilliance. He excelled at the Olympics four years ago.

Josh Gatt - Gatt is one of the fastest American players ever and last year he was an important part of a Molde team that won the Norwegian title. He can make important plays and is a top prospect in American soccer.

Forwards (3)

Juan Agudelo - Agudelo has been considered to be an important part of the team ever since the first camp last November. Despite only being 19 years old, the Colombian-born Agudelo has had senior national team experience. His strong game against Mexico recently shows that he will be very important at the qualifying tournament.

Terrence Boyd - Boyd is a highly regarded prospect at Borussia Dortmund and also with US Soccer. This was most evident when Klinsmann selected the German-born Boyd to play with the senior team against Italy. Boyd is both strong and quick with the ball. He has been outstanding at the previous camps for the US U-23 team.

Teal Bunbury - Bunbury was once seen as an important part of the US Olympic team but he has struggled in recent months including with the US senior team for the January friendlies. The University of Akron veteran has seen other forwards maybe jump ahead of him and he will need to do well in qualifying for else he will have a tough time making the Olympic team

Just missing the cut: Tony Taylor, Gregory Garza, Jared Jeffrey, Gale Agbossoumonde, Jack McInerney

18 TICKETS TO LONDON

This is where it gets trickier and the cuts become harder. The roster is reduced by 2 from qualifying and three overage players are allowed. Plus, it becomes even more likely that the top U-23 players will all be able to attend.

On an 18 player roster, versatility is key and even though I am only listing 5 defenders, many of the midfielders have experience in the backline. Okugo can play central defense. Danny Williams can play all across the backline, and Josh Gatt can play right back. In 2008, the team went to the Olympics with only 5 listed defenders as well.

Obviously with overage players, it is a key question to ask whether each player is in a club situation that would allow the player to be released.

Since most of the players were discussed above, we will only discuss the players who are new.

*denotes an overage player.

Goalkeepers (2)

Hamid

Johnson

Defenders (5)


Timothy Chandler - Chandler is an obvious pick for the Olympics because he can play either right back, left back, or right midfield. His speed and athleticism would make him a force at the U-23 level.

Carlos Bocanegra* - The captain of the US national team would be an incredible boost to the US national team's backline. He would give the experience, talent, and leadership. He has never played in the Olympics before but he has said publically that he wants to badly. Would he be released? It's likely given the Rangers are currently in horrible shape and there is a good chance Bocanegra may no longer be with the club. If he is in the MLS it becomes almost a no-brainer he is with the team.

Clarence Goodson* - Goodson would be another good choice to play for the US Olympic team as one of the three overage picks. He was terrific in the win over Italy and as captain of Brondby, he is considered to be a leader. With Bocanegra, Goodson, and Chandler, the team's backline would be in great shape. Would Brondby release him? I would bet yes. He is established enough with his club to return without missing a beat.

Zarek Valentin - Valentin would make the team but would likely move from central defense to left back where he did a very good job in the U-23 November camp in Germany.

Alfredo Morales

Midfielders (8)


Landon Donovan* - There could be no better way to increase the talent level on the US team than by adding the national team's all-time leading scorer. He has already said publically that he would love to contribute and on this U-23 tteam that is very fast with players like Chandler, Gyau, and Gatt, Donovan would be even more effective. Would he be released by the Galaxy? Of course. MLS has never and would never stand in the way of the Olympics.

Danny Williams - Williams is a versatile player who can play fullback at either side and in the midfield either as a defensive midfield or as a right midfielder. With the US U-23 team limited to 18 players at the Olympics, versatility will be important. As a Bundesliga starter, he would give the team talent and experience.

Amobi Okugo

Freddy Adu

Mix Diskerud

Josh Gatt

Brek Shea

Joe Gyau

Forwards (3)


Jozy Altidore - Altidore would be an obvious pick here. He is unlikely to be released for qualifying but if the team qualifies for the Olympics, he could be a dominant force. Under Caleb Porter's system, Altidore would not have to be used as a lone striker. The space and the likely inexperienced defenses he would face could make for a great tournament for the New Jersey native.

Juan Agudelo

Terrence Boyd


Notes

For the first time in many years, it is unlikely that the US will use one of its overage spots on a goalkeeper as Hamid and Johnson seem capable to do the job.

At least two of the three overage spots will go to defenders. Most likely two will be central defenders. Once the defense is aided by the overage spots, the sky is the limit for this team.

The true test will be in qualifying where after the group stage is over, it will all come down to one semifinal game. Last year the US U-20 team learned that in one game, anything can happen even if the talent gap is wide between the teams. There are several players on this U-23 team that were part of that U-20 team and they will be heavily motivated to erase the memories of Guatemala City in 2011.
Dave
Friday March 9, 2012 9:29 am
While I don't have anything but positives regarding the choices for the qualification process, I don't agree with the 3 over aged players chosen if we advance to the London Games. IMO players like Bocanegra, Goodson, Donovan, Dempsey, etc... should not be considered. I would much rather see players who are younger or less experienced at the international level used. Players like Geoff Cameron, George John, Omar Gonzalez, Zak Whitbread, Tim Ream, Zach Loyd, Fabian Johnson, Jose Torres, Stu Holden, or Alejandro Bedoya.
My reasoning is to get some of these more fringe players Indoctrinated into the USMNT and see what (if anything) they can do. They'll still provide leadership and guidance to the younger players while at the same time (Hopefully) proving that they can be contributors to the USMNT cause through the World Cup Qualifications...and the Cup itself.
The Olympics are basically a trial for the full national team anyway...so why not use it to really test some of these fringe players with and against a better level of compitition than what they see during "Camp Cup Cake". Just my 2 cents.
braun
Friday March 9, 2012 8:34 am
Holden won't be ready and wouldn't be released, until two or three months into his Fall 2012 season.
Using two of the three overage spots for defense is obviously desired.
Then it's Dempsey vs Donovan for the remaining spot?
Ed C.
Friday March 9, 2012 5:07 am
we have to qualify before we start talking about London but we should get through with that group of players. so for the qualifying though, can we not use senior players? well doubt any would be released but just wondering.
Ilya
Thursday March 8, 2012 9:29 pm
First of all I do not understand beginning of the article:
ďAs he prepares to announce his World Cup qualifying roster which will consist of 20 playersĒ.

I saw that Olympic team only once, the brilliant game vs. Mexico, but both Valentin and Opara were far from brilliant.
I agree that we need 2 experienced central defenders in London and Boca should be one of them. It would be nice to see Gooch as the second one. Iím still waiting for seeing Whitbread for a senior team and maybe for Olympic as well.
For the 3rd ďadultĒ spot I have three candidates: Landon, Bradley and Dempsey, but Landon is the one that is more likely to be released and he is really wants to play there (as he wanted 4 years ago).
Iím not sure about D. Williams (he is severely overrated for the senior team). He is not very dedicated for the USA and Iíll not be surprised if he (and Chandler as well) will find an excuse to not to play in this tournament.
Red
Thursday March 8, 2012 8:25 pm
With that kind of a team, USA should look to medal. I'm looking really foward to this tourny.

COYY!
Lorenzo
Thursday March 8, 2012 7:50 pm
Tony Taylor will be there.
Murph
Thursday March 8, 2012 6:44 pm
MY senior players would be (F) Dempsey (M) Donovan (D) Goodson
with them I'd play a 4-4-2, then I started thinking what the team would look like without these players and this is what I came up with. This would be a team that would make defenders beg off at the half... thoughts?

4-1-4-1

Agudelo (or Boyd)

Shea Gatt

Diskerud Corona

Williams

Valentin Morales Okugo Chandler
Warren
Thursday March 8, 2012 5:39 pm
Dempsey is the USMNT's red-hot Londoner. I think Clint said he would do it if invited.

Clint may be concerned that a random injury could blow out his chances of a transfer to a bigger club; but if he's willing to do it and eprmitted by club and Klinsmann, he's got to be one of the three overage guys in my opinion.
cfig
Thursday March 8, 2012 5:36 pm
I wouldn't mind seeing Holden called in to add some bite in the midfield and just see some match time if he's fit by the time the Games roll around.
Carlos
Thursday March 8, 2012 5:18 pm
Good analysis... Don't quite agree on the Donovan inclusion. He has had his time to shine for club & country time the young guns.
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