Okay, okay. On the seismic scale of football news, the announcement of the U23 players who will be playing in the Olympics Qualifiers later this year probably registers as a mere plate-rattling tremor. But for those of us still hoping that the U.S. national squad can one day become respectable, maybe even a little feared, there is reason to be cheerful, or even optimistic.
The U.S. will be fielding a strong squad when it plays in March. The final team will include only 20 players, but the following 24 players were announced as taking part in the upcoming training camp:
GOALKEEPERS: Dominic Cervi (Chicago Fire), Tally Hall (Esbjerg fB), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS: Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls), Kamani Hill (c’mon U.S. Soccer, you could at least spell your players’ names correctly) (Vfl Wolfsburg), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Mike Randolph (LA Galaxy), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS: Arturo Alvarez (FC Dallas), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)
FORWARDS: Freddy Adu (SL Benfica), Jozy Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)
I’m really glad to see the U.S.’s young lions represented by Seitz, Edu, Zizzo, Adu and Altidore, and it’s interesting that a number of these players have spent time on the national squad. Yanks Abroad seems to think that Michael Bradley and Jonathan Spector have a shot at getting called up as well, but I’d be shocked if Heerenveen and West Ham would allow them to leave (or if they would even want to play in the qualifiers). In contrast, Derby doesn’t seem to mind letting Benny Feilhaber disappear for a couple weeks — poor Benny, still languishing in the slop of the EPL.
The U23 squad will be playing against Cuba, Panama and Honduras starting on March 11. According to the Grey Lady’s Goal blog, the top two teams from this group will play the top two teams among Canada, Guatemala, Haiti and Mexico, with two teams then qualifying for the 2008 Olympics. That’s all well and good, but the important thing is that the tournament will give our young players more experience, and the games will be broadcast on ESPN Deportes. It also wouldn’t be too surprising if there are a few European scouts in the stands, hoping to pick up young Jozy Altidore (please go to Arsenal please go to Arsenal!).
The Tournament takes place in Tampa, Los Angeles and Nashville, in case you are lucky enough to live somewhere warm enough to host outdoor sports in March.