USA 1, Chile 1: A Look Back

Juan Agudelo 1(ISIPhotos.com)

Photo by John Todd/ISIPhotos.com

The U.S. men's national team began its new year on Saturday with a 1-1 draw against Chile, and while the first match of 2011 had some of the sloppiness often associated with January friendlies, there were also the bright spots that come with seeing new faces perform.

No, there weren't any hat-tricks or jaw-dropping revelations, but there were players who stepped up and impressed. Unfortunately there were also those who fell flat in their U.S. national team auditions.

Here is my Fox Soccer column on Sunday's match, a piece that lists the players I thought impressed, and those who I felt hurt their standing in the national team pecking order.

Here are some more thoughts on Saturday's match:

The 4-2-3-1 lost out to the 4-4-2 on Saturday, but that had as much to do with Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury shining as it had to do with the overall teams not being suited to play the 4-2-3-1. Chris Wondolowski was mis-cast as a target striker, but with 4-2-3-1 likely being the formation of choice in 2011, it's tough to argue that he's any more suited to be a speedy flank option. He's a good one-touch player, makes very smart runs, and can finish, but pace isn't one of his strengths. 

It would have been nice to see Wondolowski in a 4-4-2, but it's clear that seeing Bunbury and Agudelo together was more of a priority for Bob Bradley and it's tough to argue with that. Personally, I would like to see Wondolowski again, and if he tears up MLS again this season, it would be tough not to give him a look for the Gold Cup team.

———-

So why didn't Agudelo and Bunbury start? Bob Bradley has used games like these in the past to give longer looks to those he's less certain about. He wasn't as concerned about the result as he was about seeing some who perhaps hadn't done enough in camp, or those he wasn't sold on. If the match was a qualifier or actual tournament, it's a safe bet Agudelo and Bunbury would have been in the starting lineup.

———-

Dax McCarty stood out and only served to make it even more perplexing that FC Dallas gave him away for nothing. Dallas just might see Eric Alexander as his natural replacement, but based on what we saw against Chile, McCarty is a quality talent who just might help D.C. United pull off a dramatic turnaround.

———–

Sean Johnson didn't have a ton to do in his 45 minutes of action, but the fact that he did play bodes well for his standing as the future of the goalkeeping position. Bill Hamid should be a worthy challenger in the coming years, but Johnson clearly showed enough in camp to earn himself some minutes. Not bad at all for a young goalkeeper.

————

Omar Gonzalez is dominant in the air, and a threat on set pieces, but he really needs to work on his passing out of the back to be a truly effective centerback. Being paired with Tim Ream helps take some of the distribution pressure off Gonzalez, but he'll be second choice to Ream on the national team until his passing and footwork improve.

 ———–

Any criticism of Tim Ream's performance is laughable and mis-guided. Some observers choose to get hung up on one or two passes that don't connect without realizing or acknowledging the sheer number of passes, and smart, effective passes he makes. His ability to find teammates up the field is a valuable tool that gives him an advantage over the other young centerbacks in the national team pool.

————

Brek Shea looked good early on Saturday, but he'll be remembered more for being largely ineffective the rest of the match. He's got the physical tools, but you just have to wonder about his soccer IQ sometimes. Perhaps he can improve on some of his decision-making as he gets older, but I can't help but wonder if he simply doesn't have the soccer brain to be effective on the international level. At least as an attacking player (perhaps a change to centerback could play to his strengths more and hide his deficiencies).

————

—–

Which players surprised you the most on Saturday? Who impressed you? What are you hoping to see in the Egypt friendly?

Share your thoughts below.

 

 

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86 Responses to USA 1, Chile 1: A Look Back

  1. Second City says:

    Well, the electricity in the building was evident when Agudelo and Burnbury took the pitch.

    There’s no hyperbole about that, at all, in acknowledging they brought an energy that’s exciting and leaves you wanting more looks going forward.

  2. AdamTheRed says:

    I don’t think Omar G will cut is as an intl center back. I also do not believe Shea will make it as an intl winger. HOWEVER, Why not check out Shea in the CB spot. His pace will be less of a concern and it seems from the reviews of his past two games that was his biggest problem.

  3. jmac says:

    Shea as a striker makes more sense, considering his size, strength, pace, and desire to run at players. His willingness to help with defensive duties would help the team as well.

  4. Matt S says:

    Interesting idea… didn’t he play CB during the recent generation adidas trip to Spain? If I remember correctly he got good reviews there.
    Doubt he would do so well that he could possibly displace another CB in the pool but its worth a shot.

  5. cudevil says:

    Slightly OT, but with the discussion of future center-backs, isn’t it about time for Whitbread to get a call to the senior side? He’s starting on a team that is contending for promotion to the Prem and he’s still on the young side of things…

  6. The Dude says:

    Well, that settles the Ream v. Gonzo debate. I’ve always said that Ream is a better passer and more composed on the ball.

  7. PanchoMiguelMoralesdeConejo says:

    Agree with you on Larentowicz, but was not as high as you are on Dax’ performance. Others say he was covering for Jeff L, but it seemed to me that Dax made a lot of self -imposed mistakes, his great shot from distance not withstanding.

    Also on the Aguduelo penalty/dive…it was Bedoya who sprung him, I think Bedoya did better than you might give him credit for.

    Agree with you on Loyd (really not two “LL”s?); although if we’re going to move a right-footed back to RB we’d have to consider Lichaj first, no? Also I though Wallace as a sub also held up well in replacing Loyd.

    (SBI-I wasn’t as down on Bedoya as most people, but he didn’t have nearly the impact expected, which I thought was

    the fault of the offense not finding him as anything else.)

  8. Bill says:

    Brek Shea, are you kidding me! That guy should never wear a NT jersey again! Big and dumb is not a winning combination!

  9. BK says:

    Gonzalez is not good enough. Simple as that.

    Marvell Wynne is atrocious. Why is he still getting call ups? Like Gonzalez, he has no skill and relies on his physical presence to get by. “Amazing athlete,” yes. But who cares? If that was the only thing that matters, I say we offer Lance Armstrong or LeBron James a trial. Wynne has NEVER been international caliber and we shouldn’t waste our time or his by having him in camp.

  10. DeLarge says:

    Funny how one can see a different game on TV than in person. I agree with your article, Ives — but what was sobering was the fact that my friends and I came home from the game thinking Mix, Loyd, and Dax had above par games — only to find them skewered on message boards and comment sections like these.

    People were saying Mix and Loyd should never get caps again — but they were doing so much out there. I was impressed. Loyd actually won MOTM honors and Mix got some positive reviews on the US Soccer site. It’s nice to see impressions somewhat validated by articles such as yours and of course, the actual coaches after the fact.

    This also makes me temper my own judgements about Michael Bradley. I’ve only seen him play in person at the Gold Cup in ’07, and I may not truly appreciate what he brings to the game while watching him predominantly on the tube. Same goes for every other player.

    I’ll defer to those watching in person from now on.

  11. Colin says:

    Good thing Omar is only 22. If we based all of our players on their production at the int’l level at age 22, the USMNT roster would be slim pickin’.

    Now, if Omar was 28 and played like that, then you could say “not good enough.” Right now? A tad premature.

  12. Ed says:

    Take it easy guy. Give BB credit for calling in a wide variety of people for this camp. Thats why he does this, to evaluate a gigantic pool of players and see which ones cut it. If you think Wynne is awful, fine, perhaps he is, but dont blame coach bob just for giving the guy a look after a good season. sheesh.

  13. Comatose says:

    Ives, my friend keeps mentioning that he thinks Seb Le Toux should get a national team call. Any possibility?

  14. DeLarge says:

    By what rationale was Gonzo not good enough? He didn’t have any errant passes like Ream did. Ream twice shanked the ball out of play. True, he sparked an attack — but Gonzalez completely shut down his man. Ream got caught in space a couple times. He has more positives than negatives — but I would trust Gonzo at this point more than Ream for defensive duties.

    Gonzo is a bit raw — but he’s huge. Give the kid time. He has not had any egregious errors that have resulted in goals against us.

  15. DeLarge says:

    Are you new?

  16. Colin says:

    You’re absolutely right. As soon as they took off their warmups and walked to the 4th official, you could feel the buzz in the stadium. I think Chile was a bit surprised when they immediately made an impact, as if we’d been holding out on our best players this whole time. I told my friend that if we had an extra 5 minutes in the game, we’d score.

    That said, I think Bunbury looked better than Agudelo did. Maybe it was just Bunbury’s size that was causing problems for Chile, but it was good to see.

  17. john.q says:

    easy. no problem being new ’round these parts.

    le toux can’t become a citizen for another 4-5 year i believe. by then he’ll be to old to be a serious contender for a usmnt spot.

  18. Annelid Gustator says:

    “He didn’t have any errant passes like Ream did.”

    ??

    I *guess* that clearing the ball 78 yards out of bounds when there’s an available outlet pass and little discernable pressure may not *technically* qualify as an “errant pass.”

    Though I’m not certain it qualifies as a “pass,” either.

  19. DC Josh says:

    I agree about all your grades. McCarty reminds me a lot of Jose Torres. They are both small, technical players who keep the ball moving.

    Overall, I am expecting a big year for Tim Ream, Teal Bunbury, and Juan Agudelo. Agudelo and Bunbury seemed to be arguing (probably too harsh a word but I can’t think of another)about taking the penalty. And Ream is very confident with the ball at his feet. All three of these players show a confidence and willingness to make a direct impact on the game.

    The big question is WHERE IS OUR FUTURE LEFT BACK!?

  20. john.q says:

    not sure why ream is getting reamed (harhar get it?) by some either. he was his usual self, calm and composed and committed to passing from the back. looking at his last season with the red bulls and saturdays game he is getting better and better with his passing. not perfect but better.
    zach loyd was the bright spot for me. honestly had no idea who that guy was until last night haha! the others: agudelo, boonbooree, mixx, and ream are improving as expected.

  21. BellusLudas says:

    Shea’s problem was giving the ball away and bad decision making….not two attributes I want to see in a CB.

    Give him some time…in the 4-2-3-1 I think he can play outside in the 3.

    One awful game doesn’t end a career.

  22. BellusLudas says:

    Well said +1

  23. Matt C in Tampa says:

    I was prepared to NOT like Dax’s game, but i have to agree, that generally he played fairly well. Yes, there were some bad give-aways but that’s going to happen in that position when you see the ball a lot. Unfortunately for Dax (as has been noted), we need another DM/Holding Mid like NYC needs snow.

    He should shave his head though…go with the MD holding Mid look. Notice how Spector’s gone with the crew-cut. ….and he’s scoring.

    I agree Dax will help out DC a bunch. If for nothing else, he’ll add spirit.

  24. boosted335 says:

    LOl how does that settle the debate??? We all know Gonzo is physically dominant yet slightly clumsy. Ream is composed on the ball and is an efficient passer & player but (right now at least) he lacks physicality/aggressiveness to be a International starter

    They are TWO different players..Comparing them is apples/orange debate…

    Now only if you had a player who combines both skill sets.

    Enter George John

  25. Matt C in Tampa says:

    Sorry “MB” holding (Michael Bradley)

  26. Hincha Tim says:

    Dax’ performance highlights what I believe was a huge blunder by Timbers management in trading him to DCU. He, to me, is a perfect cornerstone to start to build a new team with. What is perplexing is that they traded Dax for a left back prospect (Wallace) when they had already picked up a good left back prospect in the expansion draft, Anthony Wallace from Colorado, who got his cap on Saturday, that they then ended up trading back to Colorado.

  27. AC says:

    Ives, I agree on Brek Shea. He has talent but just seemed lost at times on the field almost running into his own players or not running to where he should have been, which attributes to soccer IQ. Too many times I saw him not move into space to receive passes or he ran into the path of where his teammate was running. As you stated, he might be better suited as a defender.

  28. BK says:

    Welcome to the world of international football, sir. If you are 22 and the jury is still out, unfortunately your case is already closed. This is what seperates the Spain’s and the Germany’s from the US. If we are to progress beyond the Round of 16 anytime soon, we have to stop relying on college soccer to develop our top players. Gonzo is a good player for MLS. But not good enough for what we expect from the US National Team.

  29. bob says:

    Collin,

    don’t you know that to most fans it only takes one game. Look at Agudelo one great game against SA he is anointed the second coming, Omar has a bad game, well we might as well take him out to pasture.

    Plus we all know tht one game against Chile is the ultimate deciding factor.

  30. Nick says:

    From what I’ve read from Ives is that Shea doesn’t like playing CB. Sometimes you have to take advantage of your height and skill.

  31. Old Pueblo FC says:

    I completely agree. Mix showed very well and was impressive to see play in person. He was solid and composed and I hope to see a lot more of him as he develops in the future. Dax also seemed to have a lot of confidence, as well.

    It will be interesting to see how these guys play with the A team. All in all, I took a lot more positives than negatives from this. There is some talent in the pipeline.

  32. srfinger says:

    Please see Drogba, Didier.

    At age 22 he is a marginal prospect at a Ligue 2 team in France.

  33. DanO says:

    The better question may be who suits up for the Olympic team next year (assuming the US qualifies)?

    6 players who played Saturday would be eligible:

    Johnson, Wallace, Diskerud, Shea, Agudelo, and Bunbury

    Jozy (and gulp…. Adu…) would technically still be eligible too.

    Gonzalez and Lichaj just miss by a few months.

    Add to them whatever U-20’s develop, a few overage players, and that’s a pretty decent team.

  34. teamitup76 says:

    Any idea why Eugene Starikov didn’t make his debut? From what we read all week, it sounded as if he might get a run out, albeit a brief one. Ives, or anyone, know why he wasn’t even on the bench?

  35. ahm says:

    yo ives can we get a chat sometime soon geared around both the most recent senior game and also some of your thoughts for the U-20 side now that we’re getting close to “go” time?

  36. Louis Z says:

    I thought loyd showed lots of promise. I hope he gets called back. I was surprise that Gonzalez hasn’t improved technically. He kicks it down field at the slightest pressure. Mixx had a so so game, could be because of the formation. Juan and Teal are the real deal in my book, but to have them together it would mean going back to the 4-4-2 formation which I don’t think we are going that route.

  37. babica says:

    Ask Laurent Blanc.

  38. Tim M. says:

    She isn’t a true winger, at this point in his life, being 21, he isn’t going to get much better on the ball to make him a winger.

    He’s technically inept, which makes him weak going forward. he relies on his physical attributes way too much. Hes like the Marvyle Wynne as a winger.

    If he has so much promise as a CB, I don’t see why LB would be the obvious choice for him going forward. He’s used to defending on the wing, and he’s a good defender.

    I just don’t see why more people want to see it.

    Shea at LB!

  39. Tim M. says:

    lol She. *Shea

  40. USA says:

    I think the biggest difference was bringing on one of them for Shea and switching to 4-4-2. If BB had done that from the start using Wondo in a 4-4-2 I think it would’ve been just as successful. I like Shea but he needs to develop some more.

  41. Tim M. says:

    Same here. George John deserves a look. Apparently he had some sort of injury of off season surgery which ruled him out, but otherwise he should of definitely been there instead of Aj DeLeGarza

  42. Adam M. says:

    1) I’d sure like to see what Juan+Teal would do in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2 with a starting midfield. These two might be better together than they are (currently) alone.

    2) Tim Ream will be the best centerback the US has ever had. He will start for a Big Time European club in the next three years barring injury. (but he should gain about 10 lbs in muscle first). Write it down and mail it to yourself.

    3) There are a bunch of players who are good MLS players and have no hope for any significant first team international playing time in the near term. We saw many of them against Chile.

  43. Tim M. says:

    The Colorado Rapids would say different.

  44. BK says:

    Thanks for the obvious and expected rebuttal. It’s easy to find exceptions. You could also have asked me why Freddy Adu has flopped since he didn’t go the college route. But let’s not quibble over the vast minority of exceptions…it is an absolute FACT that we will not win a World Cup with college developed players anchoring our national team. Again, simple as that.

  45. Tim M. says:

    Break Shea

  46. Shea It Aint So says:

    “I think the biggest difference was bringing on one of them for Shea”

    Your post would have been 100 % accurate, had you stopped immediately after that sentence.

  47. Dlewis says:

    I agree, certainly an interesting duo. It seems like they have great chemistry together.

  48. Chris Whyte says:

    I think it’s a bit silly to say Ream is ahead of Gonzo in the CB pecking order just because Ream is a better passer. Gonzo’s positioning and defending of aerial threats is world class (a considerable step above Ream’s abilities in those departments), qualities which are so important in the international game. Watching Chile’s goal on Saturday, the first thought in my mind was there’s no way they get that goal if Omar was still in the game. That being said, I like Ream and Gonzo together and can see them being the CB pairing in Brazil. We’ll see.

  49. Dlewis says:

    I don’t like Brek Shea at all. I feel like he makes constant mistakes on the ball has poor decision making and can sometimes be a bit lazy. Maybe he should develop some more with Dallas before being brought back into the fold. Although I am interested by the idea of having him try CB.

  50. She da Man says:

    She didn’t have a good match last night or any night in the Nats uniform, that much is certain.

    She shouldn’t be capped again until she switches positions.

    Oh, yea I meant “Shea”, too.

  51. Dlewis says:

    I disagree with you on Dax. I thought he was composed and was making smart passes all night. Hoping he can keep his form up for United in the upcoming season.

  52. USA says:

    +1

    Also see Toni, Luca.

    At Age 22 he is playing third division football.

    Buddle, Edson.

    Didn’t see the national team for 7 years after his first cap in 2003 and then makes the WC2010 squad.

  53. Dlewis says:

    Right now I agree, but I believe that if more colleges go the route of Akron and play in a more professional atmosphere then we could see more ready players coming out of college.

  54. Second City says:

    Their chemistry on the pitch and their celebration after the goal remind me a lot of Davies/Altidore a few years ago.

    The more practice, live matches & general social time they get together can only bode well in the future for their development on the NT side.

  55. Brad says:

    Did anybody else think it was odd how Teal called Juan off of the PK? Felt like an awkward moment.

    I think Both CBs will need more time, and neither will displace Goodson soon. Omar is still raw, but seems to have the bigger upside. Ream will never develop into an international quality back. Hes the new Chad Marshal….or Demerit at best.

    My boy Jeff L didnt look good, but no sweat there, as we need another CM like we need a 3rd nipple. I knew Wynn would fail, as he is a lifer in the MLS, and gets away as a CB b/c of his speed and nobody punishes his mistakes due to poor strikers. Wish we could have seen more time for Wallace as he looks to be a LB option, but health is always a concern there.

    Juan is as raw as I feared, but has great potential. Teal looks closer to making an impact, but looks more like a poor mans Altidore.

    Mix is an interesting player, and makes me think of Benny a little. I wonder if Shea could cut it at LB? He has the size and speed.

    One of the things that i found comforting, b/c I didnt like drawing w/ that weak of a chilean side, is that this is only part of the youth we have coming up, and I bet if we could have brought in our best youth, we we have had a better showing.

  56. BSU SC says:

    I would disagree with the statement that “Any criticism of Tim Ream’s performance is laughable and mis-guided.”

    I thought that Tim Ream played well for the most part, but I’m also very mindful that he was playing against a very young Chilean team with very little international experience. Ream is a young player who obviously has tons of potential, but he did have several glaring mistakes during the game on Saturday. If he makes those same mistakes against first team talent, then the U.S. is in real trouble.

    Hopefully he was given a bit of constructive criticism by the coaching staff. But to say that ANY criticism of him is “mis-guided” isn’t quite accurate.

  57. Dlewis says:

    I don’t think they were arguing, I think Agudelo probably wanted it and Bunbury told him that he wanted his first USMNT goal so Agudelo let him have it. That’s my theory about the conversation at least.

  58. Dlewis says:

    I felt like Ream was out of place at some points but your right his passing was great.

  59. Second City says:

    Just got off the phone with Ivan Drago, Tim.

    He wanted me to tell you, “I must BREAK Shea”, upon your request. Additionally, he told me, “If he dies, he dies…” but I thought that was going a bit too far.

    He promptly hung-up on me after delivering that message.

    (

  60. Dlewis says:

    Agreed, I think he is pretty calm on the ball.

  61. BK says:

    Alas…I see that we are happy with our stagnation in the FIFA top 25. Maybe I’m the only one hoping to take the next step up.

  62. Dlewis says:

    Teal probably wanted his first USMNT goal.

  63. Second City says:

    I heard Teal in the stadium yell, “Dibs!” first.

    Fair is fair.

  64. Kevin_Amold says:

    I also attended the game and thought Mix had a decent game. I was not that impressed with Dax. Neutral on Loyd.

  65. Brad says:

    Well, after all, that is the rule!

  66. assocfoot says:

    +1

  67. Colin says:

    Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know YOU were IN the world of international football. Thanks for the warm welcome. Man, I feel dumb questioning the likes of BK, the man Jose Mourinho called “the REALLY special one.”

  68. Judging Amy says:

    I agree. I’ve stopped reading the match commentaries as much as I used to because the hyperbole and overreaction has gotten ridiculous. I thought Loyd was great for a 1st cap. Probably most impressive player of the night for me. Ream and Gonzo looked good. Shea was not as terrible as his haters have been shrieking. Dax was very good. Same with Mix.

    Really, the only horrible performance of the night was Wynne at CB. Everyone else I think deserves more looks. Its still a long ways til ’14 yet people freak out and anoint 20 year old kids who’ve never played a meaningful nats game saviors and condemn kids with 2 caps as lost causes. I guess people see what they want to see.

  69. ThaDeuce says:

    hahaha

  70. we says:

    bacouse you got stupid coach as bradley is!!!

  71. froboy says:

    As a DC United fan I am thrilled with Dax’s play, how in the world Dallas gave him up for nothing is puzzling, I think DC got the best from Portland too. I would love to see Ben Olsen have success, I could see him having a great career as a coach.

  72. KMac says:

    I also think how Onyewu progresses at Twente will have a bearing on Gonzalez at this point as well, more so than Ream

  73. KMac says:

    DeLarge,

    I watched on TV and largely agree with your perspective. Solid performanaces by those you mentioned vs. the web comments. I think the quality of the comment varies with the quality of the football/soccer savy of the commenters. The beauty of the sport growing is that not everyone commenting is above the 80th percentile of the football/soccer bell curve of knowledge.

  74. Illmatic74 says:

    I think he is best suited as a LB in a top league or international level

  75. Illmatic74 says:

    College is always going to have some part of developmental system here whether we like it or not.

  76. chupacabra says:

    One awful game may not end a career, but right now Shea is 2 for 2 – he also sucked against Colombia last October.

  77. HoboMike says:

    Ed, obviously you’re new here. Bob gets no love on this board.

  78. Phil says:

    habbout Shaq?

  79. Phil says:

    I agree!

  80. MsNats says:

    +100

  81. TommyOC says:

    I agree with you completely, KMac. When I was Gonzalez, I see a younger Onyewu in the making.

    And if you all look back four years ago or so, many US supporters were calling for Onyewu’s head, accusing him of being too clumsy and making stupid little mistakes.

  82. tnnelson says:

    i agree i was very impressed with Bunbury. his size and pace combined with good touch make him a dangerous presence and i hope he can perfect his game and get some minutes with the full team soon to see how he plays with quality service from our stars like LD and Dempsey and the like.

    but it’s tough for me to choose who impressed me more between him and Agudelo. it was so refreshing and promising to see a young player with such confidence on the ball and desire to go at players and create for his teammates. i know he’s young and i don’t want to be the guy to say we start him now or anything like that, but with some more professional experience under his belt, this kid is going to be a real star one day

  83. tnnelson says:

    I think Bedoya did well considering the service he got. after the early foul/near penalty, Sean Franklin didn’t help much in the attack, and Bedoya was either stranded on the wing, tracking back to help Franklin, or trying to come inside to find the ball, and was picked up by a defender a lot as our narrowness played into their strange formation. he did well to get around a few defenders on a nice passing sequence(i can’t remember who he combined with) and almost poked it past the keeper, and his 1-2 with Agudelo to spring him into the box was classy. he feinted his body one way to throw off the defender behind him and flicked it with his outside foot into Agudelo’s path. to me, that showed quality as he came through when needed, even in a game where he didn’t have a chance to make much of an impact. i’ve been reading a lot of articles around the net saying he wasted his chance and shouldn’t be called into full team camps for a while (i believe Grant Wahl was the most prominent of journalists to say it, who i don’t always agree with) until he progresses his game some more. Bedoya has only had a few games with the full team and all were against top opposition (Brazil and the Netherlands), and all his other caps have been with B teams. this last game was probably our D team if you ask me, probably even lower, like a U 20.

    Basically, I think Bedoya is much better than he gets credit for and i hope he gets more runs with the full team

  84. tnnelson says:

    * not really a U 20, but like an Olympic squad, per se