U.S. U-23s set to begin Olympic qualifying

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Photo by Rick Yeatts/ISIphotos.com

What started with the appointment of a new coach and an evaluation a deep U.S. Under-23 player pool five months ago is set to culminate in meaningful games on the field starting tonight.

The favored U.S. U-23 national team kicks off its quest for the London Olympics at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., taking on Cuba (9 p.m., Universal Sports Network/mun2/CONCACAF.com, USN streams) in the first of three group matches in a five-day span.

Following monthly training camps and a number of friendlies, the U-23s will be looking to do what the heralded U.S. U-20 squad could not do ahead of last year's World Cup: Meet lofty expectations and qualify for a major international tournament. Four players on the U-23s — Perry Kitchen, Amobi Okugo, Joe Gyau and Zarek Valentin — were on that U-20 side, but they each bring another year of professional seasoning and experience to the table and join a U.S. youth side that is perhaps more professionally advanced than any of its predecessors.

More notes about the U.S. team and video from last night's training session in Nashville are after the jump: 

BOYD ARRIVES

Forward Terrence Boyd was the final arrival into U.S. camp, joining his U-23 teammates on Wednesday as had been the plan when the U.S. roster was announced.

He arrives in good form, after playing in a match for the Borussia Dortmund reserve team against Wuppertal on Tuesday in which he scored his 14th goal of the season.

JERSEY NUMBERS OUT

Jersey numbers have taken on more meaning for U.S. Soccer during the Jurgen Klinsmann era, and while it might be reading into things a bit too much in terms of trying to project out who coach Caleb Porter will choose to start tonight against Cuba, it is worth noting that for last month's friendly against Mexico the players wearing 1-through-11 on that night all started.

Here's the U.S. Olympic qualifying roster by number:

1-Bill Hamid; 2-Ike Opara; 3-Kofi Sarkodie; 4-Perry Kitchen; 5-Zarek Valentin; 6-Jared Jeffrey; 7-Freddy Adu; 8-Mix Diskerud; 9-Juan Agudelo; 10-Joe Corona; 11-Brek Shea; 12-Teal Bunbury; 13-Jorge VillafaƱa; 14-Joe Gyau; 15-Terrence Boyd; 16-Amobi Okugo; 17-Tony Taylor; 18-Sean Johnson; 19-Sheanon Williams; 20-Michael Stephens.

The United States will wear its white kit throughout the group stage, according to U.S. Soccer.

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Excited that qualifying has finally arrived? Are you expecting the United States to roll through to the semifinals, or do you think the group stage will prove to be difficult? Who do you hope to see get the start against Cuba?

Share your thoughts below.

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52 Responses to U.S. U-23s set to begin Olympic qualifying

  1. RChris says:

    I just checked the USN website and you can apparently stream all of these games for free. I was getting a little worried I wouldn’t be able watch!

  2. B1879 says:

    I’m pretty sure Gyau started in place of Shea against Mexico, but the point is clear.

    Looking forward to watching the games.

  3. Eurosnob says:

    It seems like the numbers 1-11 are the likely starters. Anyhow, having watched their game against Mexico, I am very excited about this team.

  4. Hipvictor says:

    Brek Shea (number 11) did not start against Mexico, Joe Gyau did. And Gyau was awesome, in my mind the most dangerous attacker on the pitch. I know Shea is Shea, but I’m kind of disappointed not to see the continuity of Gyau starting given that the Mexico game is the best I’ve seen a US side perform in a long, long time. Hopefully he will get a good run at the 60 minute mark. All that said, I trust Porter to make a good decision. It is a beautiful problem to be so stacked at attacker that we can’t get dangerous players on the pitch. Imagine it we had to get Jozy, Chandler, Fabian, Gatt, Danny Williams, and some overage player into this squad, too.

  5. NE Matt says:

    Gyau did definitely start on the left wing. Shea was with the full national team in Italy

  6. 2tone says:

    Oh boy gameday. So excited. LETS GO BOYS!!!!!!!!!! I think it’s fairly obvious as to who will be starting against CUb and in what position. No I don’t think the U.S. will breeze through the group stage, but I do believe they will take all 9 points.

  7. Paul says:

    Lets go baby Nats!

  8. NE Matt says:

    Fabian is 24, so he wouldn’t be able to get on the U-23 team without being an overage player.

    I think there may be some strategy deployed by Porter here, especially since we have 3 games in 5 days. The last thing we want heading into the crucial semifinal game is tired legs on the wings where we could leave ourselves open to getting torched. I am looking for us to make a statement in this first game, but would expect us to shuffle things up to get some legs rested or less minutes logged on them, as we approach the all important game while still attempting to finish top of the group.

  9. 2tone says:

    From all accounts even form teh players, Brak Shea is the best player in this team. Gyau is very dangerous, but Shea brings something extra. It will be awesome to see Gyau running at tired defenses in the second half.

  10. TheFrenchOne says:

    brek’s reverse-skunk is badass

  11. Vic says:

    Why not have start Shea on the left and Gyau on the right, with Adu and Agudelo/Boyd up front? Corona and Diskerkud in the middle.

  12. Clayton says:

    Oh yea, thirst for blood – bring it!

    C’mon Yanks! Olympics, baby. Let’s give these guys no chance and put them away early.

  13. wilyboy says:

    We might see them both.

    During the Mexico game, Gyau and Adu were playing on the left and right. In the last scrimmage, Shea was on the right. Something tells me Porter would prefer to see Gyau and Shea starting on the wings and cutting inside to shoot. Can’t wait for tonight!

  14. Bobeto says:

    I like the midfield choices for quality distribution. A player like Gyau would have been a plus with his speed on the wings but that means Agudelo and Corono must get forward quickly for support or to eliminate double and triple coverage of Gyau. While Shea likes coming back and getting the ball, eliminating the need for this impressive midfield. Good movement and intelligent runs (as vs. Mexico) will create many chances for this team. Good Luck! I am looking for a good game from Freddy!

  15. Wendall G. says:

    So, its once again time for the Guess How Many Cuban Players Will Defect Game. I will go with 6 this year.

  16. marco says:

    14-Joe Gyau ………… hope he isn’t out of the 11.

  17. Bobeto says:

    I like that idea but Adu seems to be more comfortable in setting up players then actually scoring. I hope Freddy is placed in the middle, he drifts out wide too much for his club team and disappears. He likes, occasionally, taking that surprise long shot at the top of the box but he has the ball skills to play tight in the box so I understand your thinking.

  18. Sean says:

    That’s true. Also Morales wore the number 6, and he’s not with the team

  19. marco says:

    I agree and hope he goes more attacking, with Gyau and Shea on wings, and Jeffrey sits.

  20. Yoreau Snaub says:

    I like the picture. “Umm, Coach? May I have a question, please? Can I call you mini-Klinsi?”

  21. Andy says:

    It’s on Concacaf.com as well

  22. louis z says:

    was that the cuban team arriving at the end of the video?

  23. Andy says:

    Look like they’re gonna start Freddy at the wing again. I would much rather see Joe Corona left out with Gyau on the wing and Freddy in the middle. Gyau seems to be one of our best player so I don’t understand leaving him out, but maybe Corona will prove us wrong tonight or they’re just trying to rotate the squad for freshness over all the games. Doubtful though this early.

  24. predicto says:

    3 games in 5 days – It will be fun to see how Porter manages the lineup.

  25. Bobeto says:

    A little concerned with the defense. I think that’s where the overage players will be placed. Hamid is quality in goal and will make up for a few expected mistakes from the back line (please no PK’s). I notice Shea likes drifting back too far when he spots a defensive weakness on his side…taking him completely out of his offensive game. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, it takes away the whole left side attack. With Shea’s 1st team experience, he may try to take on more then he should.

  26. Colin says:

    Saw what I have been a team of spanish-speaking refs or concacaf officials (judging from their concacaf garb) walking around midtown last night admiring the scenery. I wanted to tell them to head downtown if they were really interested in some culture shock.

  27. Bobeto says:

    Diskerud likes to make wide runs pulling a middle defender with him which open the middle for Shea and Gyau. Just keep your heads down, boys and take your shots…your gonna get your chances. Agudelo will need to clean up the trash.

  28. Bobeto says:

    If your a fanatic soccer fan….get Direct TV…it’s worth every penny…they have it all.
    nough said!

  29. RK says:

    Wouldn’t look too far into the numbers. It’s very possible he could be saving Gyau for a tougher opponent, assuming Cuba is likely the easiest of the three group games on paper.

    Haven’t seen much of Jeffrey…is he as much of a destroyer DM as Okugo or is he softer? Need someone in there who can break things up.

  30. Dinho says:

    totally agree. can’t wait to watch!

  31. Mike B. says:

    I am a little surprised to see Jared Jeffery ahead of Okugo for the #6. Jefferey doesn’t get as much publicity. Maybe he should.

  32. The Imperative Voice says:

    You may be right because 1-11 is the restored numbering convention, but IMO Gyau is the best player on the team and Boyd should be in the 11.

    Oh, and just to break spades, “Andrew Wooten should be player 1a.” (said with tongue firmly in cheek) It’s like an odd, somewhat more rational version of the Gale A. fans who seem to think he’s a little healing away from not just making the roster but starting.

  33. Where does it say it is live though? It says online. Is it live or replay.

    Paul

  34. The Imperative Voice says:

    The rational explanation that would make sense to me is that given the tight schedule, games every two days, we intend to rotate the roster to try and keep people fresh. In which case maybe I don’t start my absolute best 11 so that there is an A Team and B Team effect opponents could take advantage of, maybe I do more of a 15-18 player rotation of the best and most reliable, perhaps with the explosive players who don’t start on a given night always dressed so they can sub in if a result is not coming out right…..so you don’t start Gyau or Shea one night but they are dressed to enter after halftime in case it’s close late.

  35. RChris says:

    I have been thinking about switching, problem is I’m still under contract with the cable company. Might be worth the early cancellation fee!

  36. Ryan in NY from NC says:

    I think we’re gonna absolutely destroy these teams.

  37. Eurosnob says:

    I am a big fan of Gyau myself. However, Porter played Gyau as the left forward in 4-3-3 and Shea, who by the way had a great camp with this U23 team, plays the same position. It’s a tough choice between these two as who should be starting (experience vs raw talent), but it’s a good choice to have. However, I am confident that Gyau will get plenty of playing time whether as a starter or as a sub. For example, Porter can unleash his speed and dribbling off the bench in the second half against the tired opposition. Porter is a very smart coach and he will find a way to utilize Gyau well.

  38. Bob says:

    what’s probably gonna happen is around the 60min mark he’ll probably bring in gyau for corona and have adu play in the middle

  39. Lorenzo says:

    Gyau is quick and a great dribbler. Shea can get by people about just as good… but he can also FINISH. Glad to have them both.

  40. bryan says:

    Excited that qualifying has finally arrived? – So pumped!

    Are you expecting the United States to roll through to the semifinals, or do you think the group stage will prove to be difficult? – If we don’t roll through, then there is a problem.

    Who do you hope to see get the start against Cuba? – The 1-11 listed. I love Gyau, but I think it’s pretty obvious he started against Mexico because Shea was gone. So many games in a short amount of time, so it’s nice having the depth. Gyau will get plenty of time.

  41. Eurosnob says:

    Adu was named the captain for the qualification tournament so he is very likely to retain his starting position. Plus he is their best free kicks/corners taker. Perhaps your scenario is possible if they move Adu to midfied, but they you have to send to the bench either Mix, Corona or Jeffrey. Shea got no. 11, which Gyau wore against Mexico, and the resent trend for US national teams has been to assign jersey by position. I think that they will use Gyau as a supersub, unless one of the starters does not perform up to the expectations.

  42. Spencer says:

    Am I the only one wondering about how many Cuban’s will defect after this game?

  43. H2Oman says:

    Although you don’t ever want to take a team like Cuba for granted, the idea has to be to build up each game and to be as fresh as possible and peak for the critical semi-final match. Gyau was impressive as hell in the Mexico game… absolutely gave them fits running around them at will. That said…. if you are a right back… Gyau coming into the game in the 60th minute is your worst nightmare!

    Regardless, I get the feeling that Porter has a plan and from what I’ve seen, it’s likely a damn good one. Now the boys need to bear down and execute!

  44. predicto says:

    They have 20 guys to play 3 games in 5 days. It’ll be interesting how they manage the fatigue.

    I expect everybody will play lots of minutes. How many subs are allowed per game?

  45. predicto says:

    Did the players somewhere imply Shea was ‘the best’ of their group. I’d love a link to read that for myself.

  46. TerkyJerky says:

    If you have been tracking the reports from this site and other site coming from the U23 camps most observer have said Shea was like a man among boys.

  47. wilyboy says:

    Shea was a late scratch from the Mexico roster because of Donovan’s illness. I have no doubt that Adu would have started as playmaker in place of Joe Corona, and that Shea would have been on the wing. Adu’s still going to start, but I doubt Corona is in the ideal starting 11.

  48. beachbum says:

    Morales is a good dirty work player, among other things. I’ll be watching to see who owns that piece of the puzzle for this team

  49. beachbum says:

    Gyau as the super sub, coming on when players are tiring and going at those tired players with his speed and game might be a perfect storm for him and the USA.

    we’ll see.

  50. beachbum says:

    ha! just posted this same thought above. I agree.

  51. sandtrout says:

    Cap ‘em!

  52. JJJ says:

    What channel on Directv?