Projecting the 2016 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team

Luis Gil

 Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By IVES GALARCEP

If all the coverage of the Winter Olympics has you in the Olympic spirit, don’t let the fact that the next Olympic soccer tournament isn’t for another two years.

In my latest piece for Goal.com, I projected the squad of players who will make up the U.S. Olympic team in 2016 (assuming the team qualifies of course). The point of the piece wasn’t so much about trying to predict the future, but more a chance to take stock of the young talent in the U.S. pipeline.

Give the story a read and let me know what you think of the projections. Before you do that though, here are some more thoughts on that projected Olympic team:

Two players left off the list who drew a lot of questions were Jose Villarreal and Junior Flores. With Villarreal, he would have seemed like a lock projection to the Olympic team as recently as six months ago, but the fact that the Galaxy let him go on loan to Cruz Azul rather than feature on the Galaxy in 2014 suggests his development isn’t going as quickly as many would have expected. There’s no denying that he had a disappointing Under-20 World Cup, and while he has had some amazing moments in his young MLS career, he hasn’t been close to consistent or looked like someone who could start any time soon.

Now, if Villarreal manages to find minutes in Mexico, and earn himself a transfer, or even returns to the Galaxy and becomes the starter so many projected him to be for so long, he could absolutely climb into the projected squad.

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As for Junior Flores, he’s certainly a talented young midfielder, but he’s been showered with a bit more hype than his actual production would merit. He is reportedly set to sign with Borussia Dortmund’s U-23 team in March, which should only boost his stock. Assuming his play leads to more opportunities. For now, he’s a notch behind other players currently involved in pro set-ups.

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If we factor in the three roster slots that will be needed for overage players on the Olympic team, I would imagine we’d see one for a goalkeeper, one for a defender and one for a forward. Jack McBean and Kellyn Acosta would likely be the odd men out, along with one of the goalkeepers. Steffen would seem the likely choice, but don’t go ruling him out just yet.

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What do you think of the squad I projected? Who would you add to the team if you were picking the squad? Who would you take out?

Share your thoughts below.

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40 Responses to Projecting the 2016 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team

  1. Don the Jewler says:

    Some of top young talent are not even mention? Romain Gall, Emerson Hyndman, Rusell Canouse and a few more from our U-18 team that showed well in the Copa Del Atlantico. 2016 is far enough out for some of these younger players to emerge.m

    • Joe+G says:

      That’s a tough leap. 3 years can mean a lot at that level. Obviously, if someone breaks out, he’s going. But we also have to qualify without a lot of our European talent, so having someone the whole way through may be important.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        It’s hard to meaningfully pick a future U23 squad. The ideal U23 squad for 2012 was hypothetical in light of not qualifying. What you got was everyone who could get out of their teams, which is a different side. This will increasingly be an issue as the pool professionalizes. The US can no longer camp its best U20s and U23s for months because they are in college or HS or Bradenton. They have to get who they can get on a qualifying tournament that is not treated like a senior international date. So even if you could have called in Jozy or Chandler had you made it, you ended up with Villafana, Opara, etc. and the whole sucking sound in defense.

        That makes it almost like 2 separate squads, or a B+ squad with potential A level add ons. Since MLS and MX players will be the core and it’s hard to predict which U23s in MLS or MX will be the ones who “turn out,” it’s a big guessing game. Even if Hyndman-types are interested, they may not be available unless you make the Games. You may be stuck with some MLS kid of sketchy quality even if on paper we have some great lineup of potential players.

        It’s actually easier to look at the NT pool years from now because you just run the math on current player ages, and guess which senior-type players will turn out best. There is no question of setting up highfalutin camps in Germany and the USA and people on here making up wish lists only to get like two European players and then play the hand you’re dealt…..which Porter runs into the ground.

    • goddy says:

      Yea like the one who just won the award for best player of the tournament Mukwelle Akale

  2. SBI TroII says:

    What a perfectly timed article. I was thinking about the Olympic squad this morning. Other than Brooks, which senior (overage) members have a chance to be on the squad (I know, it’s probably too early to tell)? I’m guessing it would be among the younger players that miss out on both the Copa America and WCQ.

    • SBI TroII says:

      Wait nevermind I forgot about the keepers.

      • Rory Miller says:

        Hopefully we get a coach who will play a system that works with the talent we have instead of the clusterdisaster we had last time with Porterball’s attempt to have a go despite having no wingers available.
        My god, we lost to Canada! We didn’t even look like the better team.

        • beachbum says:

          +1 easy to say ‘we want to play like this’, but difficult then to watch the players when their skill levels and styles don’t match that style the coach wants and so don’t get it done

        • Amru says:

          You have to admit though we looked incredible in that friendly against Mexico when we head the entire U-23 squad

    • 2tone says:

      Brooks won’t be a senior overage player.

  3. JayAre says:

    We are projecting a team filled with full time starters for the most part. If we can keep it that way we have a chance. Playing a U-23 tournament with part time players who aren’t getting 90 mins at club level or well established at club level is what slows the US down.

    • Rory Miller says:

      Is that true? I thought the Olympic qualifying team last time out was mostly made up of starters or at least guys that played pretty often. Johnson and Hamid in goal, Shea, Villafana/Flores, Joe Corona was a pretty regular player for Tijuana, Freddy Adu. Truth be told we were all way more excited for the non-regular players, the Boyds and Gyau’s.

  4. bryan says:

    pretty hard to disagree with a lot of this list. i still, personally, think Villarreal will be a part of it. i also think Flores will end up making a push.

    would Jerome Kiesewetter just miss the age cut off? he turned 21 a few days ago. if Pelosi gets a mention, maybe Bijev does too? both play for Liverpool. Fabian Hürzeler? Mikey Lopez? Ocegueda? Shawn Parker? Guido seems like someone to keep an eye on. same with Adam Henley. heck, even Duane Holmes who is getting minutes.

    • Joe+G says:

      Bijev is tied to Bulgaria right now; Parker to Germany; Henley to Wales. It’s gonna take a good opportunity to get them to switch. The Olympics might do it, but there’s no guarantee.

      • bryan says:

        oh, i didn’t realize Bijev played in an official game for Bulgaria’s youth team. should have known that about Parker and Henley. i knew they weren’t tied to the senior team, but forgot they would have to file their one time switch in order to play for the US at any level. then again, if Julian Green is a part of that conversation and under the same circumstances, i still think those two can be discussed.

        • Joe+G says:

          Certainly open to discussion, but it’s always good to know how good the carrot will need to be to attract them. The Olympics might be enough to tempt Bijev, but it may take more for the others. Really tough to plan because the better Euro-based players won’t get released for CONCACAF qualifying in most cases.

  5. MMV says:

    Come on, Ives you swung and missed big time by not even mentioning Duana Holmes of Huddersfield. The GA born, English raised player wants to rep the US and has been on record saying a U-23 call-up is on his mind. At 19, Duane’s put in some wonderful performances of the bench, in the Championship and FA Cup, for Huddersfield. He’ highly regarded within the club. They are slowly but surely bringing him long. Great speed, great ball control, wonderful passer, and definitely exciting to watch. I’m actually pretty shocked he was not even considered. Mark my words, if called upon, he will be in the player pool for the Olympics.

  6. Lets just focus on qualifying first. This is a good group no doubt but just to put it into perspective, they could potentially be up against the likes of Bernard, Pogba, Draxler, Gotze, ter Stegen, Lucas, Isco, El Sharaawy and Lamela. Just to name a few..

    • Lil' Zeke says:

      S/He’s right Ives… Is it too late to rescind your article?

    • Increase0 says:

      There are like 3 new German wunderkinds this year. Wolfsburg sold Diego and replaced him with a 19 year old. 6 goals in 13 games for them. Only Spain seems to keep pumping out the talent like that. =(
      Come on Germany Let us have Green.

  7. Joe A. says:

    Sebastian lletget?

    • OC says:

      Maybe he’ll be too old at that point? Risking it by not googling but I think he might be 22 or something right now, I know he’s way older than I thought at least

  8. beto says:

    Once again some great prospects in the U23 pool. Defending options look a bit stronger; where the past team was really lacking…

    Now they absolutely must qualify!!! Even if Jürgen has to do it himself.

    The Olympics this time is in August so idk who is going to released for this with practically every league in season then. So maybe players on youth teams might not be a problem..

    • Lost in Space says:

      FIFA made it mandatory that clubs released players who were U-23 to participate in the London Olympics. Would imagine they’d do the same in 2016. Where it becomes tricky is that FIFA did not mandate that overage players be released.
      While the talent at Defense & Midfield is impressive, as others noted we are not likely to have them all available for the qualification tournament (namely the European players).
      The qualification squad will be made up of MLS & MFL players (with maybe a couple college players tossed in)….than when/if we qualify we’ll see the full strength squad.
      What I’d like to know/see is who our options will be for the qualifying team….and not so much who could potentially represent us at the Olympics themselves. Using the players Ives listed….we’re much thinner for the qualification tournament…..So who else is able to contribute????????????????
      Keeper: Steffen, (TBD?)
      Defense: Yedlin, Acosta, O’Neill, Miller, Dean, Zimmerman, (TBD?)
      Midfield: Gil, Arriole, Trapp, Joya, Pineda, Thompson, (TBD?)
      Strikers: Salgado, McBean, Cuevas, Wright/Villareal

  9. TomG says:

    So many proven defenders and midfielders already, but no proven forwards at all. Would love to see Rubin and Flores. I always love watching them play.

  10. atd says:

    Qualifying:

    …………..Steffen/Cropper………………
    Yedlin…O’Neill…Zimmerman…Acosta
    ………….Trapp…Joya/Stanko/Pelosi….
    Arriola…………Gil……………….Salgado
    ………….McBean?/Omar?………………

    Significant drop offs at forward and #8 (and on paper GK — although … ). Upgrades most everywhere else?

  11. StevieBob says:

    Ives, I’ve read that brooks had to apply for the one time switch before he turned 21, is this true?

  12. Crystal Ball says:

    Take a look at this link to youtube.com

    Ives and tell me what you see?

    • William the Terror says:

      A bunch of guys taking free kicks in practice with no goalies and no pressure? What a complete waste of time.

  13. Juan Villatoro says:

    Wow im worried thats pretty weak 3 and out in the Olympics….some sparrow like anonymous who think we can even win the next wc with that list…learn the sport

    • Anonymous says:

      Then you have yet to see the “real” bird than! But let’s not have birds for brains shall we? Carry on!

  14. Chuck says:

    AJ Cochrane (same for Hairston), Hairston (could sneak in there. Other than Stanko he would offer size and pro experience), M. Lopez, B. Lopez (RSL are high on him), Villarreal (the Cruz Azul experience should benefit him), Okoli (Can play ST/Wing Seattle high on him), Delgado (underrated for Chivas good player flexible), Holmes (already has pro exp.), Canouse, Spencer, Pfeffer, Moreno, Hyndman, Gooch, Flores. Still a TON of talented notable omissions left off by Ives. Not his best work but agree with most of his picks. So Forwards is not as bad as it sounds. I’m sure in 2 years at least a few of them will look very promising.

  15. John says:

    You forgot about Marco Delgado!

  16. 2tone says:

    There are a lot of young talented players coming up. Hard to say who will be on the Olympic team.

    • 2tone says:

      A name to keep in the back of the brain is Alfred Koroma. He is currently trialing with Brasilian club Fluminense. He has been turning heads during his trial, and is set to be on the U-23 Fluminense team that is participating in the Disney Pro Classic in Orlando City.