U.S. U-23 coach Caleb Porter has named his roster for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, which kicks off next Thursday in Nashville. The former University of Akron coach selected 19 players, with one more to follow before March 20, when official rosters are due at CONCACAF headquarters.
Columbus Crew midfielder Dilly Duka withdrew from consideration after injuring his hamstring over the weekend in an MLS match against Colorado, and according to reports, German side Hertha Berlin was reluctant to release midfielder Alfredo Morales for the upcoming tournament (they’re not required to).
Most observers expect Porter to choose a midfielder—either Morales or West Ham prospect Sebastian Lletget—for the 20th spot.
The current group contains 13 MLSers and six foreign-based players, who range from Mexico to Belgium to Norway and Germany.
Here’s the complete roster:
GOALKEEPERS: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS: Josh Gatt (Molde/NOR), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Jorge Villafana (Chivas USA)
MIDFIELDERS: Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Joe Corona (Tijuana/MEX), Mix Diskerud (Gent/BEL), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz II/GER), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy)
FORWARDS: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund II/GER), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim II/GER), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)
A few thoughts on the roster and qualifying:
• As Abes Army pointed out recently, midfielder Joe Corona has a top-notch name, especially for a Mexican-American (and especially when you throw in his middle name of Benny).
• This team is solid, and potentially very good. They have multiple players with full national team experience, and a wealth of skill and speed. Anything can happen in CONCACAF, but they should qualify. To do so, they have to finish in the top 2 of their group, which includes Cuba, Canada, and El Salvador, then win their semifinal match against a team from the other group consisting of Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.
• There are some age-eligible players—in addition to Morales—who could still be added to the side, including Jozy Altidore, Timothy Chandler, and Danny Williams, who turned 23 last Thursday. (Players born after Jan. 1, 1989 are eligible to play in the London Olympics.)
• If the team qualifies for London, watch expectations soar once the three over-23 players are named. Landon Donovan has said he wants to go, among others. He’d obviously be a great addition, but the side could also do with some help in the back. Maybe a Tim Howard and a Carlos Bocanegra (or Geoff Cameron?).
•The final Olympic roster would consist of only 18 players. So, considering the over-age players to be added, and the potential inclusions of Altidore and Co., several of the guys we’ll see next week—possibly as many as eight—could be on the outside looking in when the summer rolls around.
• Finally, we’re looking forward to seeing Josh Gatt, who missed the most recent U-23 camp, in the U.S. shirt. Here’s a reason why:
That’s some athleticism and skill right there. Gatt can play outside back, or wide in midfield, as he did here, while literally faking a defender off his feet:
The U.S. opens qualifying against Cuba on March 22 (9:00 p.m. ET, Universal Sports Network, Telemundo).