Olympic qualifying begins tomorrow for the U.S. Men’s Soccer team. This would be our under-23 team, the not-really-a-youth -team team. You can tune in on ESPN 360, ESPN Deportes, or Fox Soccer Channel if you get them.
We didn’t qualify for the last Olympics, due to overconfidence, bad coaching, and some choking by the team. That team featured Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, and company and should’ve been in Athens. This time around the Olympic squad will feature Jozy Altidore, Freddy Adu, Jonathan Spector, Maurice Edu, and others. It’s a tough looking team that should be in the mix for a medal in Beijing.
If we qualify. The format goes like this:
- March 11 vs Cuba
- March 13 vs Panama
- March 15 vs Honduras
- The top two advance to the semifinals, to face the top two from Group B (likely Mexico and Canada)
- Semifinal on March 20 -win that game an your in the Olympics
- Final on March 23, for bragging rights and seeding
On paper, the U.S. team should roll against any team but Mexico, so assuming we win our group and El Tri wins theirs, we’re in. But it doesn’t always work like that. Last time out, Mexico slipped up in their group and ended up second, so we played each other in the semifinal. Mex wins, U.S. goes home empty.
This time around, the team is pretty much fully professional, a testament to MLS and U.S. Soccer’s continuing development. The weakness will be on defense, where there’s not as much experience. The midfield and attack feature players who are regulars on the full national team. You would think we’ll score some goals.
But two players who didn’t make the final roster include Robbie Rogers, one of our fastest most dynamic attackers, and Benny Feilhaber a talented savvy player who’s fallen on hard times with his club career. Also, according to interweb rumor, the A-squad lost to the B-squad 5-0 in a closed-door scrimmage on Saturday. The coach, Peter Nowak, an acknowledged hard-ass, had issues with Freddy Adu back in their D.C. United days. So we do have some subplots to follow. U.S. Soccer’s website has the full skinny.
I’m excited for these matches because the backbone of the team should be very important to qualifying for South Africa 2010. Also, with qualification to Beijing and a little luck in having key players healthy this summer, this is our best chance yet to win a major tourney.