BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, January 11, 2011
After attending the US U-20 camp in Ft. Lauderdale over weekend, it is apparent that the team is taking shape and the core is coming together.
This team has many observers of US youth soccer excited given the talent level at this age group.
It's for a good reason too. Never has an American U-20 team fielded so many professionals with depth on each line. The one negative aspect of this whole team is that good players who would normally make a U20 team will have to be cut from this team. There is simply no way around it.
What I like best of this U-20 team is that they have extraordinary attacking ability with their depth in the midfield and forward lines. Thomas Rongen will have many options to shift players around to make adjustments.
In forward, Juan Agudelo continues to be the most anticipated player but the fact that Bob Bradley wants him for the senior team could have him at the Gold Cup squad instead of the U-20 World Cup.
Agudelo's absence can be filled however with Bobby Wood who has been exceptional in camp with the U20's this past week and also with 1860 Munich where he is a top prospect that will be with the first team soon.
Conor Doyle's second camp has also been impressive for the Derby County first teamer. He emerged seemingly out of nowhere to start for Derby and his play there has transitioned over to the national team well.
Omar Salgado also is showing to have enormous potential who can contribute on the team. While being eligible for the 2013 World Cup too, he is a bit raw and needs to develop a solid right foot to take his game to the next level professionally and internationally. In need of good coaching, where he gets drafted next week in the MLS SuperDraft will be very important.
Difficult choices will of course have to be made at forward and right now, Philadelphia's Jack McInerney and Chivas USA's Triastan Bowen don't appear to be in the first team plans.
In midfield, there is extraordinary competition for a place on the team. The addition of Fabian Hurzeler is a huge bonus as it was clear he brings first class talent to the team.
In combining Hurzeler with Sebastian Lletget, Moises Orozco, and Amobi Okugo, the center part of the field should be solid. Dillon Powers has been a regular this cycle but due to injuries, he could find himself in a competition with Dinamo Zagreb's Alex Molano in what could be the most difficult cut for this team.
UCLA's Kelyn Rowe is another player that cannot be ignored at this point in the cycle as he impressed over the weekend in Florida. While college players are not as common for this year's team, Rowe has clearly shown to be cut above and will have a professional future.
On the wings, Alexander Zahavi and Joe Gyau have been very effective in Florida and will be part of Rongen's plans moving forward. Josh Gatt was remarkably effective in the December camp where in a game against Canada he scored two goals and had three assists in a 5-0 win.
Gatt's club status is currently unclear as reports have circulated in Austria that the Michigan native will be moving to Molde in the Norwegian Eliteserien. This may be problematic in whether or not Gatt will be available for selection.
The defense line will continue to need improvement. Gale Agbossoumonde is usually the core in central defense but he has been unable to play competitive games at the club level for almost eight months and that will have to change or else even he could get passed over. In that regard, Agbossoumonde's upcoming trial with Sweden's Djurgarden is of utmost importance for the U-20 team.
Also in central defense, MLS bound Perry Kitchen and Duke University's Sebastien Ibeagha have also played well as of late. However, Amobi Okugo has played well in the backline and could easily move back there if needed.
The fullback positions are still of concern. Rongen has used Greg Garza on the left without trying out too many other options. Garza's play for the U-20s has been up and down and his backup option will be to move either Korey Veeder or Zarek Valentin over to the left from the right. This appears to be one area on the team that is most likely to change.
On the right Veeder has played well but since his prior club, Crystal Palace Baltimore no longer exists, he is a free agent and will need to find a club. Zarek Valentin will also need to play consistently after the MLS draft since he was a central defender in college but plays on the right with the U-20s. Still Valentin has shown a good ability to cross the ball and move forward in the attack while Veeder has shown more to stay back and defend.
With that breakdown, here is an updated 21 tickets to Colombia with things having changed dramatically since I last did one in August.
Bold prediction but for the purpose of this list, I have New York Red Bull standout Juan Agudelo with the senior team for the Gold Cup as opposed to the U-20 World Cup.
In the mix: Alex Molano, Kelyn Rowe, Jack McInerney, Kofi Sarkodie, Tristan Bowen, Conor Shanosky, Ethan White, Sacir Hot, Bryan De la Fuente