BRENT LATHAM - Friday, September 25, 2009
The 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup is underway, without too much fanfare even in the host country. The opening game last night saw Egypt knock off Trinidad and Tobago, 4-1, in the opening match at a packed El-Borg Military Stadium in Cairo. It will now be interesting to see how much support is given to the other games.
The first evidence is not inspiring, as this afternoon I'm at Cairo International Stadium, with a capacity of 80,000. Only a couple hundred fans have showed to see Paraguay and Italy though, other than the brightly colored and uniformed thousand or so off-duty military men trucked in by the organizing committee to make noise. Last night reportedly 30,000 or so spectators bought tickets but were displaced by military officials as well. No criticizing allowed in this country, though, so it's not a story you'll see in the media.
The Americans kick off tomorrow in a very winnable game against a reduced strength German team. Things are looking up for a much-criticized US roster, which looks to be coming together at just the right time. A pair of 2-0 friendly wins in warm-ups over T & T and Australia were impressive in that they came against teams the US had failed to beat earlier in the year.
This is the first time Thomas Rongen has had his whole squad together and it's only fair to give him a chance to pull the strings. The loss of Anthony Wallace at left back was huge for a defense that has been very hard to crack, but the play of Mikkel Diskerud and Dilly Duka in the middle is something fans should be anxious to see. Fans may have been spoiled last time around by the presence of Adu, Bradley, and Altidore on the U-20 roster, but remember U-20s teams have usually been relatively unknown quantities, and have performed well in the past without having a lot of pre-established stars. It's only fair to give this team a fair shot before writing them off.
Much of Rongen's line-up for tomorrow is pretty clear already. As I wrote in the preview, the defense will be anchored by Brian Perk in goal, with Kyle Davies teaming up with either Gale Agbossoumonde or Ike Opara in the center. Sheanon Williams will start on the right with Jorge Flores likely on the left.
There are a number of possibilities in midfield, though I expect a three man midfield with Jared Jeffrey in the middle, Mix Diskerud on the left and Dilly Duka on the right. That would leave a three man front line of Peri Marosevic in the center, flanked by Brek Shea and Danny Cruz. It's also possible Rongen might follow the Bradley blueprint and stick Bryan Arguez in the middle with Jeffrey, moving Duka over to the right of midfield and playing only two up top.
I'll be on twitter just before game time in Suez, @yanksabroad, so tune in for my analysis as you watch the match, hopefully, on television.