When Bob Bradley took over the reigns of the United States Men's National team in the aftermath of the 2006 World Cup, he began his tenure by ushering a crop of youngsters into the national team fold who went on to form the core of the 2010 campaign.
The USMNT is about to emerge from the post-World Cup hangover as it prepares for next summer’s Gold Cup.
Recent friendlies against Poland and Colombia kicked off the run-in, but things will get into full swing next week. Today, Bradley announced his roster for the Americans’ journey back to South Africa for the Nelson Mandela Challenge cup, a slightly glorified friendly between South Africa and a visiting team, and the roster included some surprises and reasons for the Yankee faithful to get excited.
Chief among those reasons is New York Red Bull Juan Agudelo’s inclusion. Agudelo’s development has so far mimicked that of former Red Bull Jozy Altidore. Agudelo got his first start for the Red Bulls in the playoffs, as did Altidore. Agudelo now stands a good chance to receive his first full international cap against Bafana Bafana, just as Jozy Altidore did several years ago.
Agudelo displayed great skill in a high-pressure situation for the Red Bulls in their short-lived 2010 playoff run. Agudelo was a constant threat with speed down the wing and great accuracy on crosses. It was a ball from Agudelo’s foot that reached Joel Lindpere’s head to put the Red Bulls up in the first leg of the eventually lost series against San Jose. Agudelo is just 17 years old, another similarity to Altidore, and he has loads of potential.
Joining Agudelo from the Red Bulls camp is a player who was one of the most indispensable players in MLS this past season, Tim Ream. Ream played every minute in his rookie year in MLS, becoming one of the center pieces for New York’s rise from the 2009 basement. Ream, a center back, is known as a defender with decent speed and an excellent ability to read the game. He will hope to put those skills to the test on the international stage, the first opportunity he has had to wear the colors at any level.
Ream won’t be the only highly touted newcomer in the American vanguard, however. Gale Agbossoumonde will join the Yanks for his first taste of the full international experience, as well. Agbossoumonde, or “Boss,” as he has been dubbed, is a physical leader out of the back with excellent ability in the air and a knack for executing set pieces with skill.
Agbossoumonde impressed in the 2010 Milk Cup, which the United States won, captaining the squad and even scoring out of the back. Agbossoumonde is a player who may well be a starter in 2014 if he continues his rapid development, and he now has the opportunity to impress at the top level.
Perhaps the biggest surprise inclusion in the squad is Kansas City Wizards rookie Teal Bunbury. The 6’1” striker holds dual citizenship in the US and in Canada and up to this point had apparently not made a decision on where he which nation he would eventually represent. However, in accepting Bob Bradley’s invitation, Bunbury has made his intentions fairly clear.
Although a call into camp and play in a friendly does not completely lock Bunbary into the Stars and Stripes; it is a step in a positive direction. Bunbury can make a switch under the new FIFA guidelines (the same rules that facilitated Jermaine Jones’ switch) until he represents the United States in a meaningful match, such as the Gold Cup or a World Cup qualifier.
Finally, Mikkel Diskerud makes his awaited debut for the Yanks.The midfielder, currently playing in the first team for Stabæk of Norway’s first division, he also holds dual citizenship in the US and Norway. He has consistently said that he only intends to play for the United States, and his addition to the national team camp is yet another in a growing stable of talented midfielders.
Other additions to the side include goalkeeper Dominic Cervi of Scotland’s Celtic FC. Nat Borchers, a former University of Denver defender at the college level, has earned a place on the plane to South Africa after putting in consistently strong performances for the Real Salt Lake this past season.
The game will be televised in the United States on ESPN2.