USMT U-23: Who Should Start for Caleb Porter?
Olympic soccer—not the most glamorous of competitions but one where the youth of American soccer will be on display for the first time since the U-20 World Cup disaster. There are two schools of thought when it comes to tournaments like this: go out and try to win, or pick young players and get them experience.
I am going to try and split the middle and pick a team capable of making a run, while still infusing some new youths into the setup. For the purpose of this we will pretend Porter is using a 4-4-2. Also, this is just including players eligible for the qualifying, meaning no overage players.
Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid
A no-brainier really, Hamid has been the recent pick to back up Howard in our recent friendlies so giving him some time starting between the pipes is the logical choice.
Some may call for Sean Johnson to get the starting nod, but based on Klinsmann's recent selections he rates Hamid in front of Johnson so he will get the call.
Left-Back: Timmy Chandler
A right-back by trade, Chandler has been playing left-back—a problem area for the full national team recently—so I am slotting him in there for the U-23 team.
While Steve Cherundolo is getting on in years the pressing concern right now is finding some one to lock down left-back, and until someone else steps up Chandler is that man.
Center-Back: Gale Agbossoumond
Great soccer name—Agbossoumond. Though only 19 years old Gale has a wealth of experience with the U-20 team, and a cap with the main team.
Gale struggled to find consistent playing time at the beginning of his career due to his contract with Traffic Sports. He has recent settled down with Eintracht Frankfurt, and is currently playing for their U-23 team. A big imposing center-back he would be the perfect replacement for the Gooch.
Center-Back: Perry Kitchen
The second center-back position was a bit more difficult as it was a toss-up between Kitchen and Ike Opara, but in the end Kitchen won. While it was a tough battle, Kitchen won due to his experience as a defensive midfielder.
Klinsmann prefers defenders who can distribute the ball out of the back and help spring the attack, and with Agbossoumond as the other center-back that role will fall to Kitchen. His chemistry with Hamid doesn't hurt as well.
Right-Back: Daniel Williams
More recently used on the right wing for the national team, Williams is dropping back for the U-23 team. He has experience as a right-back with his club team Hoffenheim, and experience on the wing so there will be no problem with him getting forward.
It may not be his best position, but on the whole the USMNT is strong in the midfield and weak in defense, so grooming him to move to the back line with the U-23 team is the way to go.
Right Midfielder: Josh Gatt
Fresh off a Norwegian Tippeligaen title, Gatt gets the nod as starting left midfielder. Many people will call for Brek Shea here but I am avoiding him as he gets enough minutes with the full national team, and with a possible move to Europe in the cards, this is a call-up that he should avoid.
Gatt is a young prospect and even though he is only playing in Norway, if he continues to play the way he currently is, a move to a better league is in the cards.
Center Midfielder: Mix Diskerud
Another player based in Norway, Mix is a familiar face to the national team, but hasn't quite broken in. This call-up would give him a chance to work his way back into the picture on the full national, as well as put him self in the shop window for a move to a better league.
His creativity in the midfield is something that the national team is lacking with all their defensive-minded midfielders.
Center Midfielder: Freddy Adu
I know what you're thinking—there is no way Adu is under 23 years old. Well he is, and his experience is what gets him the call-up.
I could write a couple slides just dedicated to Adu's career already up to this point, but all that matters now is he is back in the MLS and getting consistent playing time for the Union. Everyone has been waiting for Adu to live up to the hype and this would be a chance for him to prove he can be the playmaker and carry a team.
Make no mistake, if called up and started, this would be Adu's team to lead.
Left Midfielder: Joe Corona
My dark horse to start, Corona mans the wing for Club Tijuana down in Mexico. Corona as a choice between Mexico and the United States, and has yet to be cap-tied to either. He recently represented Mexico in the Pan-American Games so if the United States want him they will have to strike quickly.
A regular starter for Club Tijuana, he will be able to bring some flair that the national team lacks in the middle of the park.
Striker: Juan Agudelo
Juan has struggled to find playing time recently with the Red Bulls, but is still one of the best young strikers in a shallow striker pool. This call-up would be just what he needs to gain some confidence, and get set back up with the national team.
Outside of Jozy Altidore there are few young strikers in the national pool, so Agudelo has no choice but to step up.
Striker: Teal Bunbury
I considered starting Yevgeni Starikov to get him cap-tied, but the nod has to go to Bunbury, though Starikov should make the squad. Unlike Agudelo, Bunbury has no problem getting starting time at the club level, and playing time is something Klinsmann has stressed.
He already has two caps for the full national team but this will give him a chance to be more involved with the national team and gain some chemistry with the players that will be the future of the national team.