December 2011, Featured, USMNT

Puck's Friday Happy Hour: Thoughts on US U-23's December Camp: London's Calling

By Puck

Ladies and Gents, welcome back into the Happy Hour. This week has been a series of disappointments for Puck and company. Both Manchester teams uneventfully crashed out of the UEFA Champions League, and Charlie Weis is leaving the Sunshine State to coach the woeful Kansas Jayhawks. Needless to say, many alcoholic libations are in order. As the resident Manchester Citeh fan on staff, it has been a long time since I felt that type of emotional rollercoaster. Once Silva put the boys ahead, and Napoli remained tied with Villarreal, I was feeling optimistic. Of course, Napoli then managed to finish two chances against the injury ravaged Spaniards, destroying Citeh’s dream of European glory.

While the Champions League is always fun to examine, news that hits a bit closer to home is always our priority.

Orozco sees red. The Yanks Are Coming is born. Yes, our entire website is bittersweet.

Some readers may already know the background of the “the most influential soccer publication in recorded history”, others do not. TYAC was founded nearly four years ago during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. During CONCACAF qualifying, our USMNT-U23 squad looked almost unbeatable, leaving soccer fans nationwide hopeful that our younger Yanks could medal. The group stages of the tournament started with a 1-0 victory over Japan, and an encouraging 2-2 draw with the Netherlands. Sacha Kljestan, was on another planet, creating chances with ease. With the final group stage game against Nigeria ahead, the U-23’s needed only a draw to secure a place in the knockout rounds. A group of dedicated and hopeful friends gathered in Gainesville for the match.

Most US Soccer fans know what happened next. In one of the most boneheaded, inexcusable, jackwagon moves in the history of sports, Michael Orozco (pre-Fiscal) was sent off in the 3rd minute for an intentional elbow to the chest of Solomon Okoronkwo. Down a man for the final 87 minutes, the U-23’s fought hard, but lost 2-1 ending their stay in China. Dumbfounded and disappointed, this group of friends in Gainesville tried to drink the pain away, but that wasn’t enough. In a room full of academics, attorneys, and journalists there seemed to be only one solution, write about it. And that is how a little blog called The Yanks Are Coming was born. We

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continued to write, and you continued to read, leading us to this very point, 3 months away from the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for a place in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As TYAC was founded on the Summer Olympics, expect a great deal of coverage on the squad during the lead up, and hopefully participation in London next summer.

Unlike other international tournaments, participation rules for the Olympics are a bit different. While full international sides are allowed to participate in the Women’s Tournament, the Men’s Tournament will be played by Under-23 teams. In order to qualify to play in these games players cannot be born before January 1st, 1989. However, the interesting twist for the Olympics games is the inclusion of three designated overage players. These three designated players could have been born a few days ahead of the deadline, or several years, i.e. there is no age cap for the designated players.

The strategic use of overage players varies from country to country and year to year. Some view the Olympics as a lesser competition, opting to include rehabbing veterans coming off an injury looking for minutes (Stuart Holden?), while others augment the team with savvy veterans who have a passion for representingtheir country (Howard and Dempsey possibly?). Expect detailed analyses from us at TYAC as to which senior players should join the U-23’s should they qualify for a

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trip to London next summer, but qualifying is certainly the first step.

Earlier this week, the CONCACAF qualifying groups were announced leaving the Yanks with a relatively clear path to London. The U-23’s are placed in Group A alongside the dirty socialist nations of Canada and Cuba, with

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the always tough El Salvador rounding out the group. The US will play its games in Nashville on March 22, 24, and 26.

The perfect Porter? The Akron Coach certainly has a favorable qualifying draw...

Qualifying Group B includes Mexico, Honduras, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago who will play out west in the Home Depot Center on the same dates. The knockout stages will create a CONCACAF Final Four, with the winner of Group A facing the Group B runner-up, and the Group

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B winner playing the Group A runner-up. These semifinal matches will be held at the beautiful Livestrong Park in Kansas City on March 31st. The winners of each semifinal match will automatically qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, with the final in KC on April 2 only helping to determine tournament seeding.

With the qualifying tournament only months away, U-23 Coach Caleb Porter announced a list of 28 players that have been invited to an eight day training camp, starting Dec 15th to begin the final steps in preparation. The players invited to camp are listed by position below.

GOALKEEPERS (4): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Zac MacMath (Philadelphia Union)

DEFENDERS (8): Gale Agbossoumonde (Eintracht Frankfurt), Royal-Dominique Fennell (Stuttgarter Kickers), Sebastien Ibeagha (Duke), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Jorge Villafana (Chivas USA), Andrew Wenger (Duke), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Bryan Arguez (Montreal Impact), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Danny Cruz (Houston Dynamo), Mikkel Diskerud (Stabæk), Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz), Sebastian Lletget (West Ham United), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy)

FORWARDS (6): Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Teal Bunbury (Sporting KC), Jann George (Nürnberg), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Andrew Wooten (Kaiserslautern)

A quick glance of the roster results in only a few omissions. On the defensive side, it should be expected that future USMNT senior team mainstay Tim Chandler was not invited. Playing meaningful minutes in the German first division is far more important than a training camp in South Florida. Moving up the field, USMNT breakout player Brek “Flock of Sheagulls” was also not named on the training camp list. Everyone knows that Shea will be playing on this team if he wants to, and his time training with Arsenal is a big step in a career arc that should not be interrupted. The same goes for Juan Agudelo and his training stint with Liverpool.

In my opinion the most glaring omission has to be Omar Salgado of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Salgado is currently training with Fulham, but Fulham isn’t Liverpool or Arsenal, and Omar’s absence at Caleb Porter’s first camp can’t be overlooked. The young striker joined MLS last year as the number one overall pick with a great deal of fanfare in the Pacific Northwest. His participation in the Summer Olympics should go a long way to seeing if this young talent can make it at the international level.

But don’t take my raised eyebrow on the Salgado omission as the only burning question about this training camp. Why was Norwegian league starter Josh Gatt left at Molde, while Norwegian league starter Mixx Diskerud was plucked away from Stabǽk for this camp in west Florida? And did Conor Doyle really fall flat for Tab Ramos and Claudio Reyna last month in Germany? Why not call a guy of that talent who is just chillin’ in Derby County’s reserves? These are questions that will all be answered in the coming weeks, but I am excited to see exactly what happens with this U-23 team going forward.

Albert Pujols. Making it rain. For about five years too many.


This week’s free advice comes from TYAC Editor and Chief, and certified baseball fanatic, Neil W. Blackmon. “I don’t care if it is Willie Mays, Gerhig, or the Rossi Bambino himself, you don’t give a 10 year $254 million dollar contract to a 32 year old (some say more like 34 with botched Dominican birth certificate) coming off his worst season ever; especially when you plan to protect him in the lineup with the 77 year old Tori Hunter!”

I could not have said it better myself. The semester is over in Gainesville, time to rock. Sorry for partying.

Puck is the Pop Culture Guy for The Yanks Are Coming. He’s been called the most important “voice of the people” in American soccer by A Football Report, and you can follow him on Twitter at @PuckLovesPBR.