Olympic Qualifying

Olympic Qualifying Preview: Colombia v US U-23 MNT

Just like their senior team counterparts, the U-23 Men’s National Team faces a home-and-home series in the coming days. And while none would argue the senior side’s games unimportant, for the U-23s the games could not be more vital. After winning all three of their group games in last summer’s Olympic Qualifying tournament, the US crashed out at the semifinals versus Honduras. After winning the third-place game against Canada, though, the US has a lifeline back into the Olympics—defeat Colombia in a two-legged playoff and they’re in. On Friday, they play in Barranquilla, Colombia (6 pm, FS1, Univision Deportes), before returning to Frisco, Texas, on Tuesday for the second leg (9:30 pm, ESPN2).

The Prodigal Son and the Golden Boy

The summer of 2014 had Julian Green in a tough spot. Then a teenager, he was brought to the World Cup with the senior squad while national team legend Landon Donovan was sent home. Questions abounded. Would he contribute? Would he even play? In the end, of course, he did both, scoring the US’s lone goal in their eventual defeat to Belgium. That goal, though coming in a loss, looked primed to launch Green to another level with his club team, Bayern Munich, but a disastrous loan to Hamburg followed, instead. Now returned to Munich, he has been in good form, scoring ten goals for Bayern’s second team and even getting a start in the Champions League for the top side. While still very young, he now is a leadership figure for the U-23s, and will be looking to kick them on into the Olympics and continue his revival.

Jordan Morris, on the other hand, needs no revival. Fresh of spurning Wolfsburg’s advances to sign with Seattle Sounders in MLS, Morris’s last tournament soccer appearance was powering his alma mater, Stanford, to the NCAA College Cup. Now, with Obafemi Martins off to China, he’s getting paid (handsomely) to start for an American soccer powerhouse (albeit one that is struggling mightily out of the gate), and studying at the Clint Dempsey School of Deuce.

Both young strikers abound with potential, and both need to be firing if the US is to defeat Colombia.

Baby Horse II

I realize Baby Horse is Alex Morgan’s nickname, but Matt Miazga gives me a seriously equine vibe, and now that he has moved from Red Bull to Chelsea, I have double the reason to dislike him, so giving him a derivative, and mildly derisive, nickname seems appropriate. Except for the fact that he may end up the finest US center back in years, so I have to hope that he develops well, becomes a Chelsea stalwart, and all that. In the near-term, we must all hope he leads the U-23s to two clean sheets.

Other names

Wil Trapp, Jerome Kiesewetter, Luis Gil, Kellyn Acosta, Brandon Vincent—the US team is pretty talented. One big name—perhaps the biggest—though, won’t be joining them. Christian Pulisic, now regularly appearing for the Borussia Dortmund first team—second in the Bundesliga—isn’t coming. For one thing, he’s got a cold, but the real reason is that he’s joining up with the senior team for World Cup qualifying next week.

US outlook

Games at this level are very difficult to predict. Teams change personnel so often that getting a read on them from match to match is almost impossible. The US has the ability to win this match. The key for Friday is to avoid conceding. As with any two-legged game, it can’t be won in the first leg, but it can almost certainly be lost. Scoring a goal would be great, too, but let’s not get greedy.

5 Comments

  1. pragmatist says:

    I wish Cameron Carter Vickers was healthy. I’m looking forward to him pairing with Miazga for the next decade at CB.
    .
    It also would have been cool to see Rosenberry get an invite. His early play shows that he could have at least been on the radar.
    .
    I’m actually more interested in these game, by a lot, than I am in the Senior games. Do we know if they will be broadcast? Or are we SOL in regards to watching the future of the program?

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