Aug. 10, 2010 - East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States of America - 10 August 2010 - USA Striker JOZY ALTIDORE.

by Brian Mechanick

Part 1 is here. Let’s move on to Part 2, taking a look at the midfielders and forwards. A refresher on the rules: 18-man roster, all players must be born in 1989 or later, with three overage exceptions. Let’s go:

Midfielders: (2012 age in parentheses)

On the Roster: Mikkel Diskerud (21) Stabaek, Freddy Adu (23) Benfica Lisbon, Michael Stephens (23) Los Angeles Galaxy, Jared Jeffrey (21) Mainz, Amobi Okugo (21) Philadelphia Union, Blair Gavin (23) Chivas USA

In the Picture: Danny Cruz (22) Houston Dynamo, Bryan Arguez (23) Estoril Praia, Sebastian Lletget (19) West Ham United, Dilly Duka (22) Columbus Crew

Leading this group is the former boy wonder of US Soccer, Freddy Adu. He may elicit anger and disappointment from many, but he is a valuable contributor to this squad. He led the team in 2008 Olympic qualifying with four goals, and four years later he can be a valuable contributor in attack.

Michael Stephens has emerged as one of the best rookies in MLS season. As a wide midfielder, Stephens provides a good touch and a nice cross. Mikkel “Mix” Diskerud has come on very strong in the last year. A versatile player who can play all over the midfield, Diskerud is blessed with skill on-ball and an ability to finish. With regular playing time coming in with Staebek in Norway, expect Diskerud to keep progressing and just maybe earn a move to a bigger club.

Rounding out the group are three central midfielders. Jared Jeffrey is perhaps the most renowned of the group, having earned a move to Mainz of the Bundesliga in the beginning of the year. A true box-to-box midfielder, the only thing holding Jeffrey back is the inability to earn consistent minutes at the club level. Blair Gavin is a dynamic attacker, and has come on strong with three goals in his rookie season. Amobi Okugo has had a quieter rookie season, but he has shown talents in distribution and tackling.

Very much on the cusp is Danny Cruz, who has starred this season for the Dynamo. A classic speedy winger, Cruz is dynamic on ball and a classy shot to match it. Bryan Arguez showed himself well in the 2009 U-20 World Cup, and the big defensive midfielder has nice composure on-ball to go with his ball-winning. Sebastian Lletget has been discussed as a prodigy for years, and the attacking midfielder has that brilliance rarely seen (especially for an American) so young. Dilly Duka was a star in Egypt in the U-20 World Cup, but has yet to earn much playing time for the Columbus Crew. With more time he could emerge a star, but without he could fade into the back of the picture.


On the Roster: Jozy Altidore (22) Villarreal, Tristan Bowen (21) Los Angeles Galaxy, Tony Taylor (22) Estoril Praia, Brek Shea (22) FC Dallas

In the Picture: Juan Agudelo (19) New York Red Bulls, Adrian Ruelas (21) Santos Laguna, Bobby Wood (20) 1860 Munich, Conor Doyle (20) Derby County

Jozy. He’s big, he’s strong, he scores, he does a mean stanky legg. If he wants to be, he’s on this team. Looking likely to join him is Tristan Bowen, the Galaxy academy product who has come on strong this year. A quick forward who reminds a bit of Charlie Davies, Bowen looks a logical strike partner for Altidore. Alan Gordon’s trade has opened up regular playing time for Bowen, so expect him to keep progressing.

He may have a propensity for terrible haircuts, but Brek Shea’s game is pretty. He’s an extremely versatile player who can seemingly play anywhere on the pitch, but he looks the best in attack. He has the height to be a target at 6’3” and the feet to finish. Last man in to this forward group is Tony Taylor, a target forward. A scorer in the 2009 U-20 World Cup and off to a strong start in Portugal, Taylor needs to learn the positioning to go with his attacking talents.

In the picture are a bunch of current U-20 players. Juan Agudelo was the star of the Milk Cup for the USA, demonstrating his raw strength and power coming from the right wing. The worry is that with Angel, Henry, and Kandji ahead of him with the Red Bulls, playing time will be rare in New York. Ruelas showed his nose for goal in Northern Ireland, scoring three goals in as many games. With a tall frame, speed, and good positioning, Ruelas could be a leader of the new Latin-American USMNT core. Bobby Wood is trying to break through at 1860, and let’s hope he endears himself better to the club than countryman Kenny Cooper.

Doyle made some heads turn with his recent move to Championship side Derby, but after getting playing time immediately we should take notice. At 6'2" he plays a typical target forward, but only time will tell if he develops the pace, skill and finishing to make him a USMNT regular. He could be Kenny Cooper or he could be Brian McBride, so watch his development.

We’ve gone through a full U-23 side for the 2012 Olympics, so let’s take a shot at a potential line-up:


The line-up reveals some facts: fullback is incredibly thin, midfield is deep, and Jozy Altidore is by far the star of this team. Look out in part 3 for potential international players and overage players we could see on this team.

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