by Brian Mechanick

Thanks for joining us for the 3rd and final part of our Olympic preview. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here, giving us a full 18-man U-23 squad:

Goalkeepers: (2012 age in parentheses) Sean Johnson (23) Chicago Fire, Bill Hamid (21) DC United

Defenders: Ike Opara (23) San Jose Earthquakes, Gale Agbossoumonde (20) SC Braga, Kyle Davies (23) FC Dallas, Anthony Wallace (23) Colorado Rapids, Kofi Sarkodie (21) U. of Akron, Greg Garza (20) GD Estoril Praia

Midfielders: 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

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

In this piece we’re going to look at some foreign players who could feature for the Olympic team, as well as my personal picks for overage players you may see on this squad. A refresher on the rules: 18-man roster, all players must be born in 1989 or later, with three overage exceptions. Let’s go:

International Players: (From Least Likely to Join to Most Likely)

5. Michael Hoyos (20) Estudiantes: The California native has seemingly abandoned US Soccer, choosing to play with Argentina instead. The attacking midfielder has earned rave reviews at both Estudiantes and the Argentine U-20s. There’s still a glimpse of hope that Hoyos could change his mind and come back to the USMNT, but it seems Hoyos has gone the way of Rossi and Subotic.

4. Teal Bunbury (22) Kansas City Wizards: With an American upbringing and mother, it seems that the Wizards’ young star would be a natural star for US Soccer. Too bad his father is one of the greatest forwards in Canadian Soccer history. Teal has said he’s yet to decide which senior national team to represent, but after suiting up for Canada’s U-17s and U-20s, Bunbury seems more a Canuck than Yank. Teal might have a change of heart and decide he wants to play at a top international side, but don’t bet on it.

3. Andy Najar (19) DC United: Najar’s legend already has Honduran newspapers fretting his defection to US Soccer. The dynamic United winger has been a star for the dreadful team, with a pace, creativity, and touch on ball rarely seen in a player so young. With doubts over how soon he can even be eligible for the USMNT, Honduras has to be favored to hold onto Najar, but if his citizenship starts to move along, look out for Najar to start moving towards suiting up for the USA.

2. Danny Mwanga (20) Philadelphia Union: The leading candidate for Rookie of the Year in MLS, the Oregon State product has an unbelievable 7 goals in only 824 minutes on the pitch. With size, strength, a howitzer for a leg and the finishing to match, Mwanga looks the breed of forward that can become a star on the international level. Already in the process of citizenship, Mwanga looks likely to only have eyes for US Soccer after fleeing his homeland of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in political exile. Bet on Mwanga becoming eligible and suiting up for the USA before the Olympics.

1. Daniel Williams (23) SC Freiburg: The son of an American soldier, the German-American Fullback/Defensive Midfielder need only go to the American embassy to get his passport and become eligible for the USMNT. Williams opened eyes up in both Germany and the US in helping Freiburg stay up last year in the ever-tough Bundesliga. Well regarded for his pace and playing a thin position in US Soccer, bet on Williams being brought into the system.

Overage Players:

With the Olympics falling right as CONCACAF qualifying starts and the beginning of the club season, don't expect to see the likes of Donovan and Dempsey suiting up with this team. US Soccer seems to target two types of players for the role: players who just missed the age deadline and can reinforce weak positions or giving the last hurrah for players who will be too old to play in the World Cup two years on. The latter doesn’t really seem to present itself with this USMNT player pool, so I’m betting you see players close to the U-23 age group as overage players on this team. Bullets for some of the guys who I could see in contention, then my three picks:

  • Tim Ream: Center back is a weakness and the Red Bull player has looked strong in his rookie year.
  • Sean Franklin/Kevin Alston: Two similar dynamic right backs - if the position is up in the air it might be necessary to reinforce the at that spot
  • Jonathan Bornstein: It’s JB, never bet against him playing. Could be useful if no left backs seem ready for the stage in two years
  • Geoff Cameron: If the jack-of-all-trades keeps getting better, he could be the ultimate utility man for the Olympic squad.
  • Alejandro Bedoya: This pool seems a bit thin in true right wingers, and Bedoya could use the tournament as a catalyst for worldwide attention
  • Robbie Rogers: With two deadly feet, Rogers could give some depth to the wings.
  • Charlie Davies: The most tempting emotional pick, the Olympics could provide some solace for his missed World Cup.

The Picks:

1. Eric Lichaj, Aston Villa: Barely too old to qualify as a U-23, Lichaj is the perfect player to supplement a subpar fullback position. Already making the 18 at Aston Villa, expect Lichaj to be starting week in and week out sooner rather than later.

2. Omar Gonzalez, Los Angles Galaxy: Another player barely too old to qualify as a U-23, the 2009 Rookie of the Year and contender for MLS Defender of the Year could stabilize a depthless center back core. A force to be reckoned with both in the air and on the ground, Gonzalez would be a logical fit to shore up the US defense.

3. Jose Francisco Torres, Pachuca: With Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu seemingly engrained as the US central midfielders going forward, starts could be sparse for the dynamic Torres. The Olympic side could prove a different proposition however, as Torres provides that needed linking play in the midfield. The Olympics could prove the perfect testing ground to see if Torres’ Latin style can blend with the traditional American directness.

Now that we have overage players and potential foreign entries into the team, a shot at predicting a roster again:

Goalkeepers: (2012 age in parentheses) Sean Johnson (23) Chicago Fire, Bill Hamid (21) DC United

Defenders: Ike Opara (23) San Jose Earthquakes, Omar Gonzalez Los Angles Galaxy*, Gale Agbossoumonde (20) SC Braga, Daniel Williams (23) SC Freiburg, Eric Lichaj Aston Villa*, Greg Garza (20) GD Estoril Praia

Midfielders: Jose Francisco Torres Pachuca*, Mikkel Diskerud (21) Stabaek, Freddy Adu (23) Benfica Lisbon, Michael Stephens (23) Los Angeles Galaxy, Jared Jeffrey (21) Mainz, Amobi Okugo (21) Philadelphia Union

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (22) Villarreal, Danny Mwanga (20) Philadelphia Union, Tristan Bowen (21) Los Angeles Galaxy, Brek Shea (22) FC Dallas

And the requisite line-up to go with it:


Not a half bad squad, is it? With the addition of Mwanga and Daniel Williams to the team, and some smart overage additions to bulk up the defense, this team looks pretty formidable. A very nice spine to the team with the centerback pairing, Torres linking and two big strong forwards in Altidore and Mwanga up top. With the likes of Agbossoumonde, Brek Shea, and Mix Diskerud all coming off the bench, US Soccer has the depth to get its first Olympic soccer medal in 108 years.

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