Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Discussion: Overage Candidates for 2008 Olympics

This clinches it: we need to discuss the overage options for the U-23 squad this summer.


McBride on the U-23 squad? Yes, please. He's a great option, and for so many reasons:

1) The national depth pool at forward is seriously lacking; we don't have many quality options. McBride is a gun (best target forward in U.S. history, by most arguments) and is still very capable of scoring with both feet and the top of his head. Christ, even the senior national team would take him back in a heartbeat. Need I say more?

2) As things stand right now, Jozy is our #1 and Freddy our #2 for forward. After that, what with Davies and Findley, the quality up top drops off significantly. McBride would both relieve Jozy Altidore from the responsibility of starting each and every game and share some of the physical pressure during matches should Nowak play them side by side. During the qualifying matches Jozy faced less of the strategic man-marking he's used to in the MLS and more of the hack-and-tackle treatment one usually sees with young defenders being introduced to the international game. He can expect more of the same in China. With McBride distracting the defense, Jozy will have the room to shine, much like Zizzo and Szetela did for Adu in Canada for the U-20's.

3) I'm not questioning Adu's leadership ability, but the fact remains that he's still young and still new. This summer would be McBride's first Olympics too, but there's no doubt in my mind that his presence on the squad would only serve to calm the players and staff. What's more, between McBride and Nowak, the U-23 squad would be spoiled with international experience and guidance. I can only see McBride's inclusion with the U-23 squad as a positive thing.

What's more, Ives makes the point that McBride might be called up for U.S. World Cup Qualifying, which conflicts with the Olympics and obviously takes priority. That would be unfortunate, as I think McBride is the best overage option for the U-23's in the national pool-- but I also think it's unlikely. If McBride weren't an option for the Olympics, I would be making the case for Donovan based on the same logic. I should think that Donovan would be the better candidate for the senior national team and McBride the better for the U-23's. Likewise I wouldn't count on Tim Howard or Bocanegra or EJ or Dempsey. McBride for the U-23 squad, seniors for the senior squad (with a couple exceptions, as we'll see below).


So we've got two more slots to fill. Who else should we consider? I'll name a few and then make some bold estimations as to their chances of being called up with the U-23's. (I'm assuming here that the current scheduling conflict between the Olympics and World Cup Qualifying can't be resolved. There's a chance it will, in which case this discussion changes.)

- Cory Gibbs. He's just getting back to fitness after a couple of devastating injuries. I'm sure he wants to get back in the MNT fold ASAP and will be looking for minutes wherever they might be. I'm also sure that Premiership-chasing Charlton would like some assistance getting Gibbs back on form. If he's called up to the MNT, he's a sub at best, but on the U-23's I see him playing every match. Could work well with Jonathan Spector and possibly Neven Subotic. 90%

- Frank Simek. If Bob Bradley wants a better look at Simek before more senior call-ups, the Olympics would be a great opportunity. Moreover, Simek would be a fantastic fullback option should Gibbs, Spector and Subotic be in camp. Let's have him. 90%

- Eddie Lewis. We really need relief on the left, both on defense and midfield. Lewis would be the best option for either count, and like McBride, he would be an excellent leader and mentor on and off the pitch. However, because Lewis is such a good option on the left, should Beasley still be injured by WCQ, I would think that Lewis is a likely call-up to the senior national team, moreso than McBride. 70%

- Jonathan Bornstein. I was surprised that he wasn't called up for qualifying. He's 23 right now; does that mean he's overage? He's a good option anyways. Bornstein at left back would free up Sturgis to cover the right, which would relieve a lot of my fears about Kamani Hill and Marvell Wynne. 60%

- Taylor Twellman. He's fizzled with the senior squad, but he should do very well if he were called up. As with McBride, Twellman could provide good cover for Jozy. It's either him or Ching with with the seniors for WCQ. 50%

- Brian Ching. See Twellman. 50%

- Jay Demerit. If he's not with the national squad, the U-23's could definitely use a bruiser like him, but I think it's more likely that he is with the national squad. 40%

- Marcus Hahnemann. Again, I want to challenge the idea that we need a keeper (though there is a slight dropoff between Seitz and Cervi), but if Nowak wants one anyways, Hahnemann is a very good choice. He's seen little minutes with the national squad, very little minutes indeed. I would think that Hahnemann is more likely than Guzan to hook up with the U-23's. 40%

- Brad Guzan. Many people are calling for El Guzano, and I'm surprised: I think Seitz is a quality option at goalkeeper and has the skills necessary to succeed at the Olympics. That said, Guzan is more developed and his presence on the squad would quash a good many fears about the security of the backfield. However, even if Guzan is called up, there's a very good chance he'll be at a new club and would be unavailable to join the team. 30%

- Ramiro Corrales. Like Lewis, Corrales is a good option on the left, but San Jose will be relying on him to kickstart their return to MLS. 30%


There are a few other MLS-based options (I'm thinking Hejduk, Conrad, Boswell, Olsen, etc.) but if there were a choice between a European-based player in his offseason and an MLS player in mid-season, I think Nowak would want the former.

So there you have it: McBride, Gibbs, and either Simek or Lewis. Nowak has some deciding to do.


Finally, I want to petition for Neven Subotic to be welcomed into the national side. I hope we offer him a spot on the squad, and if we do, I hope he accepts. He would be a great addition.

What's more, I think Nowak will bring back Alvarez for the Olympics this summer. He would be foolish not to. I think Alvarez' exclusion from the qualifying tournament has less to do with his skill and more to do with his attitude. Hopefully he's made the necessary adjustment.


Anyone I missed? Get at me with some comments.