We’ll see how everything plays out in China, but it’s hard to quibble with the picks coach Peter Nowak has made for the U.S. men’s Olympic soccer team, which were announced on Thursday.
We’d already known that 36-year-old Brian McBride was likely to be one of the “over-age” players added to the roster for the Olympics, an under-23 men’s tournament that allows each team three players older than the age cut-off. But now that McBride’s presence is official, the prospect of an attacking trio that includes Jozy Altidore, Freddy Adu and McBride seems like a potentially dangerous one.
“If we're both selected that would be awesome,” Altidore told me last week. “Brian’s a superb player. He’s probably been the best U.S. striker we've ever had in terms of target men, and I think he's one of the better ones in the world now at this point in his career.”
Judging by his strong finish to the Premier League season with Fulham, McBride still has his mojo and could be extremely useful heading balls down onto the feet of Altidore, Adu, Sacha Kljestan and Robbie Rogers.
Nowak’s other over-age picks make pretty good sense, too. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan has just signed with Aston Villa, and as the senior-team back-up to Tim Howard he’ll get some vital experience in the pressure-cooker of a world tournament. The same goes for the other over-age selection, New England Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst, who will try to show once again that you don’t need to be a physically imposing centerback to make an impact. (Other options here could have included Jimmy Conrad or Jay Demerit, but Parkhurst seems ready, and his almost-eerie avoidance of yellow cards bodes especially well for tournament soccer.)
The only mild surprise is the inclusion of Benny Feilhaber, who was injured at the U-23s’ last tournament in France. Feilhaber has dealt with a rash of injuries and poor club form in the year since his wonderstrike beat Mexico in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and he needs some good things to happen to turn his career around.
The U.S. has a tough first-round group, opening against Japan and following that with games against the Netherlands and Nigeria. And it's looking like the tournament will have some star power. Argentina has announced a roster that includes Lionel Messi, Juan Román Riquelme and Sergio Agüero, while Brazil has announced a roster that includes Ronaldinho, Robinho, Alexandre Pato, Anderson and Jô.
One thing I don't understand is why CONCACAF was the only major confederation that scheduled senior-team World Cup qualifiers during the Olympic tournament. The built-in conflict made sure that Landon Donovan and other potential Olympic-team players were not part of the process and made Nowak's job harder than it should have been.
(UPDATE: A source close to the situation tells me that CONCACAF was willing to move the date of the U.S.-Guatemala World Cup qualifier so that it didn't conflict with the Olympics, but U.S. Soccer opted to keep the date since it is an official FIFA international date and would allow the U.S. to call in its best players from European clubs.)
Here is the U.S. roster:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (5): Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Freddy Adu (SL Benfica), Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Danny Szetela (Brescia Calcio)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Brian McBride (out of contract), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)
What do you think of this 18? Can the U.S. get out of its group?