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SBI’s Friday Free Kicks: On the USA U-20s, USMNT defenders and more

Jared Jeffrey (ISIphotos.com)

                                                           Photo by ISIphotos.com

With the Under-20 World Cup now underway, and the U.S. Under-20 team ready to make its debut on Saturday vs. Germany (10am, ESPN Classic/ESPN360.com), there is plenty of talk about the team's lack of star power or name recognition, but this year's installment of the U.S. Under-20s is certainly not lacking for talent.

There are no media darlings like Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore, no established senior national team starters like Michael Bradley, but the current U.S. Under-20s boast a well-balanced collection of players that could wind up having just as much quality professional talent as the 2007 edition.

Whether you have defender Ike Opara, widely-regarded as one of the best young defenders to come through the youth national team pipeline in years, or Jared Jeffrey (pictured above) and Dilly Duka, two highly-skilled midfielders capable of controlling a game, or playmaker Mikkel Diskerud, a Norwegian-born standout who could be the star of this team, there are plenty of players for scouts to take note of and for U.S. fans to become acquainted with.

The 2007 team set the bar high for this U-20 team. The memories of Danny Szetela's performance vs. Poland, Jozy Altidore's two-goal effort vs. Brazil, Freddy Adu's dominating form throughout the tournament and Michael Bradley's mature and imposing presence as midfield captain left many American fans feeling confident about the future of the U.S. national team.

The current crop may be further away from having a national team impact, but it should also be noted that this is the first U.S. Under-20 team to have age-eligible standouts pass on it for professional commitments in Altidure and Adu. Add those two players to this group and you realize just how much talent is in the American Under-20 pipeline.

Of the players actually in Egypt, several will draw more interest than others. Opara was considered a player who could have gone No. 1 in the 2009 MLS Draft, arguably the deepest draft in MLS history, before choosing to return to Wake Forest. Diskerud is a standout in the Norwegian League with unique ability who hasn't been seen by many U.S. Socccer fans. The same can be said for Jared Jeffrey, who plies his trade with Belgian power Club Brugge. Then you have FC Dallas' Brek Shea, who just might be the breakout player of this group.

Here is the roster for those of you who haven't seen it or don't know it yet:

GOALKEEPERS– Sean Johnson, Josh Lambo, Brian Perk

DEFENDERS– Gale Agbossoumonde, Kyle Davies, Jorge Flores, Ike Opara, Gerson Mayen, Sheanon Williams

MIDFIELDERS-Daniel Cruz, Mikkel Diskerud, Dilly Duka, Jared Jeffrey, Aaron Maund, Brian Ownby, Dillon Powers, Michael Stephens, Bryan Arguez

FORWARDS– Peri Marosevic, Brek Shea, Tony Taylor

The U.S. under-20s have a tough group, with Germany, Cameroon and South Korea rounding out what is regarded as the tournament's Group of Death. The Germans will be missing most of their pool's best players due to lack of releases by professional clubs, a development that just might help the Americans advance out of the group if it can manage a result on Saturday.

Whether this installment of the U.S. Under-20s progresses to the knockout rounds or not, what will ultimately matter is the impression these players will make in their first appearances on the big stage, in their first performances for U.S. fans who only read their names and have yet to see much of the next generation of American standouts, a generation that will begin to lose its anonymity on Saturday.

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Now, onto some free kicks:

With Jay DeMerit'savailability for next month's U.S. World Cup qualifiers in doubt, could this spell an opportunity for newly-eligible Edgar Castillo? Don't be surprised to see him called into the group to join the squad in training, but not be active for either qualifier against Honduras or Costa Rica.

If there's a defender who could slot back into the national team mix with DeMerit sidelined, it is Kansas City Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad, who had been enjoying a run of stellar perform before a few key errors in the Wizards' match against FC Dallas. He atoned or this mistakes with a game-winning goal.

"If you're going by form in the league and who deserves to be in the mix, Jimmy is definitely someone who deserves to have a look," KC head coach Peter Vermes said of Conrad. "He's been dominant in some games and really helping push the team to a new level."

Jonathan Bornstein's impressive performance vs. Trinidad & Tobago should lead to another start at left back vs. Honduras, with Carlos Bocanegra partnering with Oguchi Onyewu in central defense. Chad Marshall should serve as the back-up central defender for both of them, with Conrad another possibility for that slot.

Houston defender Geoff Cameron is someone else we have repeatedly mentioned as worthy of a look, but we don't see him getting one until the January national team camp.

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If you don't know what Ike Opara looks like, you should be able to spot him based on the unique haircut he recently got (assuming he keeps it):

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Brian Ching was given a new four-year contract by the Houston Dynamo this week, helping Houston lock up its goal-scoring forward for what should be the rest of his career. While it is good news, what remains to be seen is what will happen with Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden. Both are expected to make winter moves to Europe.

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Chivas USA has lost midfielder Bojan Stepanovic is set to miss between four to six weeks after suffering a dislocated patella in his right knee during Chivas USA's friendly vs. Chivas de Guadalajara on Wednesday.

In other Chivas USA news, forward Ante Razov underwent ankle surgery that will sideline him for between four to six months. Razov had a procedure to repair his Achilles tendon and remove bone spurs in his left ankle.

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You might have heard about Chris Armas being chosen to go into the Chicago Fire's Ring of Fire. While the ceremony was originally slated to be a pre-game ceremony on Oct. 22, the day of Chicago's match vs. Chivas USA. Fire officials tell us the ceremony will now be a half-time ceremony.

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One of SBI's most popular series is making its way back. The SBI Questions will be back next week and we have lined up an interview subject who should draw a good number of questions. We won't say who it is just yet, but you can find out on Monday.

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That's all for now. What do you think of the U.S. Under-20 national team? Interested to find out more about this group? Think it could go even further than the 2007 team? Excited to see players like Opara and Diskerud?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. RONGEN is a loser, awful! He is typical of the type of coaching that the Federation allows and encourages. We start behind and short of the emergence of another “Altidore” level player we are finished

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  2. Not sure if a good performance against a terrible T&T should guarantee Bornstein a starting spot in the next game. Didn’t Beasley look awesome in the home leg against T&T at left back. That didn’t turn out so well.

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  3. LOL…. The U.S team looked like the typical 46 Bear defensive team! Just sitting back wating to counter strike like always!! Seriously our U.S teams needs to start learning how to keep the ball and start learning how to play with it for GOD SAKE!!! DAMN!!! I’m sick and tired of watching our U.S teams continue to come out and start playing defense from the get go!!! 30% ball possesion is what all the U.S teams need to start practicing!!! b

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  4. Jeff M,
    Feeling obligated to disagree with you — in a neighborly way — about Geoff Cameron. Think about who our candidates for center back are: Onyewu (check), Demerit (injured), Bocanegra (hesitant to close down players), Marshall, Conrad (getting old, but still a beast),and Dan Califf (slow, and seems in a daze).

    What Cameron would bring that none of these players have are (1) speed, and (2) an attacking mentality, with some dribbling ability.

    Is he national team ready now? No. Do I expect to see him in October? God no; — the Dynamo need him for the last month of MLS. But I hope/expect that with some more experience (this is his first season of playing regularly — last season he only had 9 starts and 16 sub appearances) he’ll start to pick up the passing patterns.

    But that’s just my opinion.

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  5. Mix Diskerud models his game after players like Iniesta, Ryan Giggs, and Pirlo. He can really play in the midfield anywhere. He’s a real threat with long range but he has knack for creating. A while back he HD three assists for the Nats in one game.

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  6. Ives,
    thank you for that info, this is the first site I’ve seen that has actually given a little scouting report on this team, usually its just dumb stats on how many college or pro players are on the squad, and how they’ve done in past years

    Mohawks are for herbs

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  7. ‘The German team was the best in Europe last year. I don’t know how many are still on the roster, but if the USA can stay with them they have a chance to advance. They start down 0-1 with Rongen.

    Posted by: madmax | September 25, 2009 at 09:56 PM’

    The German U-20 is may be the German C or D team after 29 players canceled the trip. If the US takes it serious and let their top team play they should win easy.

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  8. Its really cool, they should make more of those for different players, if you see part 1, you can also see them sitting together on the bus ride, welll, if that is the reason why they’re tight, then its still cool, but maybe Torres can learn from Dempsey and one day also end up in Europe, i’m sure he will tho

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  9. Ives – please do not contradict yourself so easily. Jonny Bornstein’s T&T performance was acceptable, nothing more. He is, IMHO, a very poor choice at LB, even in the current pool, let alone if Castle and O’Rourke (until USSF gets serious about player development I think all non-central casting guys take Anglo names like Joseph Francis Towers has).

    And, Geoff Cameron…please do not start his candidacy. I support the Dynamo but Cameron is also (like Jonny B) a bad player. Other than athleticism, he brings nothing…bad passing even hospital passes (passes that get the recipient blind-side tackeld), late if ever marking for runs, etc. He is classic “youth program” guy…athlete check but no much talent or nous for the game.

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  10. Crispy, I saw that video, it’s awesome isn’t it? The thing about Deuce and Paco though is that they’re both from Texas, so I’m kind of betting on that being the reason for them having such a tight off-field friendship. As for what they can do on the field, well, we’ll just have to wait for that one.

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  11. Thanks for the preview of the U-20’s, although I got a bit of a chuckle at the “Michael Bradley’s mature and imposing presence as midfield captain” line. The lasting impression I had of him at that tourney was him throwing that nutty at the end of the game against Uruguay. Yeah, I know he got the match winner, but there was nothing resembling “maturity” with the way he acted. Rongen had to physically put his hands over MB’s mouth to get him to shutup.

    Posted by: sonicdeathmonkey | September 25, 2009 at 07:54 PM

    I don’t know if you remember or not but one of their players tried to kick him in the nuts, then that’s why he got up in their faces. You can’t really back down from a little punk when they try and hurt your manhood.

    Reply
  12. The German team was the best in Europe last year. I don’t know how many are still on the roster, but if the USA can stay with them they have a chance to advance. They start down 0-1 with Rongen.

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  13. Brek Shea. I really like this kid’s game, I’ve been following him closely this season and he’s played well. I’m unfamiliar with most of the other players ( don’t watch a lot of college) but I’m excited to see what these young guns bring to the table.

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  14. Is Shea like ridiculously versatile or something? I mean I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him play left back in some highlight videos and a couple of games at midfield. Does he have a prefered position?

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  15. didn’t they play a U-20 friendly earlier this week?… who was that against? how did it go? looking forward to seeing some new players!

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  16. thanks for the update ives. really looking forward to the tournament and agree that this team has some hidden stars waiting to make an impression. i hope brek shea makes the most of this opportunity and opens some eyes abroad. also — thanks for modifying the sbi assessment of adu’s u20 performance from “decent” to “dominating.” he really did have a great tournament — let’s hope he can get some club time, gain some strength on the ball and become a contributor to the real usmnt. wish that 2007 team would have met argentina and ag├╝ero in the final. here’s hoping this year’s squad makes a decent run.

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  17. Thanks for the preview of the U-20’s, although I got a bit of a chuckle at the “Michael Bradley’s mature and imposing presence as midfield captain” line. The lasting impression I had of him at that tourney was him throwing that nutty at the end of the game against Uruguay. Yeah, I know he got the match winner, but there was nothing resembling “maturity” with the way he acted. Rongen had to physically put his hands over MB’s mouth to get him to shutup.

    (SBI-Maturity in the sense of his game, perhaps not his temper. And let’s be honest, who didn’t love seeing Bradley give the Uruguayan instigator the “two-zero” signal?)

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  18. It’s about time for Brek Shea to turn it up. I’ve been hearing about this kid a bunch for how young he is, and he obviously has a lot of maturation to go through, but it’d be nice to see him perform well.

    Of anybody – he’s the one that needs a new haircut. I don’t know what I think about the “rooster-cut”…kids these days.

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  19. Shea, Marosevic, Diskerud(especially), and Opara are definitely some players I’ve never seen before and would like to see. As for Diskerud, can someone( Ives if you could) describe how he plays? I mean, when you say playmaker are you talking Ronaldinho, or Pirlo?

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  20. I 2nd for Orozco.

    He plays at a league with a higher level than any those that Ives mentioned, and more importantly he’s a starter.

    (SBI-I agree that Orozco should get a look at some point, though perhaps not next month, but it should also be noted that being a starting defender in the Mexican League doesn’t mean you’re a good defender. Just ask Duilio Davino, or I should say ask anybody who watched Davino play for FC Dallas.)

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  21. I’m excited to see all of these players but am a little concerned about our fitness level. With so many college players, many of whom aren’t used to 90 minutes, we ahould see everyone play. I think anything less than the round of 16 would be a disappointment.

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  22. I thought Rico Clark already’s goin to Livorno in the summer?

    Oh, and Ives, are u a lil tipsy there? haha

    (SBI-Clark’s rumored Livorno move was never confirmed so we don’t know what his future holds. And no, I’m not tipsy. A little sleep deprived, but not tipsy.)

    Reply

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