Caleb Porter's first camp in charge of the U.S. Under-23 national team is well underway in the Sarasota/Bradenton area of Florida, as some of the most talented young players in American soccer do their best to try and impress the coach assigned the task of helping the United States qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
The current camp is one of three more training camps the U.S. U-23s will take part in before Olympic qualifying starts in March, and the competition for places and the pressure to impress Porter has already led to an intense camp. There are players who have already improved their stock, while some others have struggled early on.
Here is my Fox Soccer story on Porter's first camp since being names U.S. Under-23 coach (the team held a camp in Germany last month which Porter organized, but he did not attend due to commitments as head coach of Akron). Also, here is my Fox Soccer piece on some early training camp observations.
Here are some more observations about the U.S. Under-23 team, and the first part of the current camp:
Terrance Boyd is legit. No, he didn't have a great showing in the intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday, but throughout camp, and in the camp in Germany, Boyd has shown that he is truly a prospect to keep an eye on. It's tough to not see him starting when Olympic qualifying starts.
Mix Diskerud is a skillful player, but folks might want to slow down on the clamoring for a senior team call-up. He's a bit of a soft player. He does some nice things with the ball, and has a unique style, but he's a bit casual, which makes you wonder how he'll fit into the high-pressing 4-3-3 style Caleb Porter wants to play with the Under-23 team. Diskerud is still young, and there's no question he is very talented, but he does not look ready for the full senior international level.
Joseph Gyau is a star in the making. He's still a bit raw, but he has jaw-dropping speed and has grown considerably stronger than he was a year ago. It won't be long before he's getting minutes with TSG Hoffenheim. One of the most exciting prospects in the entire pool.
Freddy Adu has shown the skill and experience you expect from him, but even he would acknowledge that he isn't a lock to make the Olympic team. It will be interesting to see how he settles into Porter's 4-3-3 system, and where he ultimately winds up being deployed. His skill and experience make him a safe bet he makes the team, but just how he winds up being used is the big question in my book.
Sebastian Lletget is a very sharp passer, and as much as most American fans have read about him more than they've actually seen him play, I would say the hype that has long surrounded him is justified. He is a very smooth midfielder who reads the game well and delivers pin-point passes. Like some others in this group, what he needs is first-team playing time to take his development to the next level.
Jared Jeffrey isn't a flashy player, but he is a very skilled and very effective player. He could do very well in the 4-3-3.
Amobi Okugo looks to be a very strong candidate for playing time as a defensive midfielder in the 4-3-3. It's still early, and there are players who haven't been around because of injuries or lack of availabiity, but Okugo has shown in this camp that his lack of playing time with Philadelphia last season didn't slow impact his quality as a player.
Much like Okugo, Jack McInerney didn't see a ton of playing time for Philadelphia in 2011, but he's looking very good as a wide forward in the 4-3-3. He has definitely caught the eye of Porter. His mobility, tenacity and nose for goal make him a very intriguing prospect.
Gale Agbossoumonde needs to play games. The tools are there to be a special centerback, but the lack of playing time with Eintracht Frankfurt is slowing his development. As it stands, he has been the most impressive centerback in camp for my money.
Sebastien Ibeagha is a college player, but doesn't play like one. He's strong and confident and it's scary to think he's just a sophomore at Duke. He has held his own against the physical forwards in camp, and should not be ruled out as a senior contender for the Olympic qualifying lineup. I also can't see him going back to Duke. He is a Houston Dynamo academy product and I would be VERY surprised if he weren't in a Dynamo uniform soon.
The three college players at the camp have held their own, with Andrew Wenger showing some good things playing mainly as a centerback. He hasn't played centerback for two years, but his passing from deep and his size and strength combined with impressive skill make him a player who could blossom into a solid centerback. He's also versatile enough to play in defensive midfield.
Kelyn Rowe has shown some signs, but it's tough for him to impress considering all the midfield talent in camp. That said, he has definitely shown the qualities that make him a top draft prospect if he chooses to sign with MLS.
Dilly Duka impressed at the recent Generation adidas trip, and is impressing in the current U-23 camp. His playing time with the Columbus Crew has clearly helped him progress as a player and boosted his confidence.
Jorge Villafana is the only natural left back in the camp and he actually did very well in the intra-squad scrimmage. He has had some very good moments in camp and shouldn't be written off as a candidate to make the team.
Andrew Wooten looks like a solid forward. He showed well in the Germany camp, and has looked sharp in the current camp. There is some strong competition for forward spots, but he's one to keep an eye on.
Right back is a stacked position. Sheanon Williams and Zarek Valentin have both looked sharp and their status as starters in MLS has led to both coming in playing at a high level. Kofi Sarkodie didn't get a chance to play much with Houston this year, and he has fallen behind the pack. Throw in the fact Timmy Chandler is Olympic eligible and Alfredo Morales and Danny Williams can also play right back and you realize some very good right backs aren't going to make it.
The goalkeeper position is stacked. Bill Hamid is the the first-choice option, with Zac MacMath looking like the second choice. Sean Johnson is good, and can make some jaw-dropping saves, but his distribution leaves something to be desired and he's nowhere near the on-field communicator Hamid is (yes, Hamid loves to talk, both on and off the field).
These are just some observations from camp. If I think of some others that I may have missed, I will add them here later. Obviously players will see their stock rise and fall in the coming weeks and months, but this should hopefully give you some idea of how players are doing early on in the process to select the U.S. Olympic Qualifying team and ultimately the U.S. Olympic Team.
What do you think of these observations?
Share your thoughts below.