U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team head coach Caleb Porter named a 23-player roster as the group convenes Feb. 19 for a 10-day training camp in Frisco, Texas. The camp culminates with a match against Mexico’s U-23 National Team on Wed., Feb. 29, at FC Dallas Stadium. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. CT, and the match will be broadcast live on Univision.
The training camp and Mexico match make up an important stretch for the U-23s as they get set for the Men’s Olympic Qualifying tournament, with group play kicking off March 22 at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
“I think Mexico is going to be about as close to a qualifying atmosphere as we can possibly get,” Porter said. “We’re going to have, for the most part, our entire group together for the first time.”
In addition to the Mexico match, the U.S. U-23s will hold scrimmages against FC Dallas of Major League Soccer on Wed., Feb. 22, and the North American Soccer League’s new franchise, the San Antonio Scorpions, on Friday, Feb. 24.
“The No. 1 priority in this camp is to see our guys in games and to build a little bit of that rhythm by playing multiple games in a short amount of time,” Porter said. “Everything is geared toward the Mexico game, but we want to get a couple of games early in the week to get guys minutes so we can look at everybody to help with those final roster decisions leading into qualifying.”
Five players who had not previously been in camp with the U-23 team will be on hand, including FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea, who has appeared in all nine of the U.S. Men’s National Team matches under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. The 2011 U.S. Young Male Athlete of the Year and Bryan, Texas, native is coming off a strong season with FC Dallas that included MLS Best XI recognition and a nomination for MLS Most Valuable Player.
Juan Agudelo joins the camp after earning 14 appearances with the senior team last year. Agudelo was the first player to come out of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy to earn a cap with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Also making their first U-23 appearances under Porter are defenders Perry Kitchen, Ike Opara and Alfredo Morales. Kitchen was the third overall pick by D.C. United in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft following a collegiate career at Akron.
Porter is confident the newcomers to the group can quickly get acclimated with the group that has been in place through previous camps.
“We’ve had a good number of guys in the last two or three camps, so there’s a good comfort level both ways – them with us, us with them – of knowing how we do things, how we train, the rhythm of how we prepare for games, the system and the style of play,” Porter said. “As we add a few more pieces, I think that core group will make it a lot easier in integrating them.”
Five players will arrive at camp after the Feb. 19 start date, with forward Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund) scheduled to join the team Feb. 23, while midfielder Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), midfielder Mix Diskerud (Gent), forward Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim) and Morales (Hertha Berlin) appearing on Feb. 26 into Frisco.
Fifteen of the 24 players are with MLS franchises, including Philadelphia Union teammates Freddy Adu, Jack McInerney and Amobi Okugo.
The U-23 goalkeeping tandem includes D.C. United’s Bill Hamid and the Chicago Fire’s Sean Johnson. Both played for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the start of the year. Hamid manned the net during a 1-0 victory against Venezuela on Jan. 21 in Glendale, Ariz., as the U.S. Soccer Development Academy alum became the ninth goalkeeper in U.S. history to collect a shutout in his first game. Johnson earned his second international cap when he played in the second half of a 1-0 win against Panama on Jan. 25 in Panama City.
Five players on the roster have U.S. Soccer Development Academy ties: Agudelo, Corona, Hamid, McInerney and defender Zarek Valentin.
Texas natives Greg Garza and Jared Jeffrey return to their home state for training and the Mexico match. Jeffrey is from Dallas suburb Richardson, Texas, and Garza hails from Grapevine, Texas, located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.
CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying begins on March 22, with Group A games being played at LP Field in Nashville and Group B games at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The USA was drawn into Group A with Canada, Cuba and El Salvador, while Group B is composed of Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago.
The semifinal and final matches will be played at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., on March 31 and April 2, respectively.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (7): Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Gent), Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy)
FORWARDS (8): Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Tony Taylor (Estoril Praia)