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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Off Topic: US U-20 National Team

That's soccer folks. Stay with me here. The U-20 stands for Under 20 years old, as in teenagers. As in the future of American Soccer. And boy does the future look bright for the Americans.

The US Men's U-20 team is currently at the U-20 World Cup in Canada, and they are making quite a name for themselves. After a sub par 1-1 draw with South Korea in the opening match of the tourney, US came back strong with a 6-1 thrashing of Poland behind Captain Freddy Adu's hat trick.

In their third and final game of the opening round, played round-robin style, the US went up against a Brazil side that was 1-1 in the tourney. Always a tough foe, Brazil was also playing for perhaps it's tournament life, adding incentive for them going into the game. The US, however, played well and came away with a hard fought 2-1 win. Now to the meat:

This US U-20 team is good. I mean, scary good. I watched almost all of the Brazil match (with flip-backs to the Cubs game for my Chicago friends i was visiting, even as the Cubs were getting smoked), and i was impressed. This team is a Team, in the true sense of the word. Both goals, set up by Adu and finished by Jozy Altidore, were fantastic. Adu knew where Altidore was going to be, and Altidore knew where Adu would put the ball. They KNEW. Before anyone else did. Watching it reminded me of watching top-notch level soccer.

The other thing that i came out very impressed with was our ability to hold the ball in the midfield. Something the US National team has traditionally struggled with has been keeping the ball in the midfield and overall time of possession. This U-20 team was superb at it. The balls they played, the way they moved without the ball.... All of it was world class soccer. This team was better than the senior team we sent to play in the Copa America.

And it starts with our two forwards on the team, Adu and Altidore. Adu has struggled in the MLS at times, and quite frankly i have not been impressed when i have seen him play lately (not many have). But he looks at his absolute best at this level, gathering the ball in the middle, pushing it forward, and looking to make great outlets to streaking players either up the middle or down the wings, looking for Altidore in particular. I was surprised to see him carrying the Captain's armband for this team when i tuned in, but after watching him play i am all for it.

And Altidore... how good has he looked? He has been getting a lot of buzz this year, making waves in the US. It is justified. This kid has the potential to be scary good. He is a fantastic finisher, with a killer instinct inside the box, something the US MNT has been desperately seeking for, oh, forever.

Also, let's not forget another member of this team that is already making his mark on the senior team, Michael Bradley, son of MNT Coach Bob Bradley. At just 19 years old, Bradley has had an impact on the senior team, as well as holding the ship steady for the U-20 team.

There are other members of this team i could touch on as well, including Goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who appears to be the next great American GK, following in the footsteps of Meola, Freidel, Keller, and Howard. But the greatness of this U-20 squad, at least so far in this tournament, has not been about individual players. It has been about the team.

This team will make up a large chunk of the next senior World Cup, in 2010. We need to start getting behind these guys, and the time is now. In their own U-20 World Cup, they are into the second round, facing a Uruguay side Wednesday at 4:45pm Pacific Time. And while it is not easily accessible, being shown only on ESPNU and Galavision, you should be watching.

This team is the future of US Soccer. And the future is looking mighty good...

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