U.S. under-23 men
Olympic teams sports decided MLS flavor.(Tuesday, August 15, 2000) -- United States under-23 menís coach Clive Charles today announced his 18-player Olympic Team roster almost exactly one month from the team's first opening round match of the Summer Olympic Games in Australia.
"These were all difficult decisions," said Charles, who has led the squad to a 7-4-1 overall record in 2000 matches. "We've added three of the top players in the country and I really feel like we've got the best team possible heading over to the Olympics."
Charles called in a defensive-minded trio of U.S. men's national-team stars for his three "overage" exceptions to the Olympics under-23 limit for men. That includes Jeff Agoos, a staple of three-time Major League Soccer champion D.C. United, Chris Armas, who is widely regarded as the best defensive midfielder in MLS for the Chicago Fire, and Frankie Hejduk, a speedy and energetic defender\midfielder currently with German Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen.
Agoos, who has been a member of the U.S. program since 1985, will have the chance to complete the soccer cycle by adding a U-23 stint to his experience as a U-15, U-17, U-20 and full Men's National Team member. Although a member of the 1998 U.S. World Cup team, Agoos has yet to compete in a world championship of this magnitude. Since the inaugural season of MLS in 1996, the 32-year-old, four-time MLS All-Star has been one of the top defenders in the league.
Armas, who has enjoyed great success under U.S. menís coach Bruce Arena over the last two years, will play an important role in the midfield, as he does for the Fire and will continue to as the full U.S. team undergoes World Cup qualifying. The native of Brentwood, N.Y., helped the Fire accomplish the rare feat of winning both the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup in 1998.
Agoos and Armas lead a list of 14 MLS players on the 18-man roster, highlighting the huge impact that the five-year-old professional league has had on the current Olympic team and marking a vast difference in the almost entirely collegiate teams that represented the U.S. in 1992 and 1996.
Producing three-year veterans such as MLS Cup Ď99 "Most Valuable Player" Ben Olsen (D.C. United) and 1998 U.S. Soccer "Male Youth Athlete of the Year" Josh Wolff (Chicago Fire), along with first-year stars like goalkeeper Adin Brown (Colorado Rapids), MLS and its Project-40 developmental program have played a vital role in giving young American players the necessary pro experience to compete at similar levels as the rest of the world.
Perennial MLS powers Chicago and D.C. lead the league with three players on the final squad.
Hejduk, the only player to have competed in a previous Olympiad, started all three matches and helped the U.S. to a 1-1-1 record at the 1996 Olympics as an under-23. After going on to star in MLS with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, the Cardiff, Calif., native now heads a trio of European-based players that includes Leverkusen teammate and teenage scoring sensation Landon Donovan, and versatile midfielder John O'Brien, who competes for famed European club Ajax of Amsterdam.
The 18-year-old Donovan, who already has four goals and made an impressive 11 under-23 appearances in just over a year, established scoring marks like no other U.S. player before him with 35 goals and 16 assists in 41 international contests in two years of under-17 competition. Prior to being awarded the Golden Ball as the "Most Outstanding Player" at the FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand last November, the Redlands, Calif., native became the youngest U.S. player to sign an overseas professional contract when he did so at age 16 with Leverkusen.
Denver, Colo., native Conor Casey, another teenager whose skills have lifted him to the U-23 level, is the only player on the 18-man roster that is not a professional. Entering his sophomore season under Charles at the University of Portland, the 6-foot-1 Casey has scored six goals and added four assists in 12 overall games for the U-23s in 2000, following his breakout freshman season in which he led the NCAA Division I in scoring with 23 goals to go with seven assists.
Thirteen of the 18 players that helped the U.S. take second place in the six-team CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in April remain on the squad. Other than the three over-age players, defender Evan Whitfield, midfielder Joey DiGiamarino and alternate goalkeeper Matt Napoleon are the only new additions that will be traveling to Sydney.
Goalkeepers: Adin Brown, 22 (Pleasant Hill, Calif., Colorado Rapids, MLS), Tim Howard, 21 (New Brunswick, N.J., MetroStars, MLS), Matt Napoleon, 22 (Feasterville, Pa., Columbus Crew, MLS).
Defenders: Jeff Agoos, 32 (Dallas, D.C. United, MLS), Danny Califf, 20 (Orange, Calif., Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS), Ramiro Corrales, 23 (Salinas, Calif., MetroStars, MLS), Brian Dunseth , 23 (Upland, Calif., New England Revolution, MLS), Chad McCarty, 22 (Clovis, Calif., Tampa Bay Mutiny, MLS), Evan Whitfield, 23 (Phoenix, Chicago Fore, MLS).
Midfielders: Chris Armas, 27 (Brentwood, N.Y., Chicago Fire, MLS), Joey DiGiamarino, 23 (Corona, Calif., Colorado Rapids, MLS), Frankie Hejduk, 26 (Cardiff, Calif. Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), John OíBrien, 22 (Playa del Rey, Calif., Ajax Amsterdam), Ben Olsen, 23 (Middletown, Pa., D.C. United, MLS, Pete Vagenas. 22 (Pasadena, Calif, Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS).
Forwards: Chris Albright, 21 (Philadelphia, D.C. United, MLS), Conor Casey, 19 (Denver, University of Portland), Landon Donovan, 18 (Redlands, Calif., New England Revolution, MLS), Josh Wolff, 23 (Stone Mountain, Ga., Chicago Fire).
Notes: The menís Olympic competition is for under-23 national teams with three players allowed to exceed the age limit. A third goalkeeper is kept on the roster (Matt Napoleon), but does not count against the 18-player limit. He can be activated only if one of the two other keepers is sidelined by injury.