US Olympic team calls 13 MLSers for qualifying tourney

US Olympic team head coach Caleb Porter called 13 MLS players into camp on Monday ahead of this month's CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament. The US will attempt to seal their place in the 16-team field for London 2012.

The initial roster released by US Soccer includes only 19 players, as one candidate withdrew from consideration due to injury. Porter will add a 20th player to the group prior to March 20, the due date for all participating teams to submit their rosters to CONCACAF, after obtaining a release from his respective club.

The squad will gather on March 13 to begin preparations for the qualifying tournament. The US will begin their journey to London at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., where they will compete for a place in the semifinals against Group A opponents Canada, Cuba and El Salvador beginning on March 22.

"Obviously, our mission is to qualify for the 2012 summer Olympics and this roster is a culmination of a long process to select what we feel is the best team this country has to offer in the U-23 age group," Porter said in a statement. "For the past four training camps we have been comprehensively evaluating the most talented personnel available from an extensive player pool comprised of professional players on clubs in this country and abroad. 

“We always keep in mind its most important to find the best mix collectively so that we can build a cohesive team capable of accomplishing our goal. I feel very confident in this collection of players and their ability to execute the playing style we believe will best represent their talents and get us to London."

The backline especially is loaded with domestic products. D.C. United's Bill Hamid and Chicago Fire's Sean Johnson will man the net, and Houston's Kofi Sarkodie, D.C.'s Perry Kitchen, San Jose's Ike Opara, Chivas USA's Jorge Villafana and Montreal's Zarek Valentin fill in the defensive line. They are joined by Molde’s Josh Gatt.   

In the midfield, Porter will be able to call on the abilities of Philadelphia's Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo, as well as LA's Michael Stephens, who will compete for time against the European-based duo of Mix Diskerud and Jared Jeffrey as well as Club Tijuana winger Joe Corona.

New York's Juan Agudelo, Sporting KC's Teal Bunbury and Dallas's Brek Shea are joined by Terrence Boyd of Borussia Dortmund and Joe Gyau of Hoffenheim in the strikeforce.

All told, eight of the players called up by Porter have a cap with the full national team, and Adu, Agudelo and Bunbury have all scored at the senior level.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for these young players to get valuable experience in international competition and ultimately qualify for the 2012 Olympics," said USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. "Playing the Olympic Games is a once in a lifetime chance, and we are fully supporting their efforts to qualify.

“Some of these players will continue their international careers on the senior team in the future, and these situations allow them the chance to grow individually and experience the ups and downs national teams go through, which is so important for their development."

While the US attempts to advance from Group A, Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago will battle for control of Group B in Carson, Calif.

The semifinal and final matches will be played at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., on March 31 and April 2. The tournament finalists will qualify for CONCACAF’s two spot in the Olympic Games.

ROSTER

GOALKEEPERS: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)

DEFENDERS: Josh Gatt (Molde), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA)

MIDFIELDERS: Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Gent), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy)

FORWARDS: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)