Experienced Colombia U-23s ready for Olympic qualifying vs. US

Juan Quintero - Colombia - U-23s World Cup

Their Olympic drought is at 24 years and counting, but fans of the Colombian national team are feeling plenty confident ahead of the first leg of their country's Olympic qualifying playoff series
against the US in Barranquilla on Friday (5 pm ET, FS1, UDN)

The main reason for their bullishness? The quality of the roster assembled by head coach Carlos Restrepo, who has called in a squad rich in professional experience, both
 overseas and
 in Colombia's
 domestic league.
Of the 25 players called up, five play abroad: Goalkeeper Alvaro Montero (San Lorenzo, Argentina), defender Jherson Vergara (Livorno, Italy), midfielder Juan Fernando Quintero (Rennes, France) and forwards Roger Martinez (Racing, Argentina) and Andres Renteria (Santos Laguna, Mexico). 
Expect Martinez to lead the forward line 
1456254383" tabindex="0">on Friday
 alongside Deportivo Cali’s Harold Preciado. Both will hope to be the beneficiaries of the quality passing and vision of Quintero, who scored a goal for the senior team in the 2014 World Cup against the Ivory Coast. Quintero is the team’s creator and the US will want to pay close attention to his movements.
Other members of the squad can draw on appearances in the Copa Libertadores with the likes of Atletico Nacional, Deportivo Cali and Santa Fe. A few others trained with the senior Colombian national team this past February, with goalkeepers Cristian Bonilla and Luis Hurtado, defenders Davinson Sanchez, Deiver Machado, midfielder Jarlan Barrera and
 all spending time with the full squad. 
The Under-23 team tries to be loyal to the Colombian soccer style — maintaining possession, keeping the ball moving on the ground, and playing short passes in its own half before accelerating play and exploding with speed in the final third. 
On the defensive side, Colombia won’t be too shabby either. The back line is led in part by center backs Yerry Mina (6-foot-4) and Davinson Sanchez (6-foot-2), but it’ll be right back Helibelton Palacios who will likely catch your eye — a very fast player, who quickly transitions from defense to attack. 
Here’s the projected starting XI for 
1456254384" tabindex="0">Friday

Colombia U-23s (4-4-2, right to left): GK Cristian Bonilla (Atletico Nacional); Helibelton Palacios (Deportivo Cali), Yerry Mina (Santa Fe), Davinson Sanchez (Atletico Nacional), Deiver Machado (Millonarios); Andres Roa (Deportivo Cali), Wílmar Barrios (Tolima), José Leudo (Pasto), Juan Fernando Quintero (Rennes); Harold Preciado (Deportivo Cali), Roger Martinez (Racing)
One of the first options off the bench is likely to be midfielder Jarlan Barrera, who is very familiar with the Estadio Metropolitano, where he plays for Atletico Junior of Barranquilla, a city known for its high temperatures and humidity (forecasts call for a high of 92 degrees 
on Friday
It’s worth remembering that Colombia find themselves in the Olympic playoff despite coming second to Argentina at the South American U-20 Championships played in 2015. Only one automatic berth was awarded to CONMEBOL for the Rio Olympics, as Brazil qualified for the tournament directly as hosts. CONMEBOL usually is given two automatic places in the Olympics, which is the number of berths CONCACAF was granted for this summer's Games. 
While that second-place finish was promising, recent results in friendlies against Honduras in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, (1-1 and 2-2 ties) raise one big question that will dog Colombia against the US: Can they come together and perform as a team?