There’s a really good soccer team training in the Bay Area this week. No, not the Quakes, I’m talking about the U.S. Men’s Olympic Soccer Team, who are working out in Palo Alto before heading to Hong Kong on the 25th for a couple warm-up matches on their way to Beijing.
The Olympic team is the U-23s, plus three “overage” players, and there’s been some noise made about the selection of those three older dudes. (What?! No Landon Donovan?!) But I have no problem with the selections Peter Nowak made.
Brad Guzan, who’s Very Good, will get a taste of international pressure in goal. Michael Parkhurst is the reigning MLS Defender of the Year. And it’s great to see Brian McBride, who retired from international competition after the ‘06 World Cup, get another chance to play for his country, and to stay match fit if/when Toronto and Chicago reach a deal over his return to MLS.
As I understand it, the problem with bringing in a Landon Donovan for the Olympics all comes down to scheduling. The US-Guatemala World Cup qualifier is on the calendar for August 20, when the Olympic Team will (hopefully) still be in action. (The Olympic semi-finals are scheduled for August 19, the Gold Medal game is August 23.) Further complicating matters is that August 20 is a FIFA International date, which allows the U.S. to call upon players currently working for European teams, and U.S. Soccer hates to give up those dates.
So, some “A” list guys are being saved for the World Cup. That makes sense. I mean, do you remember the 2004 Olympic Final? (I didn’t, but I looked it up -- Argentina over… Paraguay. Paraguay’s silver was their only medal in the ’04 Games, and their first in the Olympics in any sport.) Meanwhile, we’ll get a better look at Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley, and Sacha Klestan, with Robbie Rogers and Benny Feilhaber also competing for time in midfield. And Jozy Altidore joining McBride up top sounds fun.
The first game for the US U-23s+3 in the Olympics is August 7 against Japan. It’s a tough group – The Netherlands and Nigeria are the other two teams, but I think the US should advance.
• • •
As readers of this column know, Brian McBride wins the gold when it comes to the Most Under-rated, Under-hyped, and Under-appreciated Player in American Soccer, but how about a shout out to Ante Razov, who should also be a medalist in this competition. I know that ‘Quakes fans aren’t too thrilled with Razov after that July 5 match, but let’s get serious. How many MLS players (of any nationality) are as consistently dangerous as Razov is from 25-30 yards?
Check out the numbers Razov’s put up over his MLS career: 113 goals, second only to Jaime Moreno’s 118. (And Moreno’s scored 37 of those goals on penalty kicks compared to only 13 from Razov, so in the run of play, Ante’s up 19.) Oh, and Razov’s also played 30 fewer MLS matches than Moreno.
Since June 19, Razov has been tearing it up, scoring in each of the last 6 games he’s played (3 in MLS, 3 in SuperLiga). His free kick to beat the Quakes was a quality strike, and his goal against the LA Galaxy five days later was World Class. Even though he missed several other chances against New England Sunday, he still knocked in a goal.
Razov’s an LA native, a UCLA alum, and he’s scoring goals in Los Angeles. In a league hungry for Star Players, I’d like to see Razov get a little more love.