Getting My Head Around Olympic Qualifying

Yeah, about 75% of you covered this stuff a couple months back, when all this was announced, but I’m just getting to it now. For what it’s worth, I blame February. In spite of being the shortest month, there’s just something about it that takes forever. With any luck, though, I’ll help out a couple other people coming late to the party.

So, Olympic qualifying for the United States U-23s (aka, Lil’ Yanquis) starts this coming Tuesday. All Li’l Yanquis games will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel, as will both semifinals, the third-place game (what? who cares?), and the final. A quick list of games, the opposition, and kick-off time (Pacific Standard):

Tuesday, March 11, 5 p.m. v. Cuba
Thursday, March 13, 5 p.m. v. Panama
Saturday, March 15, 4 p.m. v. Honduras

With that, you have all the teams in our group, that is Group A. There’s just Group B besides, so, to put it all together:

Group A
Cuba
Honduras
Panama
United States

Group B
Canada
Guatemala
Haiti
Mexico

Good lord willing, our group won’t finish as I’ve listed them…that is alphabetically. With Group B, I wouldn’t mind so much.

So, that same link tells you that the top two teams from each group will meet in the semifinal games and that a team punches its ticket to Beijing 2008 by winning one of the semifinals. I have yet to read this anywhere, but I’m assuming this tournament follows the long-honored system of having the first place team from one group play the second place team from the other. With that in mind, and assuming the Li’l Yanquis take first in Group A (oh…all y’all better!), who do you think we’ll get? Going by traditional strength more than current insight, I’m tempted to say the Canadians. Then again, if Guatemala’s youth is anything like their senior team, they’ll be a grind for anyone they play. And the Haitians seem to be improving generally, so….well, call that another question for another day. I’ll work on that over the weekend and report back on Monday.

Turning to the U.S. team, it sounds like we’re ready, or at the very least tuned in. And this is who we’ve got (and Lubos Kubik is an assistant coach? No shit?) Some interesting names in there (and not just Kubik’s). The names that jump out for me – by that I mean, the players I expect something out of – include Freddy Adu, Josmer Altidore, Arturo Alvarez (can’t believe he’s still young enough)…you know what? I expect something out of all of them. That’s a good roster. Hell, I wouldn’t mind seeing this roster play in Major League Soccer (MLS) for a season, because I don’t think they’d do all that badly. Well, except on defense maybe. My only wish is that they don’t go in cocky. Blow a game and the nerves amp up.

Anyway, this is just round one. My weekend is too crowded (and unpleasantly so; cleaning my old place), but I hope to do some scouting on the rest of Group A come Sunday night. If I get anything done, you’ll see it on Monday. If not, well, there will be plenty to talk about from Tuesday to the the end of the week. Don’t forget the CONCACAF Champions Cup….the MLS clubs start play there on Wednesday.

GREAT OUTDOORS
– I think there was a band by that name.  I’ve heard only one song, but really liked it.

– This video, I Am Bill Murray, doesn’t start so promising.  But I liked the punchline well enough.  And the animation.

– I want to ruin one song for everyone.  Watch this clip, a collection of kiddie songs sung by “stars” like Alanis Morissette, Pearl Jam, Coldplay, etc.  If you look at the url, you’ll spoil the kick….but not enough for it to work its magic.  (Hat-tip: b3ta.com)

– P.S. If you think I’m a rambling idiot and only check these posts to see if I posted crazy crap at the bottom, I’ll start flagging posts containing said crap with the “randomness” tag to help you out.  I aim to please…

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