Just a few months ago, all eyes were focused squarely on the U.S. national team and South Africa. The southernmost African nation was where the hopes and dreams of U.S. fans were pinned, where the squad was elevated to great heights and where they ultimately crashed out and fell short.
While the locale won't be a return to an exact city that hosted a U.S. game - Pretoria, Johannesburg and Rustenburg (twice) were sites for U.S. matches - the setting could bring back some memories. With a sold-out crowd of 60,000-plus, the site will still look familiar. Green Point Stadium hosted some great games (Argentina-Germany, Uruguay-Germany) and some forgettable ones (England-Algeria, Uruguay-France).
For the U.S., this will be the second time the team participates in the Nelson Mandela Challenge. On Nov. 17, 2007, Steve Cherundolo scored the lone goal in the match as the U.S. beat South Africa 1-0 in Johannesburg. From that veteran-laden roster, only Brad Guzan and Jonathan Bornstein are back on the squad now.
End Of The Road
For both the U.S. and South Africa, 2010 will end here. The year will have been an historic one for both nations, and for the hosts it marked a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the World Cup. South Africa's national team did not benefit from having the world visit Africa as they became the first host nation to not advance past the group stage of a World Cup, but with the world watching and wondering whether the tournament would go off smoothly, the nation rose to the occasion and put on a memorable and enjoyable show for all.
The U.S. ends their year where the focus was for the last four. South Africa was where the U.S. took perhaps their most-talented World Cup team to date and where the U.S. made history, winning a World Cup group for the first time. But it also left the team longing for more. An extra-time defeat to Ghana prevented the U.S. from reaching the quarterfinals and kept the team from continuing to dream a seemingly improbable dream.
Still, for the Americans, their previous South Africa experience left many positives, perhaps the best one knowing that the team can fight and overcome challenges at the biggest stage in the world. How that comes into play in Brazil four years from now - provided the Americans qualify - remains to be seen, but the team should be able to draw confidence from their performance in South Africa no matter what.
This is by far the least experienced roster U.S. coach Bob Bradley has put together. The elder statesman of the group is Jonathan Bornstein, who has all of 35 caps. The average age is 24 - no player is more than 30 - and features a 17 year old in Juan Agudelo.
Defender Jonathan Bornstein is the most-capped on the present USA roster
This is not a bad thing. In fact, it's the best thing Bradley could have done. While the rigors of traveling to a far-flung locale and dealing with the enormity of such circumstances might seem like an obstacle, Bradley instead viewed it as the perfect way to introduce what could be the next wave of American talent. Players like Tim Ream, Gale Agbossoumonde and Agudelo could become key parts of the U.S. depth pool soon enough, and what better way to get them used to playing with the national team regularly than by taking them on such a long journey?
Unlike typical rosters, when perhaps one or two untested youngsters appear, this roster is filled with exciting prospects for the future. Agudelo left mouths gaping after his performance in New York's playoff match against San Jose and now has an instant opportunity to play on the big stage. The Colombian-born Agudelo is a veteran of the Under-17 Residency Program, has played 15 games for the U-17s and has seen time with the U-20s. He also became a professional recently, signing for New York earlier this year, and saw action in two regular-season games.
Juan Agudelo impressed in the MLS playoffs
South Africa News
After failing to advance to the knockout rounds of the World Cup, South Africa set its focus the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. Pitso Mosimane took over for Carlos Alberto Parreira after the World Cup and has compiled four points in two ACN qualifying games. The next test won't be until March when South Africa play Egypt.
Steven Pienaar leads a South African roster eager to make the home fans proud
The roster is strong, as 11 players from the World Cup roster were called into the game, including Siphiwe Tshabalala and Steven Pienaar. It also features five uncapped players, including former San Jose Earthquakes striker Davide Somma, now with Leeds United.
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