America and Cuba kick off CONCACAF Olympic qualifying in Nashville. The U.S. is the heavy favorite, but the only previous meetings of the U-23s ended in a draw.
|USA (4-3-3): Hamid; Sarkodie, Opara, Kitchen, Valentin; Diskerud, Okugo, Jeffrey; Shea, Agudelo, Adu.||
Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire).
Defenders: Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia Union).
Midfielders: Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Gent), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Michael Stephens (Los Angeles Galaxy).
Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Tony Taylor (Estoril).
|Cuba (4-4-2): Pichardo; Serrano, Zalazar, Rondon, Joseph; Juara, Ramirez, Lugo, Dominguez; Saez, Gonzalez.
Goalkeepers: Odisnel Despaigne, Julio Pichardo (La Tunas).
Defenders: Yoisel Zalazar (Camaguey), Jose Cardenas, Renay Serrano Malblanche (Holguin), Felix Rondon (Granma), Adrian Diz Pe (La Habana), Dayron Blanco Joseph (Las Tunas).
Midfielders: Yosmel Lugo, Osay Martinez Domenech (La Habana), Ricardo Pena Dominguez (La Habana), Jorge Juara (La Habana), Maikel Chang Ramirez (La Habana), Carlos Francisco Serrano (Santiago).
Forwards: Daniel Saez (La Habana), Aricheell Mora, Heviel Cordoves Gonzalez (La Habana), Maykel Azcuy.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- In the only meeting between these two teams in Olympic qualifying, they drew 1-1. Freddy Adu opened the scoring that day, March 11, 2008.
- Adu, captain of the U.S. team, scored four goals in 2008 Olympic qualifying. The Philadelphia Union attacker has 54 youth national team appearances in total: 15 with the U-17s, 33 with the U-20s and six with the U-23s. Including two senior national team strikes, Adu has 38 international goals in total.
Adu is one of four players in the U.S. roster to have played in both the U-17 and U-20 World Cups. The others are Jared Jeffrey, Brek Shea and Sheanon Williams. Thirteen players have appeared in at least one.
- MLS contributed 14 players to the U.S. roster. The six based outside the United States are Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Gent), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz), Tony Taylor (Estoril Praia) and Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund).
- Boyd only joined the group in Nashville, Tenn. on Wednesday. Even the Cuba team (Tuesday, March 20, less than 48 hours before kickoff) beat him there.
- Caleb Porter coached four players from this roster at the University of Akron, where he is still employed: Teal Bunbury, Perry Kitchen, Kofi Sarkodie and Zarek Valentin. Overall, Porter and Akron have shipped 14 players into MLS through the draft in the past five years. In 2010, Akron, under Porter, won its first national title in any sport.
- Two days after playing Cuba, the U.S. will take on Canada at the same venue, LP Field. A match against El Salvador on March 26 will round out Group A for the Americans. All games will be on the Universal Sports Network, Mun2 and CONCACAF.com.