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Position-by-position: US' U-23 camp

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Ives Galarcep

Ives Galarcep is a 14-year veteran of the American soccer beat. He created and operates the popular American soccer blog, Soccer By Ives, which was voted Best American Soccer Blog by US Soccer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Ives was also voted Best Football Writer by SoccerLens in 2010. 
 

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Caleb Porter’s first camp as US Under-23 national team coach has been a competitive one - a productive one for the talented group under his command. There have been some impressive performances put in by some of the players you would expect, but also some pleasant surprises from players lower on the depth chart.

Here is a look at how how the players have looked in the early days of the U-23 camp in Florida:

Thinking 2012

The men's Olympic soccer tournament at London 2012 will feature the U-23 teams of 16 nations, with each squad allowed three overage players. The United States will start their road to London on March 22 in Nashville, where they will vie with Canada, Cuba and El Salvador for two spots in the next stage: the elimination round. There four teams will play for the region's two spots in the 2012 Summer Olympic games.

Goalkeepers

Bill Hamid (D.C. United) looks like the starter at this point, but the battle is fierce as both Zac MacMath (Philadelphia Union) and Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) are worthy competitors and both have been sharp. All three are capable of starting and have their unique strengths, but right now Hamid looks to be the front-runner for the starting job. David Bingham (San Jose) is a solid prospect as well but falls a notch below the pack.

Defenders

Gale Agbossoumonde (Eintracht Frankfurt) looks like the best centerback of the bunch, though questions remain about his lack of playing time on the club level. College teammates Sebastien Ibeagha and Andrew Wenger (both Duke) have shown good qualities in central defense as well, with Ibeagha looking particularly strong (which makes you wonder if he will be turning pro soon). Wenger has some very good qualities, but at times you see the effects of him not having played as a defender in either of his past two college seasons. Royal-Dominique Fennell (Stuttgarter Kickers) hasn’t gotten off to a good start in camp, losing ground in the battle for central defender spots.

At fullback, Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia) and Zarek Valentin (Montreal) both look very solid, while Kofi Sarkodie’s lack of playing time in Houston in 2011 could be hurting him in the battle at right back. Valentin has shown an ability to play at left back as well. Jorge Villafana (Chivas USA) is the lone natural left back in the group.

Midfielders

There are a plethora of options at the central midfield spots, and several players have impressed early on in camp. Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew) has followed up a strong performance at the recent Generation adidas tour of the Netherlands with another good showing so far in camp. Sebastian Lletget (West Ham United) has also shown some real quality on the ball and has been one of the most impressive passers in camp.

Mikkel Diskerud (Staeback) and Joey Corona (Club Tijuana) had both had good moments playing in the attacking midfield role, though Diskerud didn’t always look comfortable in the high-pressuring system. Kelyn Rowe (UCLA) has shown some flashes, though he remains a long-shot to break through this loaded group.

On the defensive midfield front, Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia) looks very strong, a good tackler who keeps the ball moving. Bryan Arguez (Montreal) has been one of the truly pleasant surprises. Showing a good passing touch and an ability to cover ground well and read the game. He has even seen some time at centerback, a position that currently lacks depth.

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Jared Jeffrey (Mainz) is a highly-skilled central midfield option with the kind of versatility Caleb Porter likes. Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy) played well in Sunday’s intra-squad scrimmage, but is facing a stacked field for a central midfield roster spot.

Forwards

Terrance Boyd (Borussia Dortmund) has looked like the class of the forward pool through two U-23 camps. His combination of strength, size and shooting ability make him a good bet to make the Olympic qualifying squad. Andrew Wooten (Kaiserslautern) has also impressed, scoring a good goal in Sunday’s intra-squad game and playing well in training. Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City) has looked rusty, which is clearly a product of missing recent camps and tours the other MLS-based players have taken part in to keep up fitness-wise with the European-based contingent. He’s still one of the top contenders for the forward roster spots, though.

Speedy winger Joe Gyau (TSG Hoffenheim) has been the most impressive of the wide forward options and arguably the most impressive player in the camp. Freddy Adu’s ability on the ball is clearly on another level, and he has shown the versatility to play either wide forward role or the attacking midfielder role in the 4-3-3.

Jack McInerney (Philadelphia) and Danny Cruz (Houston) both showed good hustle and high work rates working the wings, with McInerney looking particularly comfortable in the 4-3-3 system.

Jann George (Nuremberg) has an awkward running style, but he has some pace and is a smart player. Will Bruin (Houston) scored a goal in Sunday’s intra-squad scrimmage, working at the right forward slot, but he faces an uphill battle to make the team.

Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the US National Team.

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