Tough U.S. bursting with talent

2007-11-17 00:00

THE U.S.A.'s participation in the Nelson Mandela Challenge against Bafana Bafana at Ellis Park today serves as part of coach Bob Bradley's efforts to build a competitive team, and as a fact-finding mission ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

And, with some of the burgeoning young talent in their ranks the U.S., perennial qualifiers for the World Cup, will feel they stand a real chance of making an impact in 2010.

Two 18-year-olds, in particular, stand out for the U.S.A. as huge talents for the future and forwards Freddy Adu and Josmer Altidore seem likely to be in action at Ellis Park, either from the bench or as substitutes.

In 2004, at 14, Ghanaian-born Adu became the youngest athlete in over 100 years to sign a professional contract in America in any team sport when he joined DC United, where he won the Major League Soccer Cup that year. After playing for DC for three years and then Real Salt Lake last season, Adu signed for Portuguese giants Benfica in July.

Adu is the only player to have scored a hat-trick in both the under-17 and under-20 Fifa world championships. He scored a hat-trick in the U.S.A.'s 6-1 group stages win over Poland in the U20 championships in June/July, then set up both of Altidore's goals in the 2-1 victory over Brazil as America finished top of their group.

The U.S.A. went on to beat Uruguay 2-1 in the last-16, then lost 2-1 to Austria in extra time in the quarter-finals. Altidore scored four goals in the finals and Adu three.

Both players were included in the U.S. senior team on the back of their U20 triumph. Altidore, of the New York Red Bulls, received his first call-up three days after his 18th birthday on November 9. Adu has two senior caps for the U.S.A.

With the injury to the U.S.'s top goalscorer, Landon Donovan - a team-mate of David Beckham at the LA Galaxy - Altidore is sure to play some role today either as a substitute or alongside Fulham striker Clint Dempsey.

Everton and former Manchester United goalkeeper Tim Howard, Fulham defender Carlos Bocanegra, West Ham defender Jonathan Spector, and midfielders Benny Feilhaber of Derby County and DaMarcus Beasley of Glasgow Rangers form an experienced core.

Bradley has, overall, had a good first year in charge since taking over from Bruce Arena, who guided the U.S. to two World Cup finals. America defended their Concacaf Gold Cup title in June, beating Mexico 2-1 in the final. They were less successful in the America's Cup, losing all three group stage matches, but the U.S.'s 18th world ranking signifies that they are a top-classed side.

The U.S. are a well-organised team who play structured, if uninspiring football, though that did not stop them walloping Bafana 4-0 in the only previous meeting between the two teams at the RF Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington in June 2000.

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