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Missing players are undercutting U.S. Olympic effort

Italy US Soccer

US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, left, congratulates with US forward Jozy Altidore who is leaving the field during a friendly soccer match between Italy and USA, at the Genoa Luigi Ferraris stadium, Italy, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012.USA won 1-0. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)


The United States could sure us a little more zip, zing and “ka-pow!” at striker right now. Probably in few other areas of the field, too, as the Olympic quest hangs in the balance.

But Jozy Altidore isn’t showing up tonight at LP Field.

How nice would it be if the top U.S. striking choice on the full national team could appear tonight for Caleb Porter’s under-23 team on the brink? Altidore is age eligible, after all.

But clubs are under no obligation to release players for Olympic qualifiers. That’s a stark contrast to World Cup qualifiers, which generally fall on designated “FIFA fixture dates.” So it rarely becomes an issue for world soccer’s quadrennial showcase.

FIFA doesn’t take the Olympic tournament as seriously. Hence, the United States was never free to field its tip-top talent during CONCACAF qualifying – instead relying on its best-available.

Perhaps it was so much whistling past the graveyard, but U.S. Soccer officials hoped none of this would become an issue. The hope was always that Porter’s U.S. side could cruise through qualifying with some degree of comfort, then up-armor with added reinforcements from European clubs for the actual London games.

And it may yet end up that way. But if it doesn’t, the second guessing will begin at this incomplete roster, and what (if anything) could have helped stitch up the imperfections.

Who else would appear on this most-desired list, alongside Altidore? Fullback Tim Chandler and midfielder Danny Williams would almost surely be starting tonight but for important roles (and therefore their lack of availability) for Bundesliga clubs.

Wouldn’t Alfredo Morales’ passing and composure in midfield look pretty good tonight at LP Field, and (perhaps) this weekend in Kansas City? He started in the recent win over Mexico (in a friendly in Dallas) but wasn’t released from Hertha Berlin for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.

And don’t forget that right back Josh Gatt was in the U.S. camp originally in Nashville, but was recalled by his Norwegian club after a series of injuries there.

Paul Kennedy has more on a U.S. roster that he suspects was a little thinner than everyone originally suspected in this Soccer America piece.