Opara joins U.S. U-23s ahead of Olympic qualifying tournament

Quakes defender Ike Opara will be in Nashville as the U.S. tries to qualify for the 2012 Games

Ike Opara vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Photo Credit: 
John Todd / ISIPhotos.net

SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Jose Earthquakes defender Ike Opara was among 19 players named to the final United States U-23 camp roster on Monday ahead of next week’s CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying. Head coach Caleb Porter will put his team through final preparations with a Group A opener against Cuba (6 p.m. PT, Universal Sports Network / Telemundo) slated for March 22 in Nashville, Tenn.

Opara wore the captain’s armband in wins against FC Dallas (2-1, Feb. 22) and Mexico (2-0, Feb. 29) during his previous U.S. U-23 camp from Feb. 19-29. He is no stranger to international competition having started each of the United States’ three matches at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt. The Durham, N.C. native was taken No. 3 overall by San Jose in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. Opara has scored three goals in 19 appearances during his first two seasons with the club.

“Obviously, our mission is to qualify for the 2012 summer Olympics and this roster is a culmination of a long process to select what we feel is the best team this country has to offer in the U-23 age group,” said Porter. “For the past four training camps we have been comprehensively evaluating the most talented personnel available from an extensive player pool comprised of professional players on clubs in this country and abroad.  We always keep in mind its most important to find the best mix collectively so that we can build a cohesive team capable of accomplishing our goal. I feel very confident in this collection of players and their ability to execute the playing style we believe will best represent their talents and get us to London.”

The U.S. was drawn into Group A of the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament along with Cuba, Canada and El Salvador. Following their match against Cuba, the Americans will face Canada at 4 p.m. on March 24 and El Salvador on March 26 at 6 p.m. Each of those games will be televised on NBC’s Universal Sports Network and Telemundo and will be played at Nashville’s LP Field.

Should the U.S. advance, it will play the second of two semifinal matches on Saturday, March 31. The all-important match to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics will be played at 6 p.m. at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., and will be televised live on NBC Sports Network. The match will re-air at 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 1, on Universal Sports Network.

The winner from each semifinal will face each other in the championship game, both having earned a berth to London. The tournament final will also be played in Kansas City and will air live on Universal Sports at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 2.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for these young players to get valuable experience in international competition and ultimately qualify for the 2012 Olympics," said U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. "Playing the Olympic Games is a once in a lifetime chance, and we are fully supporting their efforts to qualify. Some of these players will continue their international careers on the senior team in the future, and these situations allow them the chance to grow individually and experience the ups and downs national teams go through, which is so important for their development."

Every match during the qualifying tournament will also be streamed live on CONCACAF.com.

Group B consists of Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago and all matches will be played at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Doubleheader events involving these four teams will be held March 23, 25 and 27. 

The two finalists from the tournament will qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer.

ROSTER BY POSITION

GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C. United; Annandale, Va.), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire; Lilburn, Ga.)

DEFENDERS (6): Josh Gatt (Molde; Plymouth, Mich.), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United; Indianapolis, Ind.), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes; Durham, N.C.), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo; Huber Heights, Ohio), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact; Lancaster, Pa.), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA; Anaheim, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Freddy Adu (Philadelphia Union; Potomac, Md.), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Mix Diskerud (Gent; Oslo, Norway), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz; Richardson, Texas), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union; Sacramento, Calif.), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy; Naperville, Ill.)

FORWARDS (5): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls; Barnegat, N.J.), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund; Berlin, Germany), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City; Prior Lake, Minn.), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim: Silver Spring, Md.), Brek Shea (FC Dallas; Bryan, Texas)

Coach: Caleb Porter