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Benny and the Nats

United's training session in Salt Lake City was wrapping up this evening when Ben Olsen wandered over to talk about his selection to the national team for Copa America.

"I am honored. It's another great opportunity for a great soccer experience in my career...."

That's when the wily Fred, the Brazilian with the perpetual smile, stopped by for a listen.

My next question for Benny was a no-brainer.

So will the U.S. beat Brazil in the championship game?

Olsen: "Brazil is the easy part."

Said Fred: "Come on, man!"

First things first for Benny and the Nats down in Venezuela: Argentina.

"I think it's a pretty impressive roster for Argentina," he said, failing badly to hide a smile.

Do you really think you have a chance?

"Of course!"

Why?

"Because soccer is a game where the underdog can beat a team that has big-time players. We have a small amount of time to become a cohesive unit, but I'm sure Bob and Piotr will get us on the same page and put together a game plan."

Olsen will fly home with United on Sunday morning, pick up luggage and a passport, head to Chicago that night, then travel with the national team to Venezuela on Monday.

For some Argentine insight from Facundo Erpen, please read below:

"Benny is making jokes about Messi and how fast he is, but all you can do is watch his number when he runs by you," Erpen offered within earshot of Olsen.

"No, I think he knows how important the Copa America is."

Does the U.S. have any chance?

"I would have to say 50-50."

50-50??? Facundo, my poor, twisted friend!

"Yeah, because it's Copa America and you never what the game is going to be like, but they have a lot of great players on their list so I think it will be Argentina. They've got their biggest players, so it's going to be good to watch."

Not that Erpen will be able to watch the match live. United plays at almost the same time Thursday night.

I'm hoping to share Copa predictions from the Argentines (Erpen and Gomez) and the Brazilians (Fred and Emilio) early next week.

By Steve Goff  |  June 22, 2007; 8:38 PM ET
Categories:  U.S. men's national team  
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Next: Saturday in the Park

Comments

Why didn't Bob at least select Landon Donovan?

Posted by: 12th man | June 22, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

because LA needs to get some steam before beckham arrives....

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Why? So he can miss strike two?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2007 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Lan-don, Lan-don...that guy is the worst. It will be fun to see how we look without Landon mucking things up and impersonating Nomar Hamciaparra.

On the other hand, ARG 4, USA 1...more possible than I want to admit...

Posted by: Cakes | June 22, 2007 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Lan-don, Lan-don...that guy is the worst. It will be fun to see how we look without Landon mucking things up and impersonating Nomar Hamciaparra.

On the other hand, ARG 4, USA 1...more possible than I want to admit...

Posted by: Cakes | June 22, 2007 11:41 PM | Report abuse

all hail steven goff

Posted by: brian | June 23, 2007 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Cakes, what in the world gives you the idea that we have the capability to score against Argentina?

While I do think some people are being more defeatist than they should be, the thought of us beating Argentina with this roster, especially down in South America.

On the other hand, our U20 team gave them all they wanted a few weeks ago, so I'm excited to see how the lads play in Canada.

Posted by: Kyle | June 23, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

No offense Kyle, but US youth teams through the U20 age actually do very well in international tournaments . It's not until the ages when players get out of the youth system and start playing professionally that the U.S. hasn't fared as well. Argentine players start professionally younger than US players, then the good players get plucked from the Argentine league and play in the best leagues in Europe. The level of competion causes the good to get better, and the not so good to wash out back to Argentinian teams. Look at the national team roster of Argentina, and notice how few players actually play in Argentina, and the ones who do play for the top teams. (Brazil is basically the same)

This US team is probably equivalent to our second string (or maybe third). It has some mature players like Olsen to give it balance, but it's full of young players with some potential who are on the bubble for future call-ups. If they produce in this tournament, they'll be given more looks. If not then they've at least had a shot. The older players like Olsen are being recognized for their contribution to the game in this country.

Our first team has better prospects with that Argentinian squad. This team, not so much. Player identification and development is more the goal of this trip. You actually want the young guys like Bobby Boswell to get matched up against a Messi to see how they fair. Is he able to play smarter to make up for his lack of speed? How does a Benny Feilhaber look against a Riquelme? You expect to see flashes of brilliance, but not to necessarily get the results the first team might achieve. Any result that this group gets probably reflects much more poorly on the opponent than on this group who has never played together.

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | June 23, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Any close game is a good game in this tournament.

Although our defense is nothing to sneeze at. It's our scoring abilities that worry me.

Posted by: Viv | June 23, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

When did he shift back to Piotr? I can't keep up with this blog. Hey Goff, remember the Nanchov to Nanchoff switch back in Cleveland during the Cold War?

Posted by: gringo | June 23, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

One reason that a bunch of stars are missing is that the clubs are not required to release players for this tournament. USSF can ask, but if MLS or the Euro club says no, USSF has to find someone else. So if MLS and the Gals decided that Landon was staying home then there's nothing Bradley can do about it.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 23, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

"One reason that a bunch of stars are missing is that the clubs are not required to release players for this tournament. USSF can ask, but if MLS or the Euro club says no, USSF has to find someone else."

In an earlier thread, someone alleged that MLS has been most accommodating to the USMNT, even overruling clubs if necessary (which it can do, as the players are under contract to MLS, not their clubs). Goff, can you confirm this?

Posted by: Go Penn State! | June 24, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

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