The Americans arrive in Egypt with a side devoid of big-name stars like Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, who all participated at Canada 2007 but have since graduated to the senior national side. What they lack in name-brand recognition, they more than make up for in up-and-coming talent, woven together into a fearsome fighting unit by veteran boss Thomas Rongen.
The USA were among the favourites heading into the 2009 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in March in Trinidad and Tobago, and they did that reputation no harm by not conceding a single goal over the course of their three group games and semi-final with the hosts. After A 3-0 hammering of Jamaica, they drew Honduras 0-0 and defeated El Salvador 2-0. They kept the form going in the semi-final, where they held T&T to a goalless draw before winning out in a penalty shoot-out. The final, though, proved a bridge too far as the Americans near record-breaking defence let them down in a 3-0 loss to Costa Rica.
Thomas Rongen knows something about winning. He has manned the helm at MLS outfits Tampa Bay Mutiny (1996), New England Revolution (1997-8) and D.C. United (1999-2001) where he became the coach with the most number of victories (82) to his name in MLS history. The Dutchman, whose last pro stint was with Chivas USA in 2005 - was selected as MLS coach of the year in 1996, and won an MLS Cup with DC United in 1999. As coach of the American side at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in UAE in 2003, Rongen steered a side led by Bobby Convey and 14-year-old Freddy Adu to the quarter-finals. With a playing career that spans Ajax Amsterdam and the now-defunct North American Soccer League (NASL), Rongen is hoping to take the US at least to the quarter-finals, where he led them at Canada 2007
The United States have an outstanding goalkeeper in UCLA Bruin Brian Perk. The blond-headed teenager saved twice against T&T from the spot during qualifying and kept clean sheets in four straight games. Also, Rongen can rely on Hertha Berlin product Bryan Arguez and FC Dallas defender Anthony Wallace to make a fighting fist of the US side in Egypt
What they said...
"Getting to Egypt was our primary goal, we reached that and to reach a final is a very good accomplishment for a team that came together in a very short amount of time. We did some very good things, and I think this team will represent us well in Egypt," USA coach Thomas Rongen, after finishing second in CONCACAF qualifying.