[SCOUTING REPORT] It's been more than 20 years since the USA has lost a game in Olympic men's qualifying to a team other than Mexico with a berth still at stake.
The Americans will be heavily favored in Group A of the 2008 CONCACAF
qualifying tournament that begins Tuesday in Tampa.
A first-place finish in the group will set up a date against the
runner-up from Group B with an Olympic berth on the line March 20 at
Nashville's LP Field.
Here's a look at Group A opponents Cuba, Honduras and Panama.
CUBA. Cuba hasn't played in the Olympic finals since 1980 when it took the USA's place following
President Jimmy Carter's decision to boycott the Moscow Games.
Enrique Villaurrutia, who represented Cuba at the 2007 Gold Cup, joins Cienfuegos teammates Alexis Carrazana and Yordanis Alvarez in the midfield that Coach Raul Gonzalez is expected to start against the USA Tuesday night in Tampa.
Cuba, which clinched a berth in the final round of qualifying with wins over host Trinidad & Tobago (3-0) and Grenada (2-1) in their Caribbean qualifying group, had a busy schedule of friendly games before it headed to Tampa. It split a two-game series with Haiti, lost and tied against Guyana's senior
national team, tied Guatemala and lost to a traveling French police
Goalkeepers: Jose Miranda
(Matanzas), Arael Arguelles (Cienfuegos).
Defenders: Yenier Bermudez
(Cienfuegos), Raicel Mezquia (Pinar del Rio), Juan Carlos Martinez
(Villa Clara), Loannys Cartaya (Ciudad de la Habana), Yendri Diaz
(Matanzas), Erlys Garcia (Ciudad de la Habana).
Villaurrutia (Cienfuegos), Alexis Carrazana (Cienfuegos), Yordanis
Alvarez (Cienfuegos), Alianni Urgelles (Guantanamo), Eder Roldan
(Ciudad de la Habana), Livan Vasconcelos (Matanzas).
Forwards: Leonel Duarte (Ciego
de Avila), Yasnier Rosales (Granma), Roberto Linares (Villa Clara),
Luis Alberto Villegas (Villa Clara).
HONDURAS. Honduras last
qualified for the Olympics in 2000 when it won the
qualifying tournament in Hershey, Pa.
The Catrachos, who won their Central American qualification group,
feature Ramon Nunez, a product
of the U.S. ODP system now playing for
Olimpia after stints with FC Dallas and Chivas USA in MLS.
Other key players in Colombian Alexis
Mendoza's squad include defender Erick Norales and midfielder Hendry Thomas, both members of the Catrachos' senior national
Goalkeepers: Kevin Hernandez
(Victoria), Obed Enamorado (Vida), Levon Smitt (Arsenal).
Defenders: Quiarol Arzu
(Platense), Misael Ruiz (Platense), Rigoberto
Padilla (Hispano), David Molina (Motagua), Erick Norales (Marathon),
Arnold Solorzano (Savio).
Midfielders: Daniel Alvarez
(Marathon), Ramon Nunez (Olimpia), Irvin Reyna (Olimpia), Oscar Morales
(Real Espana), Mario Martinez (Real Espana), Marvin
Sanchez (Platense), Hendry Thomas
(Olimpia), Georgie Welcome (no club).
Bernerdez (Motagua), Luis Alberto Lopez (Marathon), Jose Cesar Guity
PANAMA. Alexandre Guimaraes coached Costa
Rica at two World Cups. Now he will attempt to lead Panama to the
Olympics for the first time.
Panama earned the last berth in the U-23 finals when it beat Costa Rica
in a shootout after their Central American playoff ended in a 1-1 tie
The Canaleros, who will be making their third consecutive appearance in
the final round of the CONCACAF U-23 championship, are led by two-time
Gold Cup veteran Ramon Torres.
Roman is one of six foreign-based players in Panama's squad along with forward Gabriel Torres, his teammate at Colombia's La Equidad, midfielders Nelson Barahona of
Uruguay's Fenix, Anibal Godoy of Argentina's Arsenal and Carlos
Rodriguez of Uruguay's Defensor and forward Edwin Aguilar of Mexico's
Calderon (Chepo), Gilmar Torres (Alianza),
Guillermo Murillo (Chepo).
Defenders: Roman Torres (La
Equidad-Colombia), Adolfo Machado (Alianza),
Reinaldo Anderson (Arabe Unido), Rolando Algandona (San
Francisco), Erick Vasquez (Chorrillo), Jean Carlos Cedeno
Barahona (Fenix-Uruguay), Eduardo
Jimenez (San Francisco), Cristian Vega (Plaza Amador), Manuel
Bonilla (Chorrillo), Anibal Godoy
(Arsenal-Argentina), Juan de Gracia (Chepo), Reggie Arosemena (Tauro),
Carlos Rodriguez (Defensor Sporting-Uruguay).
Forwards: Gabriel Torres (La
Equidad-Colombia), Edwin Aguilar
(Coastzacoalcos-Mexico), Alberto Quintero (Chorrillo).