Jason Kreis: 'This is a tremendous opportunity for us to really put a flag down'

Jason Kreis says he and his players on the U.S. under-23 men's national team are very well aware of the USA's recent history in Olympic qualifying in men's soccer.

“They look at these past couple cycles as a failure,” the U-23 head coach said in a conference call with the media on Monday. “We want to correct that. It is a chance to have positive rhetoric around the men’s side of U.S. soccer right now.”

The USA failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and before that missed out on the Olympics in 2004 before qualifying for the last time in 2008.

The USA got down to work on Monday on preparing for the Concacaf Olympic Men's Qualifying Championship March 20 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Group A schedule:
March 20 vs. Costa Rica (7 p.m. ET; FS2, TUDN)
March 23 vs. Dominican Republic (7 p.m. ET; FS1, TUDN)
March 26 vs. Mexico (11 p.m. ET; FS1, TUDN)

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to really put a flag down and say we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

Most but not all of Kreis' 20 picks are in Guadalajara, site of the 2004 qualifying tournament, where the USA lost out on a berth in the Athens Olympics when it fell to Mexico, 4-0. Not all the players Kreis sought releases for were made available.

"I'm not going to talk about individual players," he said of the players not released. "but I think it's important to state the facts.  Of course, there are clubs around the world and in MLS who denied requests for players. We always knew that was going to happen, it's happened in every single window and every trip. It is what it is."

Clubs aren't required to release players for age-group competitions like the Olympics and Olympic qualifying. Complicating matters, Concacaf qualifying extends outside the March FIFA window. The U-23 players will unavailable for up to two weekends of league play to take into account training and the March 20 opener.

(Reggie Cannon and Paxton Pomykal will remain with FC Dallas for its match on Saturday against NYCFC, while Sebastian Saucedo, who plays for UNAM in Mexico, will join the U.S. U-23s when Mexico U-23s are released after play in Liga MX this weekend.)

Atlanta United, for one, did not release U-23 candidates Miles Robinson and Brooks Lennon because of its Concacaf Champions League commitments on Wednesday and a week later.

"We're extremely happy with the squad we resembled," Kreis said. "We have real quality, depth, versatility and experience to accomplish our objectives. We're very focused on the group that we have, we're not thinking about the players who weren't able to be selected."

GOALKEEPERS (3):
Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union)
JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (6):
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas, 11 caps)
Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake)
Chris Gloster (PSV/NED)
Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake)
Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union, 1 cap)
Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Wien/AUT, 2 caps)

MIDFIELDERS (6):
Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union, 1 cap)
Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United)
Richard Ledezma (PSV/NED)
Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire, 5 caps, 1 goal)
Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas, 1 cap)
Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes, 7 caps)

FORWARDS (5):
Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers, 1 cap)
Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas, 1 cap)
Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids, 6 caps)
Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg/GER, 1 cap, 1 goal)
Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM/MEX)

Photo: Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire

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