Defender Matt Miazga (pictured) is a rising star for the United States and is expected to play a key role in its 2015 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship campaign. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, Kansas – The United States is considered a possible favorite in the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship – and head coach Andreas Herzog likes it that way.
“The boys look really sharp and in a good shape so I’m really excited and very optimistic to qualify for Rio next year,” he said in a conference call Wednesday. “Obviously it’s not easy. We know last cycle we didn’t qualify, so we have to do a good job right from the first minute to start with a win against Canada.”
A positive start in the first game of Group A against Canada at Sporting Park on Thursday night is absolutely critical to the success Herzog expects.
“Like in every tournament, the first game is huge because if you win the game and you have a really good game the whole group gets a lot of confidence and it’s better for the team spirit,” the former Austria international expressed. “It makes it much more easier for the next couple of games. We have to be focused right from the beginning to start with a great energy and with our quality. We have a lot of technical players so expect a lot from them.”
Herzog called in several players who competed in this year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup, including central defender Matt Miazga, a regular starter with the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer.
“Even though he is two years younger than most of the other players, of course his physical play, his size and power and for his power he’s very mobile. That’s what I like about him and he’s very good with his feet,” Herzog noted. “I think he’s one of the most talented center backs in the U.S.”
Miazga, who Herzog believes will have a future with the men’s national team in the “next couple of months,” will likely again be partnered with 17-year-old Cameron Carter-Vickers.
“Carter-Vickers is very young, but he’s very impressive with his style of play and with his personality,” Herzog said.
The same is true of midfielders Gedion Zelalem (18), on loan with Scotland’s Rangers from Arsenal, and Emerson Hyndman (19) of Fulham
“They’re really young but they are really, really good,” Herzog finished. “I would be stupid if I do not take them because I see a lot of potential in them.”