Kreis: U.S. U-23 side can ‘put a flag down’ for USMNT

2020 Olympics
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U.S. U-23 men’s national team head coach Jason Kreis says his team has the potential to fuel the full national team into the right direction at a time it could really use a boost.’

The United States men have not qualified for the Olympics since 2008, and many view those failures as an obstacle in the mental development of the USMNT.

“It’s incredibly important,” Kreis said ahead of qualifying in Mexico. “It’s something that we want to correct and we want to correct it together. It’s a tremendous opportunity that stands in front of us, and a chance for us to have a positive rhetoric on the men’s side of U.S. Soccer.”

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In Kreis, the U.S. Olympic team has a leader who’s turned out 14 times for the full national team and appreciates the import of the Summer Games.

Given the brutal failure of the USMNT to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and the wealth of potential in the talent pool, Kreis says his men can deliver an invaluable experience on the road to the program’s success.

“There’s been a lot of doubting in the past two years, where the men’s side of the full national team and where we are going with all this,” Kreis told ProSoccerTalk. “I look at this group of young players and I’m really excited. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to put a flag down and say we are going in a positive direction.”

[ MORE: U.S. U-23 roster ]

Kreis also revealed that his side will friendly Haiti before CONCACAF Olympic qualifying begins versus Costa Rica on March 20. The U.S. will also face Mexico and the Dominican Republic in a tricky group.

The top two teams from each group make the semifinals, and the finalists earn automatic spots in Tokyo this summer.

Other notes:

  • Kreis said he’s not too bothered by European and MLS clubs who would not release players to his team: “There are clubs around the world and MLS that deny, but we knew that was going to happen. It is what it is. We are extremely happy with the squad we assembled.”
  • The goalkeeper pool of Matt Freese, JT Marcinkowski, and David Ochoa has a wide-open competition ahead of itself: “It’s a real interesting one and probably our most difficult decision.”
  • On Wolfsburg youngster Uly Llanez, “He made our roster through being in the January camp. We see a player who can help us in a number of areas,” Kreis said of Llanez.
  • San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill has taken a “mega step forward” and Kreis sees “his potential as top top.”