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Youth Highlights USMNT Roster For Argentina, Paraguay Friendlies

With the United States set to play friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay in just over a week, head coach Bob Bradley announced the team's roster for the two matches on Wednesday and it is highlighted by the youngsters on it. The March 26 match against Argentina at New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey and March 29 match against Paraguay at LP Field in Nashville will be the final tune-ups for the U.S. before this summer's Gold Cup, and the roster very much reflects a team getting ready for its confederation's championship tournament.

Of the 24 players named to the roster, 16 were on the 2010 World Cup team, and six are 23 years old or younger. Three players - Timothy Chandler, David Yelldell and Zak Whitbread - enter the matches having never been capped by the U.S.

Goalkeepers: Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton), David Yelldell (MSV Duisburg)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Jonathan Bornstein (UNAL Tigres), Timothy Chandler (FC Nurnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Zak Whitbreak (Norwich City)

Midfielders: Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Mikkel Diskeruud (Stabaek), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (Bursapor), Edson Buddle (FC Ingolstadt) 

Of the young players, Chandler's inclusion is the most notable. Born in Germany to a German mother and American father, the 20-year-old Chandler is eligible to play for either the United States or Germany. Now that he is playing somewhat regularly for the German Bundesliga side Nurnberg, Chandler will get his first U.S. cap if Bradley chooses to play him against Argentina or Paraguay. If he does play, it will not cap-tie him (because both matches are friendlies, not competitive matches), but it appears as if he has chosen which country to play for. 

Also noteworthy for Chandler is that he is listed as a defender. A right-sided player, Chandler has played both right back and right midfield for Nurnberg, but he is a decidedly more attacking player that what the U.S. usually has along the back line. His inclusion as a defender could be seen as an indicator of Bradley's attempts to continuing playing a more possession and attack-oriented style.

Joining Chandler as new (or somewhat new) youngsters are Agudelo, Ream and Diskeruud. All three played with the U.S. against South Africa in November and Chile in January, but the Argentina and Paraguay matches will be the first time they are with the United States' top team.

The inclusion of Agudelo on the roster also represents a bit of a change in the selection process of Bradley. Last cycle the young striker who was pegged as the next big thing was Altidore, but Bradley brought him along slowly. This time, despite coming off of a bit of an injury and being 18 years old, Bradley has included Agudelo on the roster, a show of faith in the youngster.

Sticking with forwards, Buddle making the roster is a bit of a surprise considering he is 29 years old and not a likely candidate for the 2014 World Cup. The only other older players on the roster not expected to be in contention in 2014 are long-time veterans like Carlos Bocanegra or Steve Cherundolo, something that Buddle is not. However, the U.S. is as devoid of strikers as they were two years ago, and there aren't many options beyond Buddle. Bradley almost did not have a choice.

With Buddle on the roster, Teal Bunbury is not. Another younger player whose only two caps for the U.S. were against South Africa and Chile, Bunbury made an impression as one of the brighter young American strikers with the ability to contribute to a degree despite his inexperience. The problem for Bunbury is an elbow injury that has kept him out for most of Sporting Kansas City's training camp and while it appears as if he will be fit by the time the friendlies come around, he will not be in the best of shape.

Also missing from the roster are DaMarcus Beasley and Alejandro Bedoya. While omitting Beasley seems like an obvious decision, omitting both Beasley and Bedoya is a little bit strange because it leaves the team without a true winger. Bedoya appeared to be making a run at a substitute winger role, but despite a training stint with Birmingham City, he is not on the roster. That leaves Feilhaber, Diskeruud, Holden, Dempsey and Donovan as wide opens, but all are naturally central players and would rarely be considered wingers.

In all, it appears as if Bradley is using the matches as true tune-ups for the Gold Cup. He isn't taking a look at too many new players and those he is taking a look at have either played with the team before or are playing in a top flight league. The only exceptions are Whitbread and Yelldell, neither of whom is expected to play heavy minutes in the friendlies. 

How the U.S. lines up in the friendlies will likely tell a lot about how the U.S. intends to play this June. If Ream starts and plays heavy minutes then it will be a strong indication that he has secured a starting spot for the summer, and whether Diskeruud plays centrally or wide will tell where Bradley sees his immediate national team future. Similarly, how Bob Bradley makes use of Michael Bradley, Jones, Edu and Holden in the center of the midfield will tell a lot about his plans going into the summer.

The team will convene in Cary, North Carolina on March 20 for a training camp before heading to New Jersey for the Argentina match. There are no guarantees that all 24 players will travel to New Jersey though and some may play in only the Argentina match, only the Paraguay match or in neither.