A few days ago, Matt Miazga did fans of the New York Red Bulls a favor by picking up two yellow cards against Orlando City and thereby triggering a two-game suspension in MLS. The suspension won't start until Miazga returns from international duty, but it does mean there is no way the defender can be of any service to his club for the duration of the Olympic qualifying tournament.
If the USA gets knocked out early (October 6 marks the final game for the teams in Group A of this competition), Miazga won't be available for RBNY until October 18. If the USA gets through to the final round of the tournament (October 13), Miazga won't be available for RBNY until October 25.
Either way, he's missing every MLS game through RBNY's October 14 clash with Toronto FC, so RBNY fans need suffer no conflict in rooting for Miazga and the US U23s to claim a berth in the 2016 Olympic men's soccer tournament. Unless you're a Canadian RBNY fan. Or Cuban. Or Panamanian. Or from one of the countries the USA might face in the knockout stage of the competition - because the USA is expected to get that far at least.
Meeting those expectations starts by beating Canada in the opening game. The Canadian squad includes Samuel Piette, a midfielder with 19 senior international caps, currently on Deportivo La Coruna's books. Michael Petrasso - attached to QPR and loaned around most of England over the last couple of years - is also one to watch.
But the bulk of the Canada squad is best classified as emerging talent. Home advantage and higher-level pro experience makes the USA team the on-paper favorite for this game (and, indeed, to win the group). There are several established MLS starters on the American roster, including RBNY's Miazga, San Jose's Fatai Alashe, and Columbus Crew's Wil Trapp.
But perhaps the most intriguing prospects on the team are those with some of the least professional experience: Jordan Morris is still in college, but already has six caps and a goal for USMNT; Gedion Zelalem has been working his way through Arsenal's youth system and was loaned to Rangers this season to start gathering senior professional experience; Cameron Carter-Vickers is a 17-year-old defender on Tottenham Hotspur's books who has effectively just graduated from the USA's U-20 player pool.
And, as was recently revealed, Zack Steffen. The young 'keeper has been a regular this year for the USA U-20s. More recently, he's been playing for SC Freiburg's reserve team. He is expected to back up Evan Horvath - Norwegian top-flight club Molde's starting 'keeper at the moment - in Olympic Qualifying. But Horvath isn't expected to join the U-23s for a while yet:
Molde's GK Ethan Horvath will not join U.S. U-23s until the FIFA window - leaving Zack Steffen as starter for at least first 2 games— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) September 30, 2015
So Steffen looks likely to be the man asked to protect the USA's goal for a couple of games at least.
It will be a surprise if the USA doesn't start its Olympic qualifying campaign with a win, but the short time these U-23 squads have to find chemistry and form - and the slightly unsettling news of late changes to the squad out of the US camp (Eric Miller was somewhat controversially dropped from the roster at the eleventh hour) - is fertile ground for upsets.
USA vs Canada
When: 9:00 pm, Eastern; Thursday, October 1
Where: Sporting Park, Kansas City
TV: NBC Universo
Online: NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra
Update: There's a Canadian option you should know about.
We're happy to confirm that all #canM23 Olympic Qualifying matches will be boradcast on @TLNTV & streamed via http://t.co/zGmEem0wLh.— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) September 30, 2015