Americans in awe of Pienaar

The United States football team, currently in Cape Town preparing for Wednesday night’s Nelson Mandela Challenge clash, seemingly know very little about their opponents, but the names of Steven Pienaar and Siphiwe Tshabalala are on their lips ahead of their showdown in Green Point.

The US tourists worked out late on Monday in windy conditions at the refurbished Athlone Stadium where head coach Bob Bradley put his relatively inexperienced 18-man squad through their paces.

The tour party includes six uncapped players and only five from the country’s 2010 World Cup squad. Bradley did not call up first-choice players based in Europe and none from country’s leading clubs such as Galaxy, FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids or San Jose Earthquakes, as all these teams are contesting play-offs in the MLS Cup competition.

The 24-year-old West Ham United defender Jonathan Spector, with 27 national team appearances, is the second highest capped player in the squad. He expects Pienaar to be at the forefront of Bafana Bafana’s match-day challenge.

He said: “One player we know of is Steven Pienaar.
He’s the most recognisable player in the South African team and he’s very attacking. He’s done well in England (with Everton) and for the South African national team.

“We don’t know too much about South Africa’s other players but we are still confident for the match on Wednesday.”

Only one player
The Togo-born Gale Agbossoumonde plays for Estoril Praia FC in Portugal and after watching Bafana Bafana on television during the 2010 World Cup he remembers only one player - Siphiwe Tshabalala.

“That Tshabalala has a shot, and I saw his great goal in the opening 2010 match,” said Agbossoumonde, adding that he was unlikely to make his debut on Wednesday. “If I look back at our training session I don’t think I am going to get a chance to play but I must be patient.”

Tim Ream of the New York Red Bulls is a teammate of Athlone-born Danleigh Borman, the son of the former South African Football Federation star, Daniel ‘Dot’ Borman.

The 23-year-old Ream, like Agbossoumonde, is also uncapped. Last season he was a MLS Rookie of the Year finalist.

“All I know is what I’ve heard from Danleigh and he told me the South African squad is a strong one,” said Ream. “It’s hard for me to say what people can expect from our squad because I’ve only been around the team for two days now.”

Mikkel Diskerud, a 20 year-old striker, plays for Oslo-based club Stabek and has also played for Norway’s under-20 team as well as the US’ under-20 team, said his call-up was unexpected.

“Look I’m very happy but I did not expect the call-up,” said Diskerud. “It’s something that I had hoped for and it’s an honour for me.”—Sapa

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