When we look back on the U.S. men's Olympic team's performance at these Olympic Games there will be moments that stand out in our mind, from Stuart Holden's game winner against Japan and Sacha Kljestan's beautiful run and finish against the Netherlands to Michael Orozco's costly elbow and red card. Along with the moments, these Olympic Games will also be remembered for being key moments in the careers of several young American standouts.
Some players made the most of the experience, showing the tools and fortitude to develop into U.S. national team staples. Some players weren't as fortunate, leaving China without having lived up to expectations.
Here is a rundown of which players improved their stock and which players saw their stock drop:
Marvell Wynne -- When he first entered Major League Soccer, Wynne was considered a raw prospect with world-class speed and athleticism but poor technical ability. His touch and positioning still aren't top class but have improved tremendously, and it showed in the Olympics, as he was the U.S. team's best defender. Wynne's marauding runs forward were impressive to watch, and though many ended up in turnovers, the promise he showed both on defense and in the attack, left American fans counting the days until he is ready to take over the national team's right back position from veteran Steve Cherundolo.
Maurice Edu -- Known as a skillful but tough defensive midfielder by trade, Edu was deployed in central defense during the Olympics and showed poise and bite as if he'd played the position for years. He did have some lapses, particularly in the Nigeria game when he got caught in no-man's-land on Nigeria's first goal, but he was solid in one-on-one battles and was even able to get forward on occasion. Edu did enough to convince Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers to make a $5 million move for him, making Edu potentially the first MLS player from the Olympic team to move via transfer since the Games.
Charlie Davies and Dax McCarty -- So how do two players who only played in the second half of the final game make this list? They make it because they both stepped up and played extremely well in their lone appearance in the tournament, leaving observers to wonder just how they might have done if given more time. Davies provided speed and ability in the air, threatening Nigeria's defense and coming within a crossbar of heading in a shock equalizer. That chance came courtesy of a perfect pass from McCarty, who was composed on the ball and very clean with his passes. While both players are well off the senior national team radar, they showed enough in their brief appearances at the Olympics to keep their names in the conversation going forward.
Robbie Rogers -- No player drew more mixed reviews than Rogers, who seemed to enamor some with his ability to make speedy runs down the wing. The only problem with most of Rogers' runs was that they often wound up in turnovers or failed crosses. Rogers' inability to beat defenders rendered the left flank virtually invisible in the U.S. attack, which in turn left Brian McBride starving for service. His performance added credence to the notion that just because you can dominate MLS doesn't mean you will do so on the international level.
Michael Orozco -- Orozco's elbow and red card will go down in infamy and will brand him an unreliable player. Orozco struggled in the Olympics, but much of the blame for that falls on the fact that he was playing out of position. He played better against the Dutch, but never did look comfortable as a left back (he's normally a center back). His play in the first two matches may wind up being forgotten, with "The Elbow" being the legacy he carries until he can redeem himself on the senior national team. Just when that next chance comes remains to be seen. It could be a long time before we see him in a U.S. national team uniform.
Jozy Altidore -- Altidore doesn't make this category for his play so much as for the missed opportunity to add to his growing reputation as the U.S. national team's top prospect. An ankle injury limited him to just one start, a 45-minute appearance against Nigeria, but when he did play he showed glimpses of his goal-scoring threat. He scored the second goal against the Netherlands, but never had enough of a chance to dominate play. He will have plenty of opportunities to boost his stock even further, but the 2008 Olympics has to be seen as a lost opportunity for Altidore to shine.
Brian McBride -- When McBride was named to the Olympic squad, there was a sense that the veteran striker could lead the U.S. attack. Ultimately, he never did look like a good fit with this U.S. team. With poor, and in many cases no service coming from the flanks, McBride was reduced to dropping deep and trying to work with the central midfield rather than spending time being dangerous in the box. If the Olympics did anything, it provided the Chicago Fire with a blueprint of how not to play with McBride. While most of McBride's Olympic struggles were the fault of the team around him, his performance in China still diminishes some of the buzz surrounding his impending return to MLS.
Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He is a writer and columnist for the Herald News (N.J.) and writes a blog, Soccer By Ives. He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.