Sciaretta's Scouting Report

Boxi Yomba, 18, Scores Two In First Two U.S. Matches

Eighteen-year-old Boxi Yomba, an Atletico Madrid youth player, is off to a strong start to his U.S. under-20 career, scoring two goals in his first two matches for Tab Ramos' club.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 17, 2014
5:21 PM
THE UNITED STATES U-20 TEAM defeated Ireland 1-0 on Saturday, securing wins in its first two games of the Marbella Cup in Spain. The match provided yet another valuable learning experience for Tab Ramos' young American team, which has enjoyed a very strong 2014.

Fresh off a wild 4-3 win over Russia in the opening game, Ramos made several changes to his starting lineup against Ireland. The game’s only goal came in the 13th minute when Boxi Yomba took advantage of a defensive mistake to give the Yanks the victory.

The play began when U.S. national team midfielder Emerson Hyndman pressured Ireland’s left back, who then attempted to make a pass back to his goalkeeper Daniel Rodgers. The pass was poor and Yomba was able to intercept it and beat Rodgers on a shot.

“At the beginning of the game, Tab wanted us at times to hold off and stand our guard a little bit to see what they had,” Yomba said of the play. “At about 10 minutes into the game, we started to realize that their back four wasn’t so sure with their feet. Emerson pressured the left back hard and he tried to make a back pass to the keeper. I read it and intercepted the pass. Then it was just me and the keeper.

"I buried it.”

“We were better team but the way Ireland played didn’t allow us to express ourselves the way we wanted to,” Yomba added. “They never gave up. Even when we would break them down, they wouldn’t lose their shape or their structure. It was frustrating at times.”

This is Yomba's first U-20 camp and he is hoping to use the opportunity to make a case to be a late inclusion on the World Cup qualifying roster this January. In the opening game of the Marabella Cup, the Georgia native scored a crucial penalty against Russia and his goal against Ireland was his second of the tournament.

Yomba made headlines over the summer when he signed on as a youth player with Atletico Madrid. (He currently plays for the prestigious club’s U-19 and U-20 age groups.) While he is ambitious, he recalls how difficult the adjustment period has been since he arrived in Spain. He believes that the Spanish coaches are eager to work with American players but some of his teammates are still skeptical of Americans.

Yomba, 18, was also caught off-guard by the intensity of the training and competition.

“I figured since I lived a year away from my family when I was 15 that it wouldn’t be that big of a transition,” Yomba said. “I got there and it was a complete shock with the way youth players think about football. The culture was something that was just completely unexpected. Luckily, I got in there and I fit in well with the coaches. That made it a bit easier.”

“The hardest thing would be the mentality of the training," he continued. "Training is just as big as a game. You could be a player that scores five, six, or seven goals in a match but if you aren’t playing well in training, there is someone just as good as you who is training well and the coach, without hesitation, will put that person in.

"So it’s just a constant battle in training. Being in an academy in the states, I was always one of the best players on the field. You can have that inch to slack off. Here, you don’t have that inch. You have to put all of your heart into every training session.”

Since Yomba only turned 18 in September—which cleared him to play abroad—he is only months into his adjustment period. He has had conversations with Atletico’s coaches and he has been informed that they are happy with his development but are still giving him time to adjust.

So far this season Yomba has had training sessions with Atletico’s first team and by the end of the year his goal is to be seeing regular minutes with the reserve team. He knows that it will be tough given that many players of his age group are also making strong cases to get promoted within the club’s system.

But he is determined to stick it out.

For the U.S. U-20 team, Yomba also understands that competition for roster spaces is also very, very tight. This is his initial U.S. camp but on his first day head coach Tab Ramos informed the entire team that there were also 10-12 players who were not called up but who were also in the mix for World Cup qualifying roster spots.

Yomba can play either left wing or center forward and that is where the U.S. U-20 team is deepest. The players he is competing with are already professionals and have impressed in previous camps. Rubio Rubin, Paul Arriola, Tommy Thompson, Ben Specner, Romain Gall, Andrija Novakovich, Zach Pfeffer, Amando Moreno, and Lynden Gooch will compete with Yomba to make the U-20 team which is 4-0-2 in international play and 10-1-2 overall (including club opponents) in 2014.

So far, Yomba has impressed with two goals in two games.

“I thought he did well,” Kellyn Acosta said. “In the previous game he came in and scored a penalty for us which was big for us. I’m excited for him and hopefully he keeps on that pace and keeps scoring.”

Despite the competition to make the roster, Yomba is excited to be part of this generation of American players who he believes will turn heads next summer in New Zealand at theU-20 World Cup. He has seen a high level of play at Atletico among his age group and he believes this American team compares well.

“A lot of our players are in a professional environment and I think it’s a much different U-20 team than most people would expect,” Yomba said. “Most people, when they see our roster next summer, will be like, 'Wow, the USA is really coming with strong players.’”

“It is later in the cycle so I am just trying to make a just trying to make a final push a month and a half out from qualifying and maybe write my name on the roster,” he concluded. “At the end of the day, I enjoy being on the team and I enjoy being coached by Tab. He motivates me 24/7, every time and every touch—even if it is a bad touch or a bad finish. That’s the most important part for me.”

Yomba will try to put an exclamation point on his U.S. debut on Tuesday when the US U-20 team will take on Canada.

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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