U.S. U-20 National Team
Playmaker Junior Flores Seeks Redemption in U-20s
Still stinging from his team's failure to qualify for the U-17 World Cup in 2013, the Virginia native and Borussia Dortmund youth player is determined to qualify for this summer's U-20 World Cup.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedJUNIOR FLORES REMEMBERS what it was like to miss out on the U-17 World Cup in 2013. He doesn't want to feel that way again. “The 17s were tough on all of us,” Flores recalled. “We were devastated." So as the United States U-20 team prepares for the World Cup qualifying tournament, set to open Friday against Guatemala (TIME/Fox Sports 2), Flores is focused on erasing the bad feelings that still linger and creating a new narrative for his national team age group. “People don’t want to leave that situation like it was,” he told American Soccer Now from Jamaica, where the tournament is being held. “People are going to keep their head up and keep working hard. Most people I’ve known for a long time, and the people from the U-17s who missed out, we want to bring it with the U-20s." Flores was not a key player on that 2013 squad but he is expected to be this time around. After the U-17 disappointment, Flores joined the youth academy at Borussia Dortmund, one of Germany’s biggest clubs. He has developed quickly in that environment, and U-20 coach Tab Ramos has rewarded the Virginia native by giving him playmaking responsibilities on the U-20 team. The squad has its flaws, but it also features a number of quick players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet—players who relish the opportunity to attack defenders in 1v1 situations. CLICK HERE TO CREATE YOUR U.S. U-20 STARTING XI In addition to Flores, Paul Arriola, Tommy Thompson, and Romain Gall will all be counted on to score goals and create chances. Flores, a staple of U.S. youth national teams for years, is encouraged by the professional nature of his teammates. “We have a lot of great attacking players,” Flores said. “One of the things I like about this team is that everybody is playing at a high level—in MLS or many of us are in Europe. I believe that everyone has the experience, especially playing with youth national teams. Everybody is really excited for qualifying and to see what we can do for qualifying. I think this group will do really well.” Ramos agrees with Flores' assessment. "Overall, this is a group made up mostly with professional players, and that's a strength," Ramos said. "At the same time, I feel we have enough talent in this group, in particular in midfield, where we could have selected a number of different players who could have played those positions, who are all very technical on the ball, who all can chase and cover ground." Ramos, a former playmaking midfielder for the United States national team, knows what he's talking about and has worked closely with Flores during this World Cup cycle. And Ramos is not the only former U.S. national team player to coach Flores. At Dortmund, the U-23 team (the reserve team) is coached by German-American David Wagner, who played for the U.S. national team under Steve Sampson. The environment at Dortmund on Wagner’s U-23 team is intense and Flores is one of the youngest players who trains at that squad on a regular basis. His playing minutes still primarily come at Dortmund’s U-19 team. “Competition is always high,” Flores said at Dortmund. “At big clubs, everyone always wants to show what they’ve got—especially younger players. Coming from the Dortmund system, you can see it. Everybody is always working hard, especially on the second team, where I am training every day. "Training is always hard and intense with people going hard. The lineup can change like that. You never know what can happen. That’s why everyone is flying.” Now in Jamaica, Flores plans to use everything he has learned in the last two years to help write a new chapter for himself and his teammates. Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.
January 08, 2015
January 08, 2015