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U.S. U-20 Men's National Team

U-20 World Cup Preview: News, Notes, Name Drops

Thanks to a talented player pool and a very favorable draw, Tab Ramos' U-20 men's national team will be expected to deliver results in New Zealand. But who will make the squad?
BY Josh Deaver Posted
May 01, 2015
11:15 AM

LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN! In less than a month, the United States under-20 men’s national team will line up against Myanmar in its opening match of the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

The trip to the other side of the planet represents the culmination of nearly two years of work. Since this cycle’s first training camp in November 2013, head coach Tab Ramos has called 77 players and led the U-20s to an impressive 18-5-4 record in all competitions, a string of results which includes tournament wins and a shaky, albeit, successful CONCACAF qualifying run.

In recent months Ramos has seen his player pool expand thanks to some zero-hour additions. With around 30 players on his mind, Ramos must make the difficult decision in the coming weeks to pare down his roster to the magic number—21.

Last week, Ramos wrapped his team’s final training camp in Austria before final World Cup preparations begin in earnest. The squad, which included a strong mix of familiar faces and new additions, grabbed two confidence-building results: a 1-0 win over Croatia and a 2-2 comeback draw with fellow-World Cup participant Qatar.

Against Qatar, the Americans opened the scoring in the 22nd minute after an ankle-breaking juke by Tijuana’s Amando Moreno freed him up at the top of the box to slot the game’s opening goal. Despite a U.S.-dominated first half, Qatar evened up shortly after the intermission when an ill-advised foul from Shaq Moore inside the box drew a penalty. The Americans would concede again with a quarter-hour remaining, setting up a wild finish which saw Moore atone by delivering an assist to Orlando City defender Conor Donovan, who equalized in the 84th minute.

Lining up against Croatia on Saturday, the Americans were stalemated by a steadfast defensive performance which managed to repel a strong U.S. effort for most of the match—including a first-half penalty try from Maki Tall. The breakthrough finally came in the 66th minute when Columbus Crew’s Romain Gall latched on to pass from Zack Pfeffer and fired home his effort from the top of the box. With the strike, Gall, who shared Golden Boot honors at the CONCACAF Championships, now has 13 goals this cycle, more than double his next closest teammate.


GOALKEEPERS: Zack Steffen (SC Freiburg), Jeff Caldwell (University of Virginia), Ethan Horvath (Molde)

DEFENDERS: John Requejo, Jr. (Tijuana), Shaquell Moore (Unattached), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting KC), Jordan Allen (Real Salt Lake)

MIDFIELDERS: Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Russell Canouse (Hoffenheim), Romain Gall (Columbus Crew), Joel Sonora (Boca Juniors), Zack Pfeffer (Philadelphia Union), Lynden Gooch (AFC Sunderland), Amando Moreno (Tijuana), Junior Flores (Borussia Dortmund)

FORWARDS: Andrija Novakovich (Reading), Rubio Rubin (FC Utrecht), Tommy Thompson (San Jose Earthquakes), Paul Arriola (Tijuana)

As in 2013, there could still be some last-gasp surprises from Ramos. By all accounts both Freiburg’s Ethan Sonis and Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan impressed in this camp, but with an already crowded and talent-rich midfield, it’s anyone’s guess if they'll make the cut.

Roldan, however, isn’t sweating the decision. “I think I was there for a reason,” said Roldan, who started and played 65 minutes in the win over Croatia. “[It’s] not just because I’m doing well right now, but because I think it’s a possibility. I didn’t get too much feedback, but I also didn’t want to know too much about it and where I stand, because I don’t want to be let down if I don’t make it.”

Forward Ben Spencer, who recently completed a loan move to Toronto FC II, will also be waiting by the phone. The U-20s' second-leading scorer has only been called up twice in the last 12 months but hopes his recent move for playing time may swing Ramos’ decision.

 “If I’m playing and doing well and scoring goals then I have a better chance of getting called up, so it definitely plays into it,” Spencer commented recently.

On the defensive side, regular minutes and first-team experience for Groningen’s Desevio Payne as well as Orlando City’s duo of Tyler Turner and Conor Donovan could prove vital.

Up top, the choices are plentiful: the aforementioned Spencer, the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Bradford Jameison IV, Atletico Madrid’s Dembakwi Yomba, and the newly introduced former French youth striker Maki Tall will look to make it a competition.

For Ramos, the choices will not be easy. Boasting a roster far superior to the 2013 iteration in terms of professional experience—and a favorable draw to boot—the Americans will have designs on advancing past the group stage for the first time since 2007. In all honesty, anything else would be an abysmal failure.


U.S. U-18 midfielder Abuchi Obinwa, who signed with German side Hannover in January, made his first appearance for the Bundesliga club earlier this month. On Sunday, Obinwa entered as a 62nd-minute sub for the club’s U-19 side in a 3-1 win over Holstein Kiel.

Although he’s been away from the U-20s, Reading forward Andrija Novakovich has been on fire for the club’s reserve squads in recent months—a hot streak which led to his first-team debut early last week. On Saturday, Novakovich was back with the Reading reserves, where he scored his second consecutive goal in a 3-0 win over Stoke City.

After a brutal 18-month string of injuries, Marc Pelosi made his official return to the Liverpool reserves with two substitute appearances in recent weeks. Pelosi returned against Leicester City on April 13, playing 30 minutes in a 3-1 loss. Three days later, the 20-year-old lined up against Tottenham, playing the final 28 minutes of a 3-1 win. Although he did not play on Thursday against Everton, manager Michael Beale says Pelosi is “ready now.” Pelosi has also been in training with the first team this week.

U.S. under-17 standout Luca de la Torre made his second consecutive reserve team appearance for Fulham on Tuesday, playing the final 23 minutes and assisting on the club’s only goal in a 4-1 loss to Manchester United.

Similar to Novakovich at Reading, West Ham’s Djair Parfitt-Williams has made a seamless transition to the Hammer’s reserve squad, starting five of the last six matches and drawing high praise. On Friday, the former San Jose Earthquakes academy product played 90 minutes and delivered an assist in a 2-1 win over Manchester City.

The news is not so good for teammate Sebastian Lletget. All but out the door at the transfer window—rumors recently put him in MLS—the 23-year-old has not featured for the club since January.

Fresh off scoring for the U-23s in a 3-0 win over Mexico, Mario Rodriguez made a quick return to Borussia Monchengladbach II on Tuesday, getting the start and playing 71 minutes in a 3-1 loss to Rodinghausen. Even with the loss, ‘Gladbach remain top of the table the Regionalliga West.

It’s been a long few weeks for Chelsea’s Kyle Scott. Bounced between the U-18s (league and FA Youth Cup), U-19s (UEFA Youth League), and the U-21 reserves, Scott has been mostly an unused sub for the Blues. He did add a few trophies to his mantle, however, as Chelsea triumphed in both the UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup in recent weeks.


  • Despite not featuring in the semifinal, Tijuana loanee Esteban “Stevie” Rodriguez will see his current club, Dorados de Sinaloa, battle Atletico San Luis in the Ascenso MX Grand Final. The first leg begins on Saturday.

  • U-20 World Cup hopeful Russell Canouse pulled double duty this week for Hoffenheim, making two starts in respective 1-0 wins over FC Homburg and Astoria-Walldorf.

  • German Regionalliga side Zweibrucken look destined for relegation. On Saturday, the club lost its 14th consecutive match. Recent U-23 goalkeeper call-up Tyler Miller conceded five goals in a loss to Wormatia Worms.

  • On Saturday, Paul Arriola got the start for Tijuana's U-20s, playing 77 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Toluca. Arriola has four goals in 11 appearances this season for the Xolos.

  • Gedion Zelalem got the start and played 90 minutes for Arsenal's U-21 side in a 3-0 loss to West Brom on Tuesday. Still waiting…
  • Hype Train rolls on! Who knows what Jurgen Klopp’s departure from Borussia Dortmund means in the long run, but Christian Pulisic is still really good. Highlights start at the 4:30 mark, here.

ASN Contributing Editor Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter.

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