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United States U-20 Soccer

U-20 World Cup Qualifying: A Close Look at the Roster

It's crunch time for Tab Ramos and the U.S. U-20 World Cup team, and Brian Sciaretta has plenty to say about the provisional roster—including his predictions on the 20 who will make the trip to Jamaica.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 30, 2014
11:30 AM
TAB RAMOS RECENTLY NAMED his preliminary 35-man roster for January’s U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament as well as a squad for a training camp currently in session in Florida. So we now have strong insight into the coach's views on his personnel six months ahead of the big dance in New Zealand.

Here are my thoughts on the roster.

Three Surprising Inclusions

There are no stunning inclusions on the 35-man roster in terms of quality. For the most part, Ramos selected a strong squad.

But it's very curious to note that Utrecht’s Rubio Rubin and Fulham’s Emerson Hyndham both made the roster despite being with their club’s first team. Since this tournament does not take place during a FIFA international window, clubs are not required to release their players. It would seem as a foregone conclusion that Hyndman and Rubin would not be released for the tournament—but perhaps there is a glimmer of hope for Ramos.

Odds are that Hyndman and Rubin will not be in Jamaica in January but perhaps either or both of them could make a surprise appearance for a part of the tournament.

Similarly, Erik Palmer-Brown has been recovering from a fractured foot and only began training in December. It qualifies as a surprise to see him on the preliminary roster and odds are against him being part of the qualifying team. But given how well he has played under Ramos in 2014, don’t be surprised to see him starting at the U-20 World Cup late next spring.

Two Disappointing Omissions

  • Boxi Yomba—the Georgia native surprised youth national team followers when he signed a deal with Atletico Madrid over the summer. Yomba, 18, only began playing with the U.S. under-20 team in November for a tournament in Spain, and he promptly scored two goals.

    As of now, it is unclear if Yomba was simply not released by Atletico or whether he is behind other players in the pool. Competition at the forward position is very intense right now with Paul Arriola, Bradford Jamieson IV, Amando Moreno, Alex Muyl, Andrija Novakovich, Rubin, Ben Spencer, and Tommy Thompson all making the cut, while midfielders Zach Pfeffer and Lynden Gooch are both capable of pushing forward.

  • Desevio Payne—the South Carolina-born Payne qualifies as a surprise primarily because he has not even been called up during this cycle. He has been making the matchday roster for Groningen most of December and he should make his Eredivisie debut soon after the winter break. Payne has repeatedly said that he would accept a call-up from the United States U-20 team despite being raised in the Netherlands. (He is a Dutch-American citizen.) Furthermore, neither of the fullback positions are particularly strong on this U.S. team and adding a talented right back like Payne probably should have been a priority for Ramos.

    Team strengths

    This team is built to attack and score goals. Unlike the senior national team, the U-20 team has the ability to attack effectively from wide positions with Romain Gall, Arriola, and Thompson—all of whom are full professionals. Gall has scored 13 goals for the under-20 team so far in his young career.

    There is also a nice mix of central midfielders who can possess the ball and spark the offense with creativity. Junior Flores and Joel Sonora have solid technical ability and Hyndman (who likely won’t be released for qualifying but will play at the World Cup if the U.S. advances) can be instrumental in possession.

    The forward position is also very deep. Spencer and Novakovich are physically big and quite skillful while Pfeffer has also had a strong cycle.

    Team weaknesses

    Among the 35 preliminary roster, there are currently holes along the backline that should be of concern. In central defense, Matt Miazga has been a mainstay but his lack of first-team for for the New York Red Bulls is not ideal. He will likely start in qualifying but who he partners with is up for grabs.

    Among the rest of the central defense on this team, it should be noted that the options are very young. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Palmer-Brown, and Tommy Redding are all on the 2015 roster and all are eligible for the 2017 U-20 World Cup as well. Despite the talent that all three players possess, there is a lot of youth in a position where experience is valued the most.

    At the fullback positions, Shaq Moore looks like a strong bet to get significant minutes at right back but he is currently without a club (despite some trials with top European clubs). Still, the two frontrunners at fullback, Moore and John Requejo, both lack professional experience—a scary situation for Ramos.

    From camp to qualifying

    The final pre-qualifying camp opened in Florida with 21 players, and at the conclusion of this camp the team will depart for Jamaica. It's a safe bet that this roster will be very close to the final qualifying roster. The only thing perhaps holding it up would be working out deals to arrange the release of players from their clubs. It's also a safe bet that if a domestic-based player is not part of the camp in Florida, it does not bode well for his chance to go to Jamaica for qualifying.

    Predicted U.S U-20 qualifying roster

    1) Ethan Horvath (Molde FK)
    2) Zack Steffen (SC Freiburg)

    3) Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham)
    4) Conor Donovan (N.C. State)
    5) Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls)
    6) Shaquell Moore (Unattached)
    7) John Requejo (Club Tijuana)
    8) Tyler Turner (Orlando City)

    9) Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas)
    10) Fernando Arce (Club Tijuana)
    11) Russell Canouse (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim)
    12) Marco Delgado (Toronto FC)
    13) Junior Flores (Borussia Dortmund)
    14) Romain Gall (Columbus Crew)
    15) Lynden Gooch (Sunderland)

    16) Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana)
    17) Bradford Jamieson IV (Los Angeles Galaxy)
    18) Andrija Novakovich (Reading FC)
    19) Ben Spencer (Indy Eleven)
    20) Tommy Thompson (San Jose Earthquakes)

    What do you think of the provisional roster, and Brian's predicted lineup for qualification? Like the United States' chances? Tell us below.

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