The US Under-20 (U-20) Men’s team started their CONCACAF U-20 Title defense by going 5-0 in the first stage of qualification. This year’s CONCACAF U-20 World Cup Qualifying is vastly different from previous iterations. In a nutshell, the US, Mexico, Honduras and other quality teams would usually get a bye into the second round but this year they do not. Hence, the US played 5 games against drastically sub-par competition (Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname). We out scored that competition 39 – 2. For those 5 games we had a B/C team. You have to realize that our best players under the age of 20 are already playing for the senior team (Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent, Jonathan Amon, and Timothy Weah) so they won’t be called into these tournaments as they are generally considered “developmental” tournaments.
I’m going to quickly review the individual performances across the five games, because tactics were barely a thing in such wide-open games.
Name POSITION (Current Club/Former MLS Academy if applicable)
Players who played well:
- Alex Mendez CM (SC Freiburg/LA Galaxy) – When Mendez was on the field he was the hub of our offense. Playing centrally he was slipping in through balls and combining well with other attackers. Didn’t see him do a ton defensively but there also wasn’t much to do defensively.
- Ulysses Llanez LW (Unattached/LA Galaxy) – Playing on the left wing, Llanez was the best player offensively. He used his speed to stretch the field and get behind defenses. Has a deft first touch and he can ping in a final ball with the best of them.
- Servania DM (FC Dallas) – Servania was great at collecting the ball in the middle of the pitch and distributing it wide. Still needs to work on his physicality but that should come with age.
- Paxton Pomykal AM (FC Dallas) – Combined well in the final third to create chances for other players. Also put away a few goals of his own. Mostly played on the left wing.
- Justin Rennicks ST (Indiana University/New England Revolution) – finished off many chances and combined well with midfielders mentioned above.
- Chris Gloster LB (Hannover 96/New York Red Bulls) – was sound defensively, winning many headers and muscling other players off the ball. Also added to the attack from time to time in meaningful ways.
- Brady Scott GK (FC Koln) – Wasn’t asked to do much but made good saves when he needed to.
Players who played okay:
- Juan Pablo Torres CM/DM (Lokoren) – Did a good job of collecting the ball, and a decent job distributing it as a deep-lying midfielder but struggled in one-on-one challenges
- Frankie Amaya CAM (UCLA) – Played well in the final third combining with other attackers but played poorly in the midfield/in the build-up.
- Anthony Fontana CM (Philadelphia Union) – Was non-existent when playing deeper in the midfield but effective when playing further up the pitch.
- For almost all of our defenders the story is “The competition was so bad that they weren’t really challenged”. Here are those that fit under this category and other notes I had.
- Samuel Rogers CB (Seattle Sounders) – I didn’t see any errors from Rogers
- Mattew Real LB/CB (Philadelphia Union) – Showed some flexibility playing LB and CB, also captained the team for some games
- Jaylin Lindsey RB (Sporting KC) – Similar to Gloster but was at fault on one goal, and committed a few more fouls in bad spots.
- Mark McKenzie CB (Philadelphia Union) – Had at least one bad challenge in an early game but played well in the last game.
- David Ochoa GK (Real Salt Lake) – Only played one game
- Manny Perez RB (NC State) – Didn’t do anything to hurt himself.
Players who did not impress
- Julian Araujo RB (LA Galaxy) – Only played in one game and committed two fouls in dangerous positions. He is one of the youngest guys on the roster so perhaps he will improve over time.
- Ayo Akinola ST (Toronto FC) – Got into good positions but had a rough first touch and struggled to put easy balls into the back of the net.
- Isaac Angking CM (New England Revolution) – Played in a few games but didn’t touch the ball much and didn’t do anything spectacular when he got the ball.
- Griffin Dorsey RW (Indiana University) – Played on the wing and did nothing besides send in hopeful crosses. Bit of a one trick pony.
Now that these 5 games are over, the US can call-in six more players for the final qualification stage. The U-20 coach Tab Ramos elected to only bring in three new players. These are Tab’s three newcomers:
- Sebastian Soto ST (Hannover 96/Real Salt Lake) – A forward who’s been ripping it up for Hannover’s B team. He’s gotta beat out Bobby Wood for a starting spot on that team which shouldn’t be impossible.
- Sergino Dest RB (AFC Ajax) – Has started playing for Ajax’s B team in the Dutch second division at right back.
- Chris Richards CB (On loan at Bayern Munich from FC Dallas) – a center back that Bayern like enough to keep him around. Enough said.
The above three additions are replacing the below three players who left camp this past weekend:
- Anthony Fontana
- Issac Angking
- Griffin Dorsey
Next up the above group will take on Costa Rica (on Friday Nov 16th at 7:30 PM) and Honduras (Monday Nov 19th at 8 PM) in the Qualification Stage in a round robin style. The top two out of these three teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup, along with two of Mexico, Panama, and El Salvador. The top team from each of these two groups will move on to a final to determine the CONCACAF U-20 Champion. The final will be played on Nov. 21st. All of the matches will be streamed for free online at CONCACAF’s website.
Here’s the starting XI I’d expect to see going forward:
Dest – Richards – Rogers – Gloster
Servania – Mendez – Torres
Pomykal – Soto – Llanez
Tab Ramos’ line-ups have looked like a 4-3-3 to me but we were also attacking a lot more in these early games. It could slip pack into a more defensive 4-5-1 in the upcoming games. It’s also worth noting that this is still a B team at best. Even without the senior national team guys, this roster is still missing Richie Ledezma (Real Salt Lake), Chris Durkin (DC United), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United), CJ Dos Santos (Benfica), George Acosta (Boca Juniors), and maybe some others.
Check back here after Nov 21st for my thoughts on the US’s final two or three games!