U.S. Soccer

Five Things to Know About 2017 SheBelieves Cup

From March 1-7, 2017, U.S. Soccer will host the second annual SheBelieves Cup, the most elite four-team international women’s soccer tournament of the year. Three doubleheaders will be staged in the northeast region of the United States as we welcome back three of the best teams in the world: Germany, France and England. Here are five things to know about this year’s SheBelieves Cup.

Top of the FIFA Rankings
The participants of the SheBelieves Cup – just like last year – make up four of the top five ranked women’s national soccer teams in the world. The USA, the reigning World Cup champions, sit atop the rankings followed by current Olympic champions Germany. France is third and England is fifth. 

Those Elusive Goals
In last year’s SheBelieves Cup, the USA defeated England and France by 1-0 scores and downed Germany, 2-1, in the de facto championship game to take the inaugural tournament title. Germany finished second, England was third and France was fourth. In fact, none of of the games were decided by more than one goal with the results coming down to three 1-0 victories, two 2-1 victories and one 0-0 draw. Even though the USA only scored a total of four goals in the three games during the tournament, the quality made up for the quantity, providing plenty of excitement and thrilling games. Scoring important goals on the biggest of stages can define a player or a team and that was proven out as three of the four goals the USA scored in the tournament finished ranked in the top five of the WNT’s Top 10 Goals of 2016.

Dunn vs. England
Against England, Crystal Dunn scored the game-winning goal with a perfect shot to the upper 90. After a competitive first half, Dunn came in as a substitute in the 67th minute and in the 72nd minute, Meghan Klingenberg did some nice work on the ball to the left of the penalty area, then slipped a pass between two England defenders to Dunn, who took two touches into the left corner of the box and ripped a shot into the top right corner for an incredible finish to propel the USA to a 1-0 U.S. victory.

Morgan vs. France
Few things are more exciting than scoring a game-winning goal in second half stoppage time and Morgan electrified the crowd of 25,363 fans in Nashville when she did exactly that. Against France in a game that been a display of excellent soccer for 90 minutes, Mallory Pugh brought the ball down at midfield, took a few touches as she sprinted forward and then played Morgan in behind the defense with a perfectly-weighted pass. She out-sprinted her defender and cut her left-footed shot into the lower right corner from just inside the penalty area for a slick game-winning finish at 90+1.

Morgan vs. Germany
Voted as U.S. Soccer’s Best Goal of 2016, the game-tying score against Germany brought the USA back into the game after an early strike from Anja Mittag had given the European champions the lead in the de facto SheBelieves Cup final. In the 35th minute, Meghan Klingenberg evaded a defender near midfield and lofted a ball over the top of the German defense down the left side into the path of the sprinting Morgan. She let the ball bounce twice, as she muscled out a first defender, before deftly lifting it over Saskia Bartusiak with her left foot and ripping a right-footed shot into the net in two fluid steps. 

Schedule Format and How to Watch
The tournament format will be the same as last year as the four teams will each participate in three doubleheader events at three different venues over a seven-day period. The USA's match vs. Germany will kick off at 7 p.m. ET on FS1; USA vs. England will be televised at 5 p.m. ET on the main FOX network, and USA vs. France will be live at 7 p.m. ET on FS1.

Replacing Algarve Cup
Before the SheBelieves Cup was established in 2016, the U.S. WNT’s early year competition for most of the last 20 years included the Algarve Cup in Portugal. A 10-time champion of the tournament, the Algarve Cup is an important part of the history of the program, but for 2016, U.S. Soccer the decisions to develop its own tournament where the best female soccer players in the world would come to test their mettle in a four-team, seven-day tournament.

The SheBelieves Cup then replaced the Algarve Cup for the WNT, while providing a chance for soccer fans in the Unites States to watch the bests teams in the world on U.S. soil. 

The Best Players in the World
Probably the most exciting prospect of the SheBelieves Cup, not only for teams and players but also for fans in the United States, is that the tournament provides the opportunity to watch some of the most talented women’s players on the planet. 

France's Eugine le Sommer at the inaugural SheBeleives Cup.

This doesn’t just include the 2015 and 2016 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year in Carli Lloyd, or the speedy and technical Tobin Heath, but also forward Eugenie Le Sommer and midfielder Amandine Henry; Germany forwards Alexandra Popp and Anja Mittag and England defender Stephanie Houghton and attacking Karen Carney – all considered among the best in the world at their respective positions -- just to name a few. 

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WNT Feb 19, 2017

Steve Cherundolo Celebrates Half a Lifetime in Hannover

If you’re sitting back on Steve Cherundolo’s birthday and asking yourself, “I wonder where that guy is?”, rest assured he’s spending his birthday in the exact same place he’s been the past 19 years.

Dubbed the “Mayor of Hannover” thanks to playing the entirety of his 15-year career with German side Hannover 96, the three-time World Cup veteran MNT defender retired in 2014 as the club’s leader in Bundesliga appearances with 300. When he finally hung up his boots, he moved immediately into Die Roten’s management ranks, where he began as an assistant in the club’s academy.

“I’m working towards earning my [UEFA PRO] coaching licenses here in Germany and am currently the head coach of the U-17 Academy team,” Cherundolo told ussoccer.com this week. “I’m just trying to get as much experience as I can, at as many levels as I can.”

The Hannover 96 U-17 Academy Team with head coach Steve Cherundolo (pictured far left)

While most of his management experience has come at the youth level, the former Hannover captain did take a short stint as a first-team assistant in April of 2015. He temporarily joined newly named head coach Michael Frontzeck’s staff as the club rallied to stay up in the Bundesliga that season.

“That was a great experience, a successful one where we ended up staying in the top division. That was fun, that was good and then I decided to go on my own route. I wanted to coach my own team and to do my own things, so then I started with the Under-17s and this is my second season. I’m enjoying it a lot."

A mainstay at right back for much of his time with the MNT, Cherundolo is one of only 17 U.S. players all-time to be part of three or more FIFA World Cup rosters. A near automatic choice at right back for three different National Team coaches, Cherundolo’s 87 career caps surely would have pushed passed 100 if he spent even a few years of his club career stateside.

Steve Cherundolo celebrates a goal for Hannover against Wolfsburg in October 2004

Instead, the San Diego native continues to be a rarity in the game’s modern era, happily continuing his reign as a “one club man” with Hannover.

“It’s not something you envision. I think every young American, every soccer player who starts somewhere at a club hopes that they have a long career and certainly that was something I was able to achieve. That was great, but I had no idea I’d spend my entire career here in Hannover. It just seemed to work out that every contract extension it seemed to be the right decision for both the club and myself. I’m fortunate it did work out that way as a player, and it’s continued now for me as a coach.”

While his main focus is towards helping develop young talent for Hannover, Cherundolo says he still keeps tabs on the only other team he’s played for, and praised the recent hiring of Bruce Arena as MNT head coach.

Steve Cherundolo and Landon Donovan stand for the National Anthem ahead of the USA's 2010 World Cup match vs. Slovenia

“From my standpoint, he’s the right guy for the job,” Cherundolo said about the man that handed him his MNT debut in 1999. “Bruce brings a ton of experience, and as a player I was able to learn an unbelievable amount about always being competitive not only on game day, but in training as well.”

Part of Arena’s rosters at the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups, Cherundolo said the veteran manager’s ability to motivate players combined with his knack for fielding a starting XI that gives his team the best chance to win has made Arena the most successful coach in MNT history.

“It may not have been the best 11 players, but it was certainly the group that mixes well together and is the strongest side to be successful at the end of the game. I think that’s something that Bruce does very, very well, and I think that’s one of his strongest traits as a coach.”

Due to be eligible for the entry into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2018, Cherundolo looks back fondly on the memories made during his international career. From Landon Donovan’s game-winner against Algeria in 2010 and the matches in which the U.S. clinched qualification to his three different World Cups, above all the 38-year-old counts the time he got to spend with his fellow U.S. teammates as his favorite moments from a 13-year international career.

Cherundolo and U.S. teammates celebrate finishing atop the 2009 Hexagonal on Oct. 14, 2009

“On the road, on the planes, in the hotels – those are moments that for me were very personal, gratifying and moments that I cherished very much. There were some fabulous memories and there wasn’t one camp that I can recall that I wasn’t happy while I was there.

“There were amazing experiences and amazing players. U.S. Soccer has done a great job of creating atmospheres in camp where it was enjoyable for players, but also very professional at the same time. I think it’s a privilege to have been involved in the program for so long and every training camp was something special.”

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MNT Feb 19, 2017

U-20 MNT Edged 1-0 by Panama in 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship Group B Opener

TIBÁS, Costa Rica (Feb. 18, 2017) – The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team pushed heavily for a second half equalizer before falling 1-0 to Panama by virtue of Leandro Ávila’s deflected effort in the 37th minute in its opening match of the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.  

The first half largely lacked opportunities for both sides until Ávila collected the ball in the area, turned inside and saw his shot deflect off Marlon Fossey before floating inside the top right corner to give Los Canaleros a 1-0 half-time advantage.

Playing up a man after Panama’s Justin Simons was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Tyler Adams in the 18th minute, the U.S. pushed things early on in the second half when Jeremy Ebobisse’s header clanged off the crossbar in the 48th minute.

With Panama content to pack the area in defense of their 1-0 lead, the U-20 MNT found it hard to break through, but came close again when a Justen Glad laser was pushed out for a corner kick in the 82nd minute before Panama ‘keeper Charles Taylor smothered Ebobisse’s 88th minute effort on the goal line to preserve the 1-0 result.

The U-20 MNT plays its second group stage match against Haiti, on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose (5:30 p.m. ET; UDN, CONCACAF Facebook Page). Haiti defeated St. Kitts and Nevis 5-1 in Saturday’s first Group B match.
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Goal Scoring Rundown:
PAN – Leandro Ávila (Ronaldo Córdoba), 37th minute:
Going against the run of play, Panama got on the board towards the end of the first half when Ronaldo Córdoba swung a looping ball into the box for Leandro Ávila. The Panama forward took it down with his knee before cutting back inside and curling an effort that took a slight deflection off USA defender Marlon Fossey and into the top right corner.

Key Saves and Defensive Stops
USA – Marlon Fossey, 15th minute:
The first clear-cut opportunity came on the quarter-hour mark when Leandro Ávila broke through down the right and sent a penetrating ball into the box for Ronaldo Córdoba only to have Marlon Fossey slide through to clear the ball out for a corner kick.

USA – Tommy Redding, 25th minute: As the U.S. worked to move the ball forward, pressure from Andrés Andrade forced a turnover at the back, allowing the San Francisco FC winger a free run up the left where he centered looking for Córdoba, only to have the cross well-read by Tommy Redding who calmly cleared to safety.

PAN – Crossbar, 48th minute: Looking for the equalizer right out of halftime, Marlon Fossey quickly threw the ball in for Eric Palmer-Brown who laid off for Brooks Lennon just outside the box. Lennon then swung a cross to the six-yard box where Jeremy Ebobisse’s header beat Charles Taylor, but careened off the cross bar before being cleared.

PAN – Charles Taylor, 80th minute: Continuing to press for the equalizer, the U.S. had a sustained period of possession and moved the ball around just outside the penalty area before Justen Glad unleashed a low rocket from 22 yards that saw Taylor dive to palm it out for a corner kick.

PAN – Charles Taylor, 87th minute: Still full of steam, Fossey paraded up the right side, sending a long cross for Sebastian Saucedo at the back post where the Real Salt Lake midfielder centered for Jeremy Ebobisse whose first-time shot was smothered on the goal line by Taylor.


  • With the result, Tab Ramos moves to 8-3-1 all-time in CONCACAF U-20 Championship play
  • The USA U-20s moves to 3-2-0 all-time vs. Panama in U-20 World Cup Qualifying
  • Panama played a man down after midfielder Justin Simons was shown a straight red card in the 18th minute for a late challenge on USA midfielder Tyler Adams.

- U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team vs. Panama
Date: Feb. 18, 2017
Competition: 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship – Group B
Venue: Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; Tibas, Costa Rica
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET
Attendance: TBA
Weather: 77 degrees; partly cloudy

Scoring Summary:             1               2               F
USA                                             0               0               0
PAN                                             1               0               1

PAN – Leandro Ávila (Ronaldo Córdoba)                    37th minute

USA: 1-Jonathan Klinsmann; 2-Marlon Fossey, 4-Tommy Redding (7-Eryk Williamson, 69), 6-Justen Glad, 3-Danny Acosta; 17-Brooks Lennon, 5-Erik Palmer-Brown (Capt.), 10-Luca De La Torre (19-Coy Craft, 69), 11-Sebastian Saucedo; 9-Jeremy Ebobisse, 8-Tyler Adams (18-Emmanuel Sabbi, 31)
Subs not used: 12-JT Marcinkowski, 13-Auston Trusty, 14-Aaron Herrera, 15-Jonathan Gonzalez, 16-Jeremiah Gutjahr, 20-Jonathan Lewis
Head coach: Tab Ramos

PAN: 12-Charles Taylor; 20-Josue Vergara (13-Jorge Gutiérrez, 90+3), 6-Javier Rivera (Capt.), 2-Jiovany Ramos, 3-Andrés Andrade; 11-Justin Simons, 5-Ricardo Ávila, 14-José Tejada, 17-Leandro Ávila (18-Isidoro Hinestroza, 79); 8-Cristian Martínez (16-Yair Jaen, 72), 9-Ronaldo Córdoba
Subs not used: 1-Aldo Ciel, 7-Chamell Asprilla, 10-Andrés Peñalba, 19-Oliver Beckles
Head coach: Nelson Gallego

Stats Summary: USA / PAN
Shots: 9 / 10
Shots on Goal: 2 / 2
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 6 / 5
Fouls: 22 / 16
Offside: 2 / 1 

Misconduct Summary:
PAN – Justin Simons (sent off)                         18th minute
USA – Luca de la Torre (caution)                    41
PAN – Cristian Martínez (caution)                45+1
USA – Sebastian Saucedo (caution)              74

Referee: Armando Castro (HON)
Assistant Referee 1: Melvin Cruz (HON)
Assistant Referee 2: Geovany Garcia (SLV)
4th Official: Melvin Matamoros (HON)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Justen Glad

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U-20 MNT Feb 18, 2017

PREVIEW: U-20 MNT Opens World Cup Qualifying vs. Panama

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team kicks off the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship on Feb. 18 against Panama at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibas, Costa Rica. The match will air live on Univision Deportes Network and via livestream on the official CONCACAF Facebook page at 3:30 p.m. ET. Fans can also follow all the matches of the U.S. U-20 MNT on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt.

With the exception of the team’s two European based players, the U.S. spent 11 days in Orlando, Fla. during a highly productive pre-CONCACAF training camp before arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica on Feb. 11 to make final preparations for the tournament.

U.S. U-20 MNT Roster by Position (Club; Hometown)


GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (California; Newport Beach, Calif.), J.T. Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (7): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Marlon Fossey (Fulham FC/ENG; Surbiton, England), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (New Mexico; Casa Grande, Ariz.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee's Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; Media, Pa.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y), Luca de la Torre (Fulham FC/ENG; San Diego, Calif.), Jonathan Gonzalez (CF Monterrey/MEX; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Jeremiah Gutjahr (Indiana; Bloomington, Ind.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah), Eryk Williamson (Maryland; Alexandria, Va.)

FORWARDS (5): Coy Craft (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; Plantation, Fla.), Emmanuel Sabbi (UD Las Palmas/ESP; Libertyville, Ill.)

Tournament format

The 2017 tournament begins in a group stage, with 12 CONCACAF teams split into three four-team groups. After an initial round-robin schedule, the top two teams from each group will advance to the classification stage, featuring two groups with three teams each. In that second group stage, the top two finishers from each group qualify for the U-20 World Cup, and the first-place teams in each group move on to play for the tournament title.

Tab Ramos hints at starting goalkeeper

In a recent teleconference with media, U.S.head coach Tab Ramos hinted at who would be the starting goalkeeper against Panama. Ramos had this to say about the position battle between Jonathan Klinsmann and J.T. Marcinkowski:

“We’ve had very good goalkeeper competition in this cycle in particular. Both Jonathan Klinsmann and J.T. Marcinkowski have done a great job in terms of competing with each other over the last six to nine months. At this point, Jonathan Klinsmann looks to be the one to be ahead as the starter for the tournament. Jonathan is really coming along well. I know that he’s had some training opportunities in Europe, some training on the side not just with the University of California, so he’s been doing a lot of homework. At this point, both goalkeepers look really good, but I think Jonathan will be our starter starting Saturday.”

Klinsmann, who is the tallest on the roster at 6’4”, played three seasons in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for Strikers FC before committing to the University of California-Berkeley, where he is on track to be a junior this fall. He is also the son of former U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

2015 USAvPAN Rematch:

After drawing Guatemala 1-1 in the opening match of the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, on the laces of a Cameron Carter-Vickers goal, the USA looked to get back on track and make up for lost points in their second match, against Panama.

Through the first 45 minutes, the U.S. dominated play much in the same way it did against Guatemala, generating chances by playing the ball down the wings and earning corners or free kicks within range of the Panama goal that nearly led to the U.S. taking the lead on several occasions. Panama created some dangerous moments in the second half as the game stretched from end to end and found more room to operate. In the 78th minute, a spell of possession for Panama led to forward Edson Samms chipping the ball from just outside the top center of the U.S. penalty area into the path of substitute midfielder Carlos Small, running toward the left post. Small chested the ball down and sent a low shot between two U.S. defenders and just beneath the outstretched left hand of U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen into the bottom left corner of the net.

Panama would go on to finish the group stage of the tournament with a perfect 5-0-0 record and clinch a World Cup berth before losing to Mexico in the title match in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw.

In his teleconference, Ramos also had the following to say about the strength of the Panamanians in 2015:

“The last cycle Panama was the best team in the tournament and they happened to lose to Mexico on penalties in the final, but they were the best team. We have a tough one to start, I’m not sure if they’re the best ones this time, but I know with the group they had the last time, this is going to be a very tough team for us to start the tournament with.”

USA surprise at left back:

As the U-20 player pool began the second year of their cycle in 2017, former New York Red Bulls Academy product and current Michigan defender Marcello Borges had been the clear choice at left back. Unfortunately for Borges and the entire team, he was injured, causing a void at left back to be filled. In Ramos’ teleconference, he did not indicate who would start at the position, but that he was confident and comfortable with his choice personnel come match day:

“The left back position is one that you’ll find out on Saturday, but we feel very comfortable where we are. Obviously, we had the unfortunate scenario of Marcello Borges getting hurt, so he has not been able to be a part of the group although he had been our starter for much of the cycle, and he’s someone we will certainly miss. I’m comfortable with what we have here and the player we’re going to play in that position. He’s one that has been training with his club in that position as well, so I’m very comfortable with where we are at this moment with that.”

Reaching the Big Stage

Since 1976, when the CONCACAF tournament became the qualification funnel to the U-20 World Cup, the United States have advanced to 17 World Cups out of 20 opportunities. The USA have advanced to the U-20 World Cup in nine of their last 10 attempts dating back to the 1996 CONCACAF U-20 Tournament. The lone failure to advance came in 2011. Later that same year, current head coach Tab Ramos was hired to lead the next cycle of players in preparation for the 2013 CONCACAF Championship.

The USA’s best World Cup finish came at the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship, where the U.S. fell 2-0 to Brazil in the third-place game.

Since 2003, Panama has qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup a total of five times, only missing out on the 2009 and 2013 editions. Despite regional success, they are still searching for their first advancement beyond the World Cup group stage.

USA CONCACAF and World Cup roster experience:

Six players on the USA U-20 CONCACAF roster have previous World Cup or CONCACAF Championship experience: Auston Trusty, Luca de la Torre, Tyler Adams, Erik Palmer-Brown (pictured below, left), Justen Glad and Tommy Redding.

In 2013, Glad and Redding were members of the U.S. U-17 CONCACAF Championship roster. During that tournament, the U.S. failed to make it out of group play for the first time. The USA had qualified to the U-17 World Cup in each of their 14 previous attempts dating back to 1985.

In 2015, Trusty, Adams and de la Torre were each members of the U-17 U.S. CONCACAF Championship and 2015 U-17 FIFA World Cup rosters. In CONCACAF Championship play, the young men found themselves in a sudden death playoff match against the only team they had previously lost to in group play, Jamaica. The U.S. and Jamaica ended the 90 minutes of play scoreless and, due to tournament regulations, went straight into penalty kicks where the USA rallied to defeat the Reggae Boyz 5-4.

Later that year at the 2015 U-17 FIFA World Cup in Chile, the trio posted a 0-2-1 record, failing to make it out of group play.

At the U-20 level in 2015, then 18-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown made the final roster for the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Palmer-Brown went the full 90 minutes in the USA’s final group stage game vs Ukraine.

Last minute injury for Panama

If taking over the U-20 Panama side just nine days before kickoff against the USA wasn’t enough of an unexpected turn of events for Nelson Gallego, an injury will force the new head coach to make a crucial lineup decision just two days before kickoff. On Thursday, the Panama Football Federation announced that midfielder Asprilla Chamell would be replacing Jose Luis Rodriguez on the roster, after Rodriguez suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, medial meniscus injury and medial collateral ligament injury associated with bone bruise. The injury happened during the team’s final training session in Panama before departing for San Jose.

Asprilla’s addition to the roster immediately increased the team’s World Cup qualifying experience, as the C.D. Arabe Unido midfielder also played in the U-17 CONCACAF Championship in 2015.


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U-20 MNT Feb 18, 2017

Five Things to Know About Panama U-20s

The Under-20 U.S. Men’s National Team opens the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship against Panama on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibas, Costa Rica. The game can be seen live at 3:30 p.m. ET on Univision Deportes Network or via livestream on the official CONCACAF Facebook page.

Here’s what you should know about Saturday’s opponents:

Panama Roster

The three clubs with the largest representation of players on the Panamanian roster are Tauro FC (6), San Francisco FC (4) and Chorrillo FC (3). These three clubs, along with Arabe Unido (2) and Plaza Amador (2) are all members of the Panamanian Football League. The 16 players currently on teams from Panama’s top professional league account for 80 percent of the roster.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Aldo Ciel (Arabe Unido), Charles Taylor (University of London/ENG)
DEFENDERS (6): Andres Andrade (San Francisco FC), Cesar Blackman (Chorrillo FC), Jorge Gutierrez (Tauro FC), Jiovany Ramos (San Francisco FC), Javier Rivera (Tauro FC), Josue Vergara (Plaza Amador)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Ricardo Avila (Chorrillo FC), Chamell Asprilla (Arabe Unido), Adalberto Carrasquilla (Tauro FC), Yair Jaen (Costa del Este FC), Cristian Martinez (Columbus Crew SC/USA), Andres Peñalba (Chorrillo FC), Justin Simmons (San Francisco FC), Jose Tejada (Tauro FC)
FORWARDS (4): Leandro Avila (Iowa Western Community College/USA), Oliver Beckles (Tauro FC), Ronaldo Cordoba (Tauro FC), Isidoro Hinestroza (San Francisco FC)

Panama head coach steps down nine days before opening game

On Thursday, Feb. 9, Leonardo Pipino stepped down from his role as head coach of the U-20 Panama Men’s National Team, later stating that he did not feel comfortable with the overall direction of the team. Panama senior team assistants Nelson Gallego and Edgar Carvajal were immediately put in charge of the team, with Gallego accepting the head coaching title.

Pipino had previously guided Panama to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup after a second-place finish to Mexico in the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.

Martinez and Avila playing in the USA

Cristian Martinez stands as the only player on the current Panama roster playing professional soccer in the United Sates, having signed on loan with Columbus Crew SC in May of 2016 before being acquired on a permanent transfer in January. Martinez became the youngest player to score a regular season goal for Crew SC the same day he made his M.L.S. debut, entering as a substitute against Philadelphia on June 1, 2016. Martinez has also spent time with the Panama senior national team, earning two caps with Hernán Darío Gómez’s side last year.

Leandro Avila also spent time playing in the United States with Iowa Western Community College. In 19 games in 2016, Avila recorded 10 goals and four assists in 14 starts for the Reivers.

2015 Finalists Looking to Repeat

Panama begins their quest to reach the final for the second consecutive time in the

CONCACAF U-20 Championship. In the 2015 edition, the teams were divided into two groups of six each, with the first-place finisher gaining automatic entry to the championship final as well as a birth in the 2015 FIFA World Cup. 

Finishing with a perfect 5-0-0 record - including a 1-0 win against the United States - Panama topped Group A and faced Mexico in the title match, losing on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. They had five players named to the tournament Best XI, including Golden Ball winner Luis Pereira and Golden Glove recipient Jaime de Gracia.

What’s in a (nick)name?

The Panamanian national teams actually have two nicknames - perhaps proving Shakespeare’s point from Romeo and Juliet. The Canaleros (Canal Men) refers to the most famous landmark in the country, while their second moniker Marea Roja (Red Wave) is represented in the all-red uniforms for which they are known.

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U-20 MNT Feb 18, 2017