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U-20 MNT Reaction vs. Portugal – June 14, 2013

U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos, forward Jose Villarreal and defender Shane O’Neill comment on the team’s hard fought 3-1 victory against Portugal’s U-20s in the final preparation game heading into the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

U.S. U-20 MNT head coach TAB RAMOS
On the victory against host Portugal:
“Portugal is a very technical team and a very aggressive team. Physically they’re strong. They have all their players playing on big clubs. It was a difficult game. It’s never easy to beat a European team on their home soil, but we’re happy with the team. It’s a good win for us.”

On the confidence boost heading into next week’s U-20 World Cup:
“Everybody knows over the past few weeks we’ve been mixing things and trying to get guys together and see what the best combinations are on the field. I think we’re finding that slowly. Today we played an excellent team and our team responded well, and we got a big win. I think this gives us momentum and some confidence going into the World Cup. We do realize that Spain is going to be another story, but we have a few days to prepare for that.”

On capitalizing on two set piece chances against Portugal:
“Since we’ve been together for the past couple weeks, we’ve been able to work on a lot of different things. The more time we spend together, the better we are in terms of set pieces – not only offensively, but defensively, as well. I think some of that came together today. We’re happy about that. We’re happy that the players are focused enough to grasp all these things and the players did a great job. It was not an easy game by any means.”

On overcoming Portugal’s heavy possession to take hold of the game in the second half:
“We knew coming into this game that Portugal was going to be a tough matchup with very good players, playing at great clubs. We knew that we had to weather the storm. I got the first goal, which was good for the team. They had the majority of the possession, but we got the other two goals and that kind of helped us. We just sat back and defended the rest of the way.”

On his free kick assist to defender Shane O’Neill, whose header was the game-winning tally:
“I guess their defenders just fell asleep. I saw Shane just nod his head to tell me to put it in there, and as soon as he told me that he just ran in and finished like the forward that he is. It was a good goal.”

On the value of this game heading into the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup:
“This game was very important for us to get a feel for a European team. I wasn’t able to be in the Toulon Tournament, but being able to come play against Portugal, that’s a very similar team to Spain. So it was good to get that going. It was good to come out with the victory to give us some momentum going into the Spain game.”

On the performance of goalkeeper Cody Cropper and the defense:
“Cody had some good saves – even that free kick that he stole from them. It was a great save, and our defenders did a great job. I was really impressed with our backs. They did a good job.”

U.S. U-20 MNT defender SHANE O’NEILL
On his first tally with the U-20s off of Jose Villarreal’s free kick:
“I think me and Jose were kind of looking at each other as I was running up the field. He saw that the back far side was kind of sleeping so I just kind of slipped in. He played a really nice ball and it was just a one-touch finish. I haven’t scored in a real game in a long time always playing center back. It feels really good just to help the team to get the win.”

On the importance of defeating Portugal on its home ground:
“I think coming away from this we know we can beat Spain, France or Ghana. We know after this game that beating a European team at their home is not an easy thing to do. We proved that we can compete with anybody in the tournament.”

On battling through Portugal’s heavy attack at the start:
“They came out fast. They came out pretty hard. We weathered the storm. We got the first goal and we had a chance to get a second goal. I think in the second half we really showed that we can play with these teams for sure.”