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A Look At Our U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team

With World Youth Championship qualifying less than three months away, Thomas Rongen recently sat down to evaluate his team and discuss all 20 players on the team’s roster for the XIX Torneo Internacional de Futbol de l’Alcudia that kicks off on Saturday. Rongen is expected to name his 18-man qualifying roster in October, and with Bobby Convey and Santino Quaranta expecting to be there, the competition for a spot on the 18-man qualifying roster heats up this week in Spain. Fifty-seven players have played in games with the Under-20s since Rongen took over in January, and the former MLS Coach of the Year has looked at countless others.

Here is Rongen’s take on the twenty players that he will turn to this week in Spain.

We’ve been pleased with the twosome of Steve Cronin and Ford Williams. Last season Steve was one of the best or the best freshman goalkeeper in the country, and he had a good two-year stint with the Under-18s. I think Ford has made tremendous strides since joining the Under-17s a little late, and he has really gotten better each and every day that he has been with us. They are pushing each hard right now for the starting spot and are in a healthy competition, and I feel that both can do the job. Both possess good size and have good range, but they still can get better in terms of communicating. A lot of that comes with experience and maturity. We clearly have selected the two best goalkeepers in their age group in this country. Goalkeepers in most of our national team programs in this country have been a strong point, and it continues to be for this team.

I think I’ve looked at nearly 80 players in the last six or seven months. I think we’ve reached a point where we’ve identified the top six or seven defenders in this pool when it is all said and done. For the qualifying roster I think we will probably select six defenders to go along with six midfielders and four forwards – along with two goalkeepers that makes for an 18-man roster. We’ve had a nice mix of the Under-17s who’ve come through and continued to improve, Chad Marshall and Chefik Simo to name two, and some of the Under-18s Ryan Cochrane and C.J. Klaas to name two more. We will mix those with some other players who we feel can help us, like a Jordan Harvey, Chris Lancos, and even a Jordan Stone, who is very versatile and proved he can play in the back as well. It is just a matter of finding the best four players that can complement each other and play the way we want to play in back. We are still tinkering with that right now and are trying to find the right formula, but with the guys we have here we feel they can do the job for us.

Ryan Cochrane is really a team leader. He’s a hard man. Clearly he has become the heart and soul of the defense.
Jordan Harvey has a great left peg. He can hit a great ball. He is a very smart, very intelligent player who brings a lot of attacking qualities to the left back position.
C.J. Klaas is one of our best one-on-one defenders.  He has great athleticism and is not only a good defender, but is also someone who can attack from that position.
Chris Lancos is a very aggressive, very simple player.  He is a solid one-v-one defender.  Along with Chad Marshall and Ryan Cochrane he is one of our best players in the air.
Chad Marshall is extremely good in the air.  He is also a good distributor of the ball and someone who plays very smart. Overall, he is a very well-rounded defender.
Chefik Simo is very athletic and a good one-on-one defender.  He brings good attacking qualities to that spot.

I think we are very well-balanced in the middle of the field, but it tips a little bit to the attacking side. When we have all of our players I think we are a very talented team going forward. We have some talented players for us that we expect to create and score. But we also have players who are able to hold in the midfield and clamp down on the other team. We have players capable of doing both, and it is up to the coaching staff to finding the best combination among a group of very talented players.

Devin Barclay is someone we’ve moved to the midfield from up top.  I think he feels more comfortable there, where he can run at players instead of playing with his back to goal.  He’s a good crosser of the ball and is someone who can cause the defense problems by running at them all day.
Craig Capano is a very versatile midfielder.  He’s a good passer of the ball and is an extremely smart player.  He’s still very young and will be eligible for the 2005 World Youth Championship.
Ricardo Clark is in one word: tenacious.  He is one of our best two-way players.
Ned Grabavoy is a crafty player who is a very good connector of our defense and our offense.  He is tactically very smart.
David Johnson is a very smooth player who uses both feet extremely well.  We haven’t seen as much of him, so this camp will be a great chance to see how his game has developed since he moved to Holland.
Justin Mapp is great with his dribble penetration and is one of our best players going at and beating defenders.  He strikes a very nice ball with his left foot.  He reminds me a lot of a traditional left-winger who will just go up and down the sideline all game long.
Raul Palomares is a very nice playmaker.  He has great vision and is a good distributor of the ball – exactly what you need from a playmaker.
Jordan Stone seems like he has four sets of lungs.  He is a workaholic. He is a great competitor and does great in the middle of the field because he is able to play simple and effectively. 

Potentially we are a very dangerous group that really needs to improve putting the ball in the back of the net. Overall this is a collection of players that will give opposing teams a lot of problems. We are very well-balanced here with good speed, good size and guys who can create problems with the dribble.  Ed (Johnson) and Knox (Cameron) are two big athletes who can do some wonderful things, and in the two Mikes (Magee and Ambersley) we have two guys who have become great finishers. This trip we will be looking to find the right combination up top that can help us finish the opportunities that we create.

Mike Ambersley is very quick up top.  He has a great first touch and a nose for the goal.
Knox Cameron is a very big target up top and is extremely athletic.  He has very good foot skills for such a big man.
Ed Johnson is a very fast, very skillful striker.  He is always dangerous whenever he has the ball.
Mike Magee is a great finisher and is very intelligent around the box.

I’m very happy with the team that we have here in Spain, and I think we have the makings for a great team in qualifying. Now, it is just up to the coaches to select the right combination of players and put them on the field in a position that will help us win games and qualify for the World Youth Championship.