US SoccerUS Soccer

U-20 MNT Focused on Earning Positive Result in World Cup Opener

Tab Ramos and the U-20 Men's National Team begin their 2015 U-20 FIFA World Cup campaign against Myanmar and are looking to take maximum points from the match, which will be broadcast in the United States on FOX Sports 1 at 12 a.m. ET Friday night.

Say Hello to the New Guys

Of the 21 players on the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team that is in New Zealand for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, 17 have been on a U.S. U-17 or U-20 team at one point or another entering 2015. 

Maki Tall, Desevio Payne, Gedion Zelalem and Thomas Olsen had not. 

The four players were called to their first U.S. Youth Team over the past two months and here they are representing the USA at the U-20 World Cup. 

*** 

Pride for the USA, Not a Tall Order
“The USA is becoming a great football nation, so just being invited to the team was a great honor,” said Tall of being called to his first U-20 camp in England this past March. “And to play in a World Cup, that’s not an every day thing. Every player wants to play in one, and we had been fighting for roster spots. And now that we’re here, everybody wants a shot to help the team do great things.” 

Tall and his two brothers and sister were born in Washington D.C. Their father is from France and their mother is from Ivory Coast. Because of his father’s job, the family moved to Senegal and then Ivory Coast before Maki was offered an opportunity to try out with clubs in France. He elected to join the youth academy at Le Mans and then signed with Lille in 2012.

Along the way he was called in to play for France’s U-18 and U-19 teams, where he appeared in nine friendlies – including a match against the U.S. in 2013. Through it all, he was never distant from his hometown, made much easier when his mom and his two younger siblings moved back to D.C. a few years ago.

Tall scored against England’s U-20s during his USA debut in March, and then again last week against Australia. And while it took a while to put on the USA jersey, he’s excited and ready for the current opportunity to proudly represent his nation.

“I can’t regret the time past, because without those experiences I probably wouldn’t be here,” said the forward, who has scored eight goals while on loan to Red Star since January. “I’m really happy about the future and I see great things down the road.”

Maki Tall, Gedion Zelalem, Tommy Thompson
U-20 MNT members Maki Tall, Gedion Zelalem and Tommy Thompson kick the ball around during training.

*** 

No Payne, No Gain
Defender Desevio Payne also made his first USA appearance during the England camp last March. 

Born in Greewood, South Carolina, Payne was only a year-and-a-half when his family moved to the Netherlands. He comes from a sporting family - his father is from Trinidad and Tobago, and his mom is from Holland. The two met at Landers University when they went to play soccer and softball, respectively. 

Growing up in Holland, Payne spoke English with his father and Dutch with his mom. Among his siblings, they speak English with each other.

At age 13, he joined the academy of 100-year-old HFC Haarlem. However when the club dissolved, he moved to lower tier side Zeeburgia. In 2013 he signed with Groningen in the Eirdevisie, and was eventually invited to a Holland U-18 camp. He made his professional debut with Groningen on Feb. 22, 2015 in a 3-1 loss to Heerenveen. A short time later, he received a call from U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos. 

“Tab called me to introduce himself, and ask about me and tell me about the England camp,” Payne said. “I was excited for the invitation, but I didn’t know what to expect. I just told him that I would do my best in England and wanted to show myself.” 

In early May, the former judo competitor was contacted again. 

“It’s all happened so quick,” he said. “I thought I had a good first camp, so I was hopeful I would get another call from Tab. I was nervous as the weeks went by, but was really happy when I got that email that I was going to the World Cup.” 

Desevio Payne
U-20 MNT's Desevio Payne walks to training with Landon Donovan.

*** 

American Dream is Worth the Wait
Unlike the rest of his World Cup teammates, Gedion Zelalem had not been to any camps before meeting the team in Australia on May 18.  Born in Germany to Ethiopian parents, Zelalem and his family moved to Bethesda, Maryland when he was 10 years old. After middle school, he attended Walter Johnson High School and played club soccer on various teams. 

In 2011, while playing for Olney Rangers at the prestigious Dallas Cup, he was seen by an Arsenal scout and attended try outs. He first joined the Gunners’ academy and then eventually made his senior team debut in January 2014.

Zelalem also played for Germany from the U-15 age group through the U-17s, but dreamed of a chance to play for the USA. After obtaining his citizenship late in 2014, he was granted a one-time switch from FIFA in mid-May and was added to the U-20 World Cup roster.

“I’ve always wanted to represent the USA,” Zelalem said. “I feel more American than I feel German, so it was a no-brainer for me on which country to chose. Ever since I left the U.S. to go play in England, I’ve wanted to play for the U.S.”

Zelalem is now getting his chance. And like all his teammates, he has bigger dreams.

“I want to make the most of this World Cup,” he said. “And I want to keep going to make it to the first team.”

Not lost on him is the chance to be with fellow American players his age again.

“It’s been great, all the guys are great,” he said of his first week in camp. “They’re all down-to-earth guys. We’re all together here, and there isn’t one player who thinks he’s better than the other. I really like that about this group, and I’m really happy to be here.”

Gedion Zelalem
U-20 MNT midfielder Gedion Zelalem is interviewed by the media before practice.

*** 

From Campus to the World Stage
Thomas Olsen is one of two college players on the roster. However, unlike Jeff Caldwell, his USA teammate from the University of Virginia, Olsen had never been part of a USA camp before March. 

Caldwell was on the U.S. U-17 MNT at the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, and was part of several other camps in different age levels.

Olsen, who was named the 2014 WCC Freshman of the Year at the University of San Diego, earned his first USA invite for the camp in England.

“You’re shocked initially to see that you’ve reach that level,” Olsen said. “You see the names and see they are pros, and you’re in college. And the first thing I thought was, ‘awesome, now let’s see if I can play with these guys.’” 

Olsen backed up Caldwell in the match against England’s U-21s on March 30. But in the back of his head, he thought he had a good camp and kept a sliver of hope that maybe he could make the U-20 World Cup roster. 

When the initial squad was announced on May 7, the three goalkeepers were Zack Steffen, Caldwell, and Ethan Horvath. However, almost immediately, Olsen received a call from U-20 goalkeeper coach Russell Payne telling him to come to camp in Carson, California, the following week. 

Olsen showed up at StubHub Center when camp broke on May 11 and learned the situation. There was a chance that Horvath wouldn’t be released by his club in Norway. He returned to San Diego to take two more finals on Wednesday, and it was then when he was officially informed that he would be added to the roster in place of Horvath. 

“Being a competitor, no matter on what team, you want to be the one,” Olsen said. “Obviously, on this team I have to take a step back and realize that I’m blessed to be here. For me this is more of a learning experience, taking on what coach Payne says, and getting to train with all of these guys. And how I can contribute is by being a leader, by pushing people at training – especially Zack (Steffen) and Jeff – and by being ready if my number is called.”

Thomas Olsen
U-20 MNT's Thomas Olsen stands with goalkeeper coach Russell Payne in Australia.

U-20 MNT Kicks Off 2015 U-20 WORLD CUP with 2-1 Win Over Myanmar

WHANGAREI, New Zealand (May 30, 2015) – The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team opened up Group A play of the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup with a 2-1 win over Myanmar at the Northland Events Center in Whangarei.

Maki Tall got the USA on the board in the first half after an early Myanmar lead, and U.S. captain Emerson Hyndman followed with the game-winner in the second half to guarantee the USA three points in its opening game of the tournament.

With the win, the USA (1-0-0) sits atop Group A standings with three points, followed by New Zealand (0-0-1) and Ukraine (0-0-1), who tied 0-0 earlier in the day. Myanmar (0-1-0) is last in the group with zero points following the loss.

With his goal in the first half, Tall now has three goals for the USA in 2015, a leading mark among players on the World Cup roster.

Next, the U.S. continues Group A play against host New Zealand on June 2 at QBE Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. Kickoff is set for 3 a.m. ET on FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports Go and NBC Universo. Fans can also follow the action on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt and @ussoccer_esp.

Goal Scoring Rundown:
MYA – Yan Naing Oo, 9th minute: Following a corner kick from Myanmar, the ball went into the box and various players from both teams scrambled to get ahold of it. U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen came out of the net to try and secure the ball; however, he was unable to control it, leaving an empty net for Naing Oo to find the ball and tap it inside the near post for the first score of the match. USA 0, MYA 1  

USA – Maki Tall (Cameron Carter-Vickers), 17th minute: After Myanmar deflected a U.S. ball out of the playing field, U.S. captain Emerson Hyndman stepped up to take the corner for the USA. Hyndman sent a high, curved ball to the middle of the box, where Cameron Carter-Vickers got a light touch to redirect it to the right side of the box. Maki Tall was in position on the right to coral the ball and sent a right-footed kick to the back left corner of the goal to even up the game. USA 1, MYA 1

USA – Emerson Hyndman (Rubio Rubin), 56th minute: Rubio Rubin gained possession of the ball in the midfield and ran with it up to the outside of the Myanmar box where he found Emerson Hyndman making a long follow up run. Rubin sent a pass to the right side of the box where Hyndman had positioned himself. Hyndman got inside the box and wasted no time sending a perfect shot from about 12 yards out to the far post to put the USA ahead for good. USA 2, MYA 1 (FINAL)

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
MYA – Myo Min Latt, 30th minute: Emerson Hyndman set up to take a free kick from about 20 yards out on the right side of the box. His shot went straight to the barrier and rebounded right back at him. With his second effort, Hyndman sent a bullet right to the center of the net, where Myo Min Latt reacted quickly and jumped on the ball before Hyndman’s perfectly directed ball could cause any damage.

MYA – Myo Min Latt, 35th minute: Once again, Emerson Hyndman set up a set-piece play with another free kick. His ball flew over to the opposite side of the field onto the left side of the barrier where Matt Miazga awaited. The lanky defender jumped and downed the ball with a header towards Rubio Rubin who tried to turn and kick it with his left foot. Rubin’s attempt however was futile as Latt was alert and came out to punch the ball out of play.

MYA – Myo Min Latt, 50th minute: A pass from the left side by Jordan Allen led to chaos in the box as the ball seemed to disappear from everyone’s sights and slowly began rolling towards the back of the net. Hyndman finally caught a glimpse of it and attempted to give it a tap, however Latt saw it as well and covered it at the last second before it crossed the goal line.

USA – Shaquelle Moore, 74th minute: Despite giving up the early goal to Myanmar, the U.S. defense found its footing for the remainder of the match and made key plays throughout. After pushing for several minutes late in the game, Myanmar eventually got into U.S. territory and started threatening in the box. That’s when Moore made a key save while covering his player by heading a ball out of play that appeared to be headed straight to the net.

Additional Notes:

  • The USA and Myanmar faced each other for the first time in the nations’ histories.
  • Midfielder Emerson Hyndman wore the captain’s armband for only the second time. He made his debut as captain against Australia during a friendly on May 19.
  • Hyndman’s goal was only his second international goal with the U-20s. He last scored during the USA’s 8-0 win over Aruba on Jan. 14 at the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica.
  • Maki Tall has scored in three of the five career games he has played with the U-20 MNT.
  • The USA’s three substitutions of the game were: Gedion Zelalem for Joel Soñora, Tommy Thompson for Jordan Allen and Bradford Jamieson IV for Maki Tall, all coming in the second half.
  • The defense was anchored by Shaquell Moore, Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Kellyn Acosta, who all played the entirety of the match. 

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

Match: U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team vs. Myanmar U-20 Men’s National Team
Date: May 30, 2015
Competition: 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup New Zealand
Venue: Northland Events Center; Whangarei, New Zealand
Kickoff: 12:00 a.m. ET
Attendance: 5,816
Weather: 60 degrees, cloudy

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

MYA – Yan Naing Oo                                                9th minute
USA – Maki Tall (Cameron Carter-Vickers)              17
USA – Emerson Hyndman (Rubio Rubin)                 56

Lineups:
USA: 1-Zack Steffen, 2-Shaquell Moore, 4-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 5-Matt Miazga; 6-Kellyn Acosta, 15-Marky Delgado, 10-Joel Soñora (19-Gedion Zelalem, 55), 20-Jordan Allen (13-Tommy Thompson, 72), 8-Emerson Hyndman, 9-Rubio Rubin, 14-Maki Tall (11-Bradford Jamieson IV, 49).
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Thomas Olsen, 21-Jeff Caldwell, 3-John Requejo, 7-Paul Arriola, 16-Conor Donovan
Head coach: Tab Ramos

MYA: 1-Myo Min Latt, 3-Htike Htike Aung, 5- Nanda Kyaw (c), 6-Kyaw Min Oo, 8-Maung Maung Soe, 9-Aung Thu, 10-Than Paing, 11-Mg Mg Lwin, 15-Yan Naing Oo, 16-Myo Ko Tun, 17-Thiha Htet Aung
Substitutions Not Used: 2-Aung Moe Htwe, 4-Naing Lin, 7-Nyein Chan Aung, 12-Hlaing Myo Aung, 13-Yan Lin Aung, 14-Nan Wai Min, 18-Pyae Sone Chit, 19-Swan Htet Aung, 20-Myo Zaw Oo, 21-Wai Lin Aung
Head coach: Gerd Zeise

Stats Summary: USA / MYA
Shots: 14 / 11
Shots on Goal: 8 / 4
Saves: 3 / 6
Corner Kicks: 4 / 3
Fouls: 17 / 20
Offside: 4 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
MYA – Nanda Kyaw (caution)            5th minute
USA – Shaquelle Moore (caution)      67

Officials:
Referee: Bernard Camille (SEY)
Assistant Referee 1: Zakhele Siwela (RSA)
Assistant Referee 2: Marius Tan (CIV)
Fourth Official: Aleg Atrokhov (RUS)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: TBA

Meet the 2015 U-20 Men's World Cup Team

The U-20 MNT will represent the USA at the 2015 FIFA Under 20 World Cup. in New Zealand.

FIFA U-20 World Cup a Chance for Redemption

For several members of the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team, the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup represents another chance. Many have been part of the U.S. Soccer national team programs for various cycles, but only three have ever been part of a youth World Cup, and only two have played in one. Nine others came close and are now getting their opportunity on the world stage.

Jeff Caldwell, Joel Sonora, Conor Donovan, Rubio Rubin, John Requejo and Shaq Moore were all on the 2013 team that was upset by Honduras at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship and missed out of that U-17 World Cup. Bradford Jamieson IV was left off that roster altogether after spending four semesters in Residency.

“Obviously that was a tough moment, not only for me but the rest of the team who experienced that,” said Moore, who was captain of the 2013 U-17 World Cup qualifying team. “I think having another chance – not even here at the World Cup, but at Qualifying in January with this group - was a big hurdle that I crossed to finally qualify for a World Cup.”

It wasn’t easy qualifying this time around, either. After tying the first and losing the second match, the U-20s won the final four matches in Jamaica – all by shutout – in order to qualify for New Zealand. One player who had to sit out was Sonora, who was injured weeks before. Thankful that the group qualified, he’s now looking forward for his chance at redemption.

“It was a big disappointment at the time because we were all expecting to qualify,” said Sonora of the 2013 team. “We didn’t see it as too difficult, and maybe we let our guard down. It was a very hard hit to take because it was the first time a U-17 team didn’t qualify for a World Cup. We were crushed. So we’re excited that we’ve now given ourselves another chance to show what we can do and what this group of players and this team is about in New Zealand.”

Two years earlier, Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola were the youngest members of the 2011 U-17 FIFA World Cup team in Mexico that bowed out in the Round of 16 with a loss to Germany. Acosta played in all four matches and Arriola in three. During that cycle, Marky Delgado did not make the qualifying roster, and while Jordan Allen was on the team that qualified, he was left off the final World Cup squad.

“There was disappointment, but at the time I hadn’t been playing well, so it was kind of expected,” Allen said. “I made sure once that happened, that the next time I had a chance to make a World Cup team I would have been doing everything I could to be in good form and put myself in the right position. So I’m happy that I’ve been able to do that this time.”

Allen and Delgado were also returning from injuries in January and not fit to go to Jamaica. But Allen seemed to be a longer shot. He suffered a knee injury last year that kept him out the picture for months. The Real Salt Lake forward made his first appearance with the U-20s in a camp in Austria in April, and got the call that he made the World Cup team a few weeks later.

“This means a lot,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of work in - being out of close to 10 months with my knee injury. As soon as I got healthy I circled when the World Cup was going to be and I made sure that by that time I was getting close to my best form. I put a lot of work in, and luckily it worked out.”

Arriola doesn’t take the opportunity to play in a second youth World Cup for granted.

“I know it’s unique, and I know I’m very blessed to be able to do this again,” he said. “Obviously when I started the cycle, this was my goal – to have us qualify for the World Cup and to make the team. But you never know what can happen, so I’m thankful to be here and looking to do whatever I can to help us win.”

Zack Steffen is the other player on this roster to have been on a World Cup team. The Freiburg goalkeeper, along with Acosta, returns from the 2013 U-20 World Cup team, although neither played in the tournament.

It’s obviously not easy making it to a World Cup, and it’s with that in mind that this group relishes the experience in New Zealand.

“We’ve had a very sour taste in our mouth,” Moore said. “We’ve just wanted to work hard and give ourselves another shot. We wanted to get rid of that taste and we’re not taking anything for granted. We’re excited to be here now, but we also want to make the most of this opportunity.”

U-20 MNT Defeats Australia in World Cup Tuneup

GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA (May 19, 2015) - The Under-20 Men’s National Team defeated Australia’s Under-20 team 2-1 Tuesday evening at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, Australia. After conceding a goal just 15 minutes into the match, the USA used second-half goals from Joel Soñora and Maki Tall to defeat the hosts in a pre-World Cup tuneup.

Australia took the lead when right-winger Awer Mabil played a ball into the area that midfielder Stefan Mauk was able to re-direct to the near post.

U.S. forward Tommy Thompson came the closest to leveling, only to have two attempts hit woodwork, once in the first half when a 20-yard shot hit the left post, and then early in the second half when his header off a Shaq Moore cross hit the right post.

The USA’s tying goal came minutes after both teams subbed in a combined five players at the hour mark. Thompson set up Joel Soñora who looked up from 25 yards and curled a shot to the far right post for his first goal with this age group.

The tie lasted all of 45 seconds as U.S. forward Maki Tall picked a ball off an Australian defender and put it away to give the USA the 2-1 lead.

The U.S. will play Serbia next week in a closed door match that will serve as the final test before the start of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

The U.S. was drawn into Group A with host New Zealand, Ukraine and Myanmar. The team opens group play against Myanmar at 12 a.m. ET on May 30 in Whangarei, followed by matches with New Zealand on June 2 and Ukraine on June 5, both of which will be played in Auckland. All of the U.S.’s group matches will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 and NBC Universo.

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

Match: U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team vs. Australia U-20 Men’s National Team
Date: May 19, 2015
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford, Australia
Kickoff: 6 p.m. local time (4 a.m. ET)
Attendance: 600
Weather: 60 degrees, cloudy 

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

AUS - Stefan Mauk (Awer Mabil)                     15th minute
USA – Joel Soñora (Tommy Thompson)           60
USA – Maki Tall (unassisted)                            61

Lineups:
USA: 1-Zack Steffen, 2-Shaquell Moore (15-Kellyn Acosta, 59), 4-Cameron Carter-Vickers, 5-Matt Miazga, 6-Desavio Payne (17-John Requejo, 74), 3-Marco Delgado, 7-Joel Soñora, 8-Emerson Hyndman (capt.), 11-Paul Arriola (18-Gedion Zelalem, 59), 9-Maki Tall, 10-Tommy Thompson,
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Jeff Caldwell, 22-Thomas Olsen
Head coach: Tab Ramos

AUS: 12-Jordan Holmes, 4-Scott Galloway (c) (3-Daniel Alessi, 83), 6-Liam Rose (9-George Blackwood, 73), 8-Liam Youlley (11-Alusine Fofanah, 59), 13-Brandon Borrello (17-Steve Kuzmanovski, 73), 14-Jaushua Sotirio (15-Adam Berry, 73), 16-Awer Mabil (7-Shannon Brady, 59), 19-Stefan Mauk, 20-Thomas Deng, 22-Riley Woodcock (21-Alex Gersbach, 59), 23-Jonathan Aspropotamitis
Substitutions Not Used: 1-Tom Glover, 2-Shayne D’Cunha, 12-Jordan Holmes, 18-Tom Heward-Belle,
Head coach: Paul Okon

Stats Summary: USA / AUS
Shots: 13 / 7
Shots on Goal: 4 / 4
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 6 / 6
Fouls: 12 / 8
Offside: 0 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
None

Officials:
Referee: Chris Young
Assistant Referee 1: Ryan Gallagher
Assistant Referee 2: James Cleal
Fourth Official: Trent Nash

U-20 MNT Readies for Pre-World Cup Test vs. Australia

The U.S. U-20 MNT take on Australia before heading to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

Emerson Hyndman Named U-20 MNT Captain for World Cup

U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos on Saturday evening announced to the team midfielder Emerson Hyndman will serve as captain at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

“We’ve been discussing with the staff trying to figure out who was going to be a good leader for us on the field and off the field,” Ramos said. “We’re very fortunate with this group that we definitely have three or four guys who could have taken that role, but we felt that Emerson was the right person to lead the way for the group. Obviously he’s a good player, and at the same time I think he’s very professional on the field and off the field and I think the type of person at U.S. Soccer we’d like to have as a leader.”

Hyndman is one of six players who appeared in all six matches for the U-20 MNT at the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica in January, where he scored once and led the team with three assists.

“It’s obviously an honor to be captain of a World Cup team,” Hyndman said. “I’m looking to bring all the same qualities from qualifying and really just help everyone on the team.”

The 19-year-old has also earned a cap with the senior U.S. Men’s National Team, debuting on September 3, 2014 as a second-half sub in the USA’s 1-0 win against the Czech Republic. He also played a friendly with the U.S. U-23 MNT on October 14, 2014 when he started against Brazil in Brasilia.

“(Ramos) just told me that he doesn’t want to put too much pressure on me, and he wanted me to be more of a leader,” Hyndman said. “I feel like I can do that, so I’m up to the task.”

A former Development Academy player with the Dallas Texans and the FC Dallas Academy, Hyndman signed a professional contract with Fulham in April 2013. He made his professional debut for the Cottagers on Aug. 9, 2014, going the full 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Ipswich Town in Championship play and made 11 first-team appearances for Fulham during the 2014-2015 season.

U-20 MNT Continues World Cup Prep in Sydney

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team capped the California portion of their three-leg pre-World Cup camp on Thursday with a light regeneration session at StubHub Center in Carson. A few hours later, the group embarked on a 15-hour flight to Sydney, Australia, where it will train for six days before heading to New Zealand for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

“I think the guys have shown their excitement for what’s to come in New Zealand,” said forward Tommy Thompson of the camp. “Everyone’s been sharp, and everyone appears ready. Now we’re looking forward to our scrimmage against Australia and to continue to build on what we started in LA.”

Fifteen players participated in the first leg in Carson, including Cameron Carter-Vickers, who arrived from England in time for Thursday’s training. Kellyn Acosta, Eric Palmer-Brown, Rubio Rubin, Jordan Allen, Bradford Jamieson and Gedion Zelalem will join the group over the next few days in Australia.

“Although we don’t have those players, I think it’s for a good reason - it’s because they’re all playing, and they’re playing important roles within their clubs,” said U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos. “That’s a good thing. It’s a sign of our players getting better and our pool of players being more and more competitive.”

The team conducted five sessions in Los Angeles, including a scrimmage against a local club in which they didn’t keep score. As important as the trainings were, Ramos said the time also served another purpose.

“Team-building happens not just on the field and not just with tactics,” Ramos said. “Team-building is everything else that happens outside the field, too. Although we don’t have a full roster yet, I think what we did in the three days in LA has been very important for our team because we’re starting to build a camaraderie amongst the players which I think is going to be very important leading into the tough part of the competition.”

The team arrived in Sydney early Saturday morning, skipping over Friday with the 17-hour time change and had a light session in the afternoon to try to quickly acclimate. On Tuesday the U.S. plays a friendly against Australia at Central Coast Stadium, however the focus remains the World Cup opener on May 30.

“Right now although we’re going to play Australia and then follow that up with a game against Serbia in New Zealand. But our main focus continues to be Myanmar,” Ramos said. “That’s all we think about, that’s what the players will be watching over the next couple days.” 

It didn’t take long for the message to be accepted by the team. 

“It’s a World Cup, and we know we can’t take any game lightly,” said midfielder Emerson Hyndman. “But right now we’re only looking at the first game against Myanmar and we’re not looking past it.”

The team was given video of Myanmar matches to watch on the flight to Australia. 

“We’re putting more resources and time into Myanmar and learning about Myanmar than we did for playing Spain in the last World Cup,” Ramos said, who also coached the U-20 MNT at the 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey. “Only because when you play a team like Spain or France or even Ghana, they play a style you’re somewhat familiar with, so you know their soccer culture, you know a lot more about them to begin with. In this case, we really had to learn from scratch. I think we’re putting a lot of time into that, and we feel comfortable that we’re moving in a good direction to be prepared for that game.” 

The preparation will continue picking up steam as the final six players join the squad, which Ramos says everyone is looking forward to.

“I think we’ve selected an excellent group of players but also an excellent group of people,” Ramos said. “They are all ready to go. They are all waiting for their teammates to come. And the guys who are not here can’t wait to get here. I think all around we have a good group of people and sometimes for a team that’s more important than anything else.”

 

×