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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.

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.

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.”

Russell Canouse Pulls Out of U-20 MNT World Cup Squad with Injury; Replaced by Conor Donovan

CHICAGO (May 25, 2015) – U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos has replaced midfielder Russell Canouse, who was injured in training earlier in the week, on the USA’s FIFA U-20 World Cup roster by Conor Donovan. Canouse sustained a right ankle injury while the team was training in Australia and will require additional time to recover. Donovan was named as an alternate and has been with the team since the pre-World Cup camp began on May 11 in Carson, California.

“Today was a very tough decision to make,” said Ramos. “Obviously Russell led our team to qualification in the last four matches in Jamaica, so I think that we lose a player that’s very important on the field, but also off the field. So it’s a big loss for us.

“At the same time, we were prepared by having Conor be here the whole time. Conor has been working hard with us, he’s adapted and he has been with the team for a while. So we were ready with a replacement and we’re excited to have Conor on board, who also brings a lot on the field and off the field.”

Canouse, who plays at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in Germany, captained the USA in the final four matches of the 2015 U-20 CONCACAF Championship in January in Jamaica, helping the team post four consecutive shutouts en route to earning a berth at the World Cup in New Zealand.

Donovan was also a member of the U-20 World Cup qualifying team in January, appearing in two matches, including a start in the team’s 8-0 victory over Aruba. The 19-year-old was selected by Orlando City SC with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft after one season at North Carolina State.

Donovan joined the U.S. Residency Program in 2011 and was a member of the U-17 team that participated at the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. He played in the Development Academy in 2013-14, competing for Capital Area RailHawks Academy – CASL’s U-18 squad. He previously played for North Carolina Alliance.

Since the U-20 Championship, Donovan has appeared in friendlies against England, Qatar and Croatia. He scored the tying goal against Qatar on April 21 in Salzburg, Austria.

The U.S. arrived in Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday and will make its way to Whangarei on Tuesday. The team opens Group A 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-20 MNT React to Win vs. Australia

Head Coach Tab Ramos, and players Joel Soñora, Maki Tall, and Tommy Thompson react to the USA's 2-1 win over Australia.

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.

Ramos Names Emerson Hyndman U-20 World Cup Captain

Tab Ramos on why he chose Emerson Hyndman to captain the U.S. U-20 side for the World Cup.

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.

Results

Date Matchup Result Venue Attendance Goal Scorers
July 25, 2009 U-20 MNT vs CA Tiro Federal 2-0 W 0 Flores (2)
July 27, 2009 U-20 MNT vs Uruguay Under-20 Men 0-0 D 0
July 29, 2009 U-20 MNT vs Australia Under-20 Men 1-3 L 0 Ibrahim
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