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.)
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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