On the eve of the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team Classification Stage clash with El Salvador at the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, Tab Ramos has a group rested and prepared for the challenge that lies ahead. With a win or tie against Los Cuscatlecos Friday (6:30 p.m. ET – UDN, CONCACAF Facebook), the U-20 MNT punches their ticket to May’s 2017 FIFA World Cup in Korea Republic. The same result will also send the U.S. to Sunday’s Championship Final, the team’s second in the last three tournaments under Ramos.
Although a loss to El Salvador would create scenarios where the U.S. missed out on the World Cup, the team sees theopportunity for the taking and appreciates the ability to control their own destiny.
“Fortunately for us, and in all three cycles so far that I've been here, we've been able to control our own destiny and we have a game, usually, to qualify,” Ramos said. “That's the exact position you want to be in. You don't want to have to depend on anyone else, and we are very happy that the team has worked so hard to get us to this point.”
After their 1-0 victory against Mexico on Monday, the U.S. will have enjoyed three day’s rest before Friday’s decisive match and used one to take in El Tri’s 6-1 rout of El Salvador on Wednesday night. Los Cuscatlecos will mark the first opponent the U.S. has had more than two days to prepare for since their opener against Panama, and Ramos and the players have utilized the additional time wisely to rest and recover from injuries ahead of Friday.
“I think that's a really big advantage for us,” U-20 MNT captain Erik Palmer-Brown said. “We get to give our legs a little break and refocus on our goal after having such a big win against Mexico. We came here to win this tournament. We are using this time to train hard, prepare and work our tails off so that we can put ourselves in a position to win this whole thing.”
Leading up to Friday’s kickoff, the players have taken a familiar approach in preparing their physical and mental states to be ready for the contest.
“Our preparations have been the same as usual,” New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams said. “Tab has a structured plan for us. We know our opponent and we know our assignments. We have to bring the same amount of focus to all these games because every game is tough. El Salvador is another respected opponent that we have to be ready for. We are looking to get a win and focus on our assignments.”
Like every match of the tournament, the coaching staff and players are treating El Salvador like a final. A win from Friday’s match will setup an incredible Final on Sunday, where Classification Stage Group E winner Honduras awaits.