Tab_ramos_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_2018_u-20_camp_-_casey_brooke_lawson Casey Brooke Lawson/ISI
U-20 team analysis

Llanez, McKenzie, and Scott highlight the U.S. U-20 qualifying team

Tab Ramos has unveiled his 2018 U-20 World Cup qualifying roster and while there are several big names missing from both European and MLS teams, it does have the talent to succeed. Brian Sciaretta breaks it down. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 23, 2018
4:00 AM
OUNITED STATES U-20 national team head coach Tab Ramos unveiled his roster for his World Cup qualifying tournament which will get underway on November 1 at IMG Academy in Florida.

The timing of the tournament as well as the timing of the MLS playoffs created numerous challenges for Ramos to get players released for the tournament.

By rule, clubs are never required to release players for youth events – even during FIFA windows. In previous editions of this tournament, Ramos and his predecessors have often found it difficult to get top young players based in Europe released for this tournament but have typically had an easier time getting any MLS player given that it typically has talent place between January and March.

This year, however, has made it tough for Ramos to get many key MLS-based players – on top of the challenges for European-based players. Most notably, Atlanta United’s Andrew Carleton and DC United’s Chris Durkin are not on the roster with both teams having clinched a playoff spot. Earlier this month, Ramos said that New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams would not be on the U-20 team as he has essentially graduated from this level.

Despite that, Mark McKenzie is on the team even as a starter for the playoff-bound Philadelphia Union although McKenize will likely not be in camp the entire time with the U-20 team.

In Europe, key players like Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, Chris Richards, Sebastian Soto, Jonathan Amon, or Sergino Dest were not released - at least at the start of the tournament.

This year’s format is different than previous years because the six teams that advance past the first group stage can make up to six changes to their rosters. The added players must come from the preliminary 35 player roster which was submitted earlier in the month but was not made public.

The United States will open Group A action on November 1 against Puerto Rico and will play every other day through November 9.

Here is the roster along with some thoughts on the team.

The Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2):1-Brady Scott (FC Koln; Petaluma, Calif.), 12-CJ Dos Santos (S.L Benfica; Philadelphia, Pa.)

DEFENDERS (7):2-Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting KC; Charlotte, N.C.), 3-Chris Gloster (Hannover 96; South Orange, N.J.), 4-Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; Bear, Del.), 5-Matthew Real (Philadelphia Union; Drexel Hill, Pa.), 14-Manny Perez (N.C. State; Garner, N.C.), 16-Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompac, Calif.), 19-Sam Rogers (Seattle Sounders FC; Seattle, Wash.)

MIDFIELDERS (6):6-Brandon Servania (FC Dallas; Birmingham, Ala.), 8-Juan Pablo Torres (K.S.C.Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen; Lilburn, Ga.), 8-Alex Mendez (SC Frieburg; Los Angeles, Calif.), 10-Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; Highland Village, Tex.), 15-Anthony Fontana (Philadelphia Union; Newark, Del.), 18-Isaac Angking (New England Revolution; Providence, R.I.)

FORWARDS (5):9-Justin Rennicks (Indiana Univ.; Hamilton, Mass.), 11-Ulysses Llanez (Unattached; Lynwood, Calif.), 13-Griffin Dorsey (Indiana Univ.; Evergreen, Colo.), 17-Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC; Detroit, Mich.), 20-Frankie Amaya (UCLA; Santa Ana, Calif.)

Central defense/midfield quesitons

The biggest question mark on the team is in central defense as it was always a thin position for the team but with Chris Richards not released by Bayern Munich, it becomes even more of an issue. The other key central defender is Mark McKenzie and his involvement has him splitting his duties with the Philadelphia Union.

On the team, Seattle Sounders 2 defender Sam Rogers and Julian Araujo will have to shoulder the majority of the responsibility early in the the tournament although fullbacks Jaylin Lindsey and Matthew Real can fill in out of position in the middle.

Defensive midfielder also has questions marks with Chris Durkin not on the squad. Juan Pablo Torres will likely have to shoulder this responsibilities.

Enough talent to advance

Despite the team’s short-handed roster, the bottom line is that it should be enough for the team to qualify for the second stage. Tab Ramos will have more talent than each of his opponents in Puerto Rico, Suriname, the Virgin Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

The tournament’s format, however, is rigorous in that games are played every other day. As a result, every player must be counted to start multiple times and play every other game. As is typical of the region, the play will be physical and choppy.

Key offensive players will be Ulysses Llanez, Justin Rennicks, and the midfield will be anchored by Alex Mendez and Brandon Servania.

Who could be added?

If the United States advances to the second stage, Ramos will be able to add up to six players to the team (while removing others players since the roster size must stay at 20 players).

The second stage is during the November FIFA international window and while clubs are not required to release players during this stage, they typically are more willing. Also, MLS playoffs are not taking place during this window.

Ramos cannot preplan all six changes since some spots must be kept open for injuries. Still, there are players the team can expect to see join should it advance.

The most likely additions are Jonathan Amon, Sergino Dest, and Andrew Carleton which would provide upgrades at wing, right back, and in the attacking midfield respectively.

After that group, Chris Durkin could also join to bolster the defensive midfield and Chris Richards is also a possibility in central defense. Finally, there is also hope that Richard Ledezma might recover in time to help the team in this stage. The No. 8 midfielder is rumored to have signed with PSV Eindhoven recently. If Ramos is in need of a forward, Sebastian Soto might also be a possibility. 

The two most high profile names who could also make an appearance are Tim Weah and Josh Sargent who have been contributing to the full national team lately. Their involvement might come down to their club’s willingness to release the players, Ramos’ comfort with his existing options, and the decision of U.S. Soccer and Earnie Stewart to allow them to play for the youth team instead of the first team.

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