The 2015 Under-20 World Cup is 10 months away, and Tab Ramos will be using the NTC Invitational tournament to assess talent, try out player combinations, and take another step toward qualifying.
ON THE HEELS
July 14, 2014
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of a second-place finish at the Dallas Cup in April, the U.S under-20 men’s national team has reconvened in Carson, Calif., in preparation for the 2014 NTC invitational tournament
, where Tab Ramos’ squad will face Chile on Monday before matches with Bermuda and Australia later in the week.
The 20-man roster
Santiago Castano (New York Red Bulls; Union City, N.J.), Zack Steffen (Maryland; Downington, Pa.)
Michael Amick (UCLA; Sunnyvale, Calif.), Conor Donovan (Carolina RailHawks Academy; Fuquay Varina, N.C.), Chris Odoi-Atsem (Maryland; Mitchellville, Md.), Shaquell Moore (FC Dallas; Powder Springs, Ga.), John Requejo Jr. (Club Tijuana; Carpinteria, Calif.), Caleb Smith (Solar Chelsea SC; Arlington, Texas), Jesus Vasquez (UANL Tigres; San Luis Obispo, Calif.)
Fernando Arce (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Russell Canouse (TSG Hoffenheim; Lancaster, Pa.), Marco Delgado (Chivas USA; Glendora, Calif.), Romain Gall (Lorient; Herndon, Va.), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland; Santa Cruz, Calif.), Jacori Hayes (Wake Forest; Bowie, Md.)
Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Bradford Jamieson (LA Galaxy II; Los Angeles, Calif.), Benji Lopez (Arizona United SC; San Diego, Calif.), Andrija Novakovich (Reading; Muskego, Wis.), Zach Pfeffer (Philadelphia Union; Dresher, Pa.)
Continuing the march toward under-20 World Cup qualifying
, which begins in December, Ramos has returned 10 players from the impressive Dallas Cup run, including defenders Michael Amick and Jesus Vasquez, who join roster regulars Shaquell Moore and John Requejo Jr. (Requejo is the newest American Xolo, and one of three Tijuana players selected to the team). European-based midfielders Lynden Gooch
and Romain Gall also return to the fold, along with the attacking combination of Arriola, Lopez, and Pfeffer, who combined for three goals and two assists in Dallas.
Joining them up top will be LA Galaxy II standout Bradford Jamieson, who is making his first appearance at the under-20 level after 11 appearances for the U17s, and recent Reading FC signee, Andrija Novakovich
, who impressed in his under-20 debut in May, scoring twice in a 4-2 friendly win against Wilmington Hammerheads of USL Pro. Maryland defender Chris Odoi-Atsem also makes a return appearance from the May training camp roster.
Among the other notable inclusions is midfielder Russell Canouse. Fresh off captaining the Hoffenheim U19 squad to its first ever A-Junioren Bundesliga title, Canouse will enter an already-crowded-for-talent midfield—one which hasn’t yet seen the inclusion of Emerson Hyndman
and Junior Flores, who are both in preseason for Fulham and Borussia Dortmund, respectively.
Alongside Canouse and making his U.S. national team debut is Tijuana midfielder Fernando Arce Jr. Son of the prolific Mexican international, it has long been whispered that the junior Arce would be receptive to a U.S. call-up. Now that he’s in, if he can fulfill his massive potential, the move could prove to be a significant coup for U.S. Soccer.
In an interesting side note, the official roster sheet originally included Chivas Guadalajara defender Luis Martir but was quickly amended due to the Chivas mothership’s strict policy on non-Mexican internationals. Although Ramos and U.S. Soccer likely knew the request would be rejected, the not-so-subtle message to Martir—similar to the one that caused Omar Salgado to leave the club years ago—could prove valuable if he ever leaves Chivas.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Ramos will likely mix and match the lineup throughout the week. He’s still in the early phase of putting together his qualifying roster and, like in Dallas, will relish the opportunity to tinker with player combinations.
Novakovich will probably see time in the target forward role that Indy Eleven striker Ben Spencer
played for Ramos earlier this year. The six-foot-two Novakovich, powerful as he is technical, certainly fits the bill. If he can help disrupt the opposition backline, the U.S. has proved deadly in numbers and will look to Pfeffer, Arriola, and Lopez to provide the finishing, as the team is without the goal-scoring touch of FC Utrecht’s Rubio Rubin.
In the midfield, the most interesting question comes as to the positioning of Sunderland’s Gooch. Although he has shown deadly goal scoring form playing in an attacking position for the Potters, Gooch, who looks more a rugby player at first glance, has featured more regularly in a deeper midfield role for Ramos. With Canouse joining the fray, however, this could easily change. Powerful, tricky and with pace to burn, Gooch is a menace in the open field.
Following the Dallas Cup, Ramos said that the outside back combination of Moore and Requejo are “probably the guys” he can see taking into qualifying. Beyond that, the centerback pairing is anyone’s guess. UCLA’s Amick looked strong before suffering an early injury in the Dallas Cup final and, unfortunately, ceding a crucial goal. Tigres’ Jesus Vasquez, who has seen time as a center back and in the midfield, also caught the eye of Ramos and could very well be in the mix along with national team regular Conor Donovan.
In goal, Steffen looked far and away the No. 1 choice in the afterglow of Dallas. Although they split time in net, Castano provided more than his fair share of nervy moments thanks to some questionable decision making.
PROJECTED Starting XI
Steffen; Requejo, Amick, Donovan, Moore; Canouse, Gooch; Arriola, Gall, Pfeffer; Novakovich
The Americans begin play Monday evening against Chile at 9pm ET. Friday's match will be streamed live at ussoccer.com.