U-20 team analysis

United States U-20 team wins CONCACAF, downs Mexico, Dos A Cero

The United States U-20 national team gave Americans some reasons to smile after winning CONCACAF again with a dominating tournament that was capped with a win over rival Mexico. Brian Sciaretta breaks it down.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 21, 2018
5:00 PM
FOR THE SECOND consecutive cycle, the United States U-20 national team is the champion of CONCACAF after defeating Mexico by the familiar 2-0 scoreline. The victory capped a tournament where the U.S. team was never threatened and always in command of every game.

The U.S. team will now head into 2019 with a world of momentum as it builds towards the World Cup in Poland. For head coach Tab Ramos, he will have tough decisions to make as this team was dominant while also missing several of the best age-eligible players. Merely making this team will be a challenge for the Americans in the player pool.

Both of the U.S. team’s goals against Mexico were scored by Alex Mendez and set up by Paxton Pomykal.

The first came when Pomykal made a great move into the box from the left side and set up an open Mendez for a clear shot at the top of the box.

The second goal came when Pomykal again controlled the ball moving into the attacking third. He then initiated a quick passing sequence with Mendez that resulted in the second goal.

From then, the U.S. team was in total control and the result was never in doubt. The U.S. team was always more dangerous and more skillful than the Mexican team.

Here are some thoughts on the game and the tournament

Mendez was a revelation

Alex Mendez was the best player in the entire tournament. So much will be made of his shot, which is outstanding. But he passes well and moves great into space to create or finish dangerous opportunities.

It will be very exciting to see where Mendez goes from here – both with the United States and with SC Freiburg. He looks like a player who can probably climb the ranks quickly for his club. Freiburg is not a club so loaded with talent where Mendez can’t put himself within the range of the first team in 2019.

For the United States, Mendez will have the U-20 World Cup and then a possible transition to the U.S. U-23 team for the Olympics or Olympic qualifying.

Mendez will certainly be a player to watch next year as exciting things could be happening sooner than later.

Pomykal & Servania stock increasing

After Mendez, Pomykal was the U.S .team’s most dangerous player throughout the tournament. The FC Dallas attacking midfielder showed great chemistry with Mendez and also was very effective taking on defenders with the ball and creating space.

Pomykal has had a great month with the team. Initially, there were a lot of questions as to whether or not he was going to make the final roster for this tournament. Now he returns home with a CONCACAF title and a firm spot on the team as a key player heading towards the World Cup.

But even beyond the World Cup, this tournament should give Pomykal a world of momentum when he returns to FC Dallas under a new coach in January. He has the talent to be a player who gets regular minutes. He should get that chance in 2019.

Similarly for Brandon Servania, he played very well in this tournament as the No. 6. It seemed as if that position was going to go to Chris Durkin but when Ramos had the opportunity to make changes after the first group stage, he did not include Durkin. Instead he stayed with Servania as the top No. 6 and Servania was terrific.

FC Dallas has two starters for this strong U-20 team. Getting them on the field to continue their development will be key. 

Tough internal competition

For those age-eligible players who were not on this roster, it will be an uphill climb to make this roster. Sure there is impressive talent not on this team, but this team played with a lot of chemistry and it will take a compelling case to make any challenges.

Assuming that Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, and Tyler Adams will stay with the full national team, there are four players to keep an eye on: Richard Ledezma, Andrew Carleton, Jonathan Amon, and Chris Durkin. Neither were on this team due to a variety of reasons but are expected to be big part of this team.

It is unlikely that Ramos will bring the exact same roster to Poland but players are going to have to raise their games if they want to take the spot of someone who was on CONCACAF team. Internal competition typically brings out the best in players. It will be exciting to see how that affects this group.

Backline has big potential

One of the concerns for this U-20 team is that central defense depth is not good beyond starters Chris Richards and Mark McKenzie. If that tandem is healthy, it be every bit as good as, or better than, the past two U-20 cycles that produced Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Justen Glad, and Erik Palmer-Brown.

Sergino Dest might also be the best right back in the youth national team pool right now. He is exciting in the attack and his defense is also effective. Jaylin Lindsey, as his backup, is a very capable addition. Chris Gloster and team captain Matt Real are both solid at left back.

Ramos’ resume grows

As the U-20 head coach, Ramos has seen the team take off in recent years. Following the 2007 team’s run to the quarterfinals, the 2009, 2011, and 13 teams were not impressive.

Since 2013, Ramos has now sent two consecutive U-20 teams to the World Cup quarterfinals. He now has two consecutive CONCACAF titles. In 2019, he has a team with the talent to take another deep run.

As the federation’s technical director, the youth national teams are generally performing well and churning out players who are earning interest from European scouts.

That FC Dallas gig is open and it has some strong talent coming through its academy, Ramos really would check a lot of boxes. It's very easy to see Dallas making a push to make Ramos the next head coach.

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