For the first time in history, the USA will arrive at the U-20 World Cup as Concacaf champion, having beaten defending champ Mexico, 1-0, en route to the regional final, in which it prevailed over Honduras in PKs after a scoreless tie.
But at the World Cup in South Korea, where the USA kick offs May 22 against Ecuador, Coach Tab Ramos wants a more lethal offense.
“We led the Concacaf tournament in shots on goal with 81 [in six games] and the second most was 61, yet we didn’t lead tournament in scoring,” Ramos said. “We have to get better in the World Cup because chances are we won’t get as many chances.”
Ramos announced his 21-man roster on Tuesday and it includes six players who weren’t part of the 20-player qualifying roster.
One of the newcomers is no stranger to the U-20s, Gedion Zelalem having played for the USA at the 2015 U-20 World Cup when Ramos’ team reached the quarterfinals. Zelalem was unavailable for qualifying because of his commitment to Dutch second division VVV-Venlo.
“Gedion in the center of the field will help us because he’s a great possession player,” says Ramos. “We definitely have to get him to make the game-winning type plays.”
Ramos also added 17-year-old Josh Sargent, who led the U.S. U-17s with five goals during their successful qualifying campaign for the U-17 World Cup.
“He is very dangerous around the box, holds the ball well and his runs off the ball are runs you would normally see made by a much older player,” says Ramos. “Josh can make an impact on this team.”
Also new to the team is forward Lagos Kunga out of Atlanta United’s academy, who was called up to the U-19s last February and went on the U-20s’ post-qualifying camp in England
“Lagos Kunga is a younger player who has a lot of energy, has speed, can take players on, is an honest worker,” Ramos said.
Midfielder Derrick Jones, who has played eight games (five starts) for the Philadelphia Union this MLS season, missed qualifying because the Ghana native had not yet been cleared by FIFA. The 20-year-old dual-citizen moved to Philadelphia from Ghana at age 14. In 2016, he played 26 games for Philadephia’s USA affiliate Bethlehem Steel, scoring five goals and assisting twice.
“I watched Derrick Jones play in the USL last year, the whole season pretty much,” Ramos said. “And Derrick did really well. And I’m very impressed with what he’s been able to do with the first team at the Union. Obviously they haven’t been in a great situation at the start, and that’s difficult for a young player, but I think he’s done a great job.”
Brooks Lennon, who scored five of the USA’s 11 goals in its six qualifers, has started in Real Salt Lake’s last eight games this season, going the full 90 in each, and tallied scored the gamewinner in a 2-1 win over Colorado.
“Lennon has a lot more experience than he had two months ago,” Ramos said. “And we expect a lot more from him. … And Sebastian Saucedo is also playing a lot for Real Salt Lake.”
Saucedo, who scored twice in qualifying, has gotten five starts and played in eight games for Real Salt Lake.
Emmanuel Sabbi, who scored the 2-1 win over El Salvador, had gone to Spain’s Las Palmas last August but the transfer ultimately fell through.
“He was not really fit in qualifying,” says Ramos, “but now he’s been training a lot and I think we’ll get the best out of him in this tournament.”
The other players on the 21-player squad headed to South Korea who weren't part of qualifying are Tottenham-based central defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, who started for the USA at the 2015 U-20 World Cup, and 17-year-old Brady Scott, who will serve as backup keeper to Jonathan Klinsmann and J.T. Marcinkowski.
U.S. U-20 men’s national team
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California; Newport Beach, Calif.), J.T. Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.), Brady Scott (De Anza Force; Petaluma, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (7): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG; Westcliff-on-Sea, England), Marlon Fossey (Fulham/ENG; Surbiton, England), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (University of New Mexico; Las Cruces, N.M.), (Sporting Kansas City; Lee's Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca De La Torre (Fulham/ENG; San Diego, Calif.), Derrick Jones (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland; Alexandria, Va.), Gedion Zelalem (VVV-Venlo/NED; Bethesda, Md.)
FORWARDS (6): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Lagos Kunga (Atlanta United FC Academy; Tucker, Ga.) Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Emmanuel Sabbi (Unattached; Columbus, Ohio), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O'Fallen, Mo.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah).
• Ramos said he would have strongly considered Josh Perez (Fiorentina) and Schalke 04 players Nick Taitague and Weston McKennie, but their clubs were uncooperative.
• The four collegians on the team are goalkeepers Klinsmann (Cal) and Marcinkowski (Georgetown), defender Aaron Herrera (New Mexico) and midfielder Eryk Williamson (Maryland).
• The five players who were on the qualifying squad who did not make the World Cup roster are: Jonathan Gonzalez, Jeremiah Gutjahr, Coy Craft, Jonathan Lewis and Auston Trusty.
• The USA was drawn into Group F and faces Ecuador (May 22), Senegal (May 25) and Saudi Arabia (May 28) in first-round play.
• All of the U.S.'s group matches will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1.
USA's U-20 World Cup team not quite as experienced as in 2015
Christian Pulisic is eligible but not available for the USA’s 2017 U-20 World Cup team. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder will be busy with the German Cup final and USA World Cup qualifiers. That leaves Coach Tab Ramos’ squad with 10 players who have made their pro league debuts, compared to 12 in 2015 U-20 World Cup and six for the 2013 tournament.
U.S. U-20s’ Pro Experience:
GP/G PLAYER CURRENT TEAM
0/- Jonathan Klinsmann (Univ. of California)
0/- J.T. Marcinkowski (Georgetown Univ.)
0/- Brady Scott (De Anza Force)
GP/G PLAYER CURRENT TEAM
4/0 Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake)
0/0 Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham/England)
0/0 Marlon Fossey (Fulham/England D2)
35/2 Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake)
0/0 Aaron Herrera (Univ. of New Mexico)
10/0 Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City)
27/0 Tommy Redding (Orlando City)
GP/G PLAYER CURRENT TEAM
8/0 Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls)
0/0 Luca De La Torre (Fulham/ENG D2)
8/0 Derrick Jones (Philadelphia Union)
0/0 Eryk Williamson (Univ. of Maryland)
8/1 Gedion Zelalem (VVV Venlo/Netherlands D2)
GP/G PLAYER CURRENT TEAM
1/0 Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers)
0/0 Lagos Kunga (Atlanta United academy)
8/1 Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake)
0/0 Emmanuel Sabbi (unattached)
0/0 Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri)
17/0 Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake)
GP=First-team pro league games.
Nine of the 10 players who’ve made their pro debuts ply their trade in MLS, including three who debuted this season: Danny Acosta, Derrick Jones and Brooks Lennon.
Ramos’ 2015 squad, which reached the quarterfinals, included 10 foreign-based players. The 2017 squad has four-foreign-based players, only one of whom has played in a first-team league game: Gedion Zelalem.
Going into the 2015 U-20 World Cup, 12 U.S. players made a combined 187 first-team appearances compared to 10 players in 2017 with a total of 126.