Under-20 World Cup: U.S. competition for roster spots intensifies

The U.S. under-20 national team beat Japan, 2-1, at the Pinatar Arena complex in Spain to wrap up its last camp before head coach Tab Ramos must pick his team for the Under-20 World Cup later this spring in Poland. The victory followed up on the 2-2 tie with France in which the USA came back from two goals down in the second half.

Christian Cappis, who scored the second against France, had the second goal for the game-winner against Japan. The other goals were scored by Konrad de la Fuente and Andrew Carleton against France and Japan, respectively.

All three players didn't take part in Concacaf qualifying last November, underscoring the depth in the U.S. team. In all, seven players who weren't in Bradenton, Florida, for qualifying played in Monday's win: Trey Muse in goal, Aboubacar Keita at center back, Cappis in midfield and de la Fuente at right wing, plus Chris Durkin, Jonathan Amon and Carleton off the bench.

Durkin, who plays for D.C. United, could start at the defensive midfield position, while de la Fuente, who is only 17 and plays for Barcelona's Juvenil A team, could break into the starting lineup on the wing. Muse, who signed with the Seattle Sounders out of Indiana University, will likely make the World Cup team as a backup goalkeeper, while Keita, who signed with the Columbus Crew after one college season at Virginia, could be the third center back behind Chris Richards and Mark McKenzie. Cappis, Carleton and Amon, who assisted on Carleton's goal, will give Ramos a lot to think about as he sorts through his options in midfield and on the wing.

Ramos' options for Poland also include senior internationals Josh Sargent and Tim Weah, who were also in San Pedro de Pinatar playing with the U.S. U-23s.

MLS commitments prevented Ramos from bringing to Spain three starters during qualifying: midfielders Paxton Pomykal and Brandon Servania (both FC Dallas) and McKenzie (Philadelphia). Midfielder Richie Ledezma (PSV) and Nick Taitague (Schalke 04) are considered among the most talented players in the U-20 player pool, but injuries have set them back.

Four players born in 1999 have made their first MLS starts in the league's opening weeks -- Jesus Ferreira (pending citizenship), Edwin Cerrillo, Omir Fernandez and Branden Aaronson -- but such is the depth of Ramos' U-20s that they won't likely be considered for the U-20 World Cup roster.

The USA will open at the U-20 World Cup on May 24 against Ukraine before facing Nigeria on May 27 and Qatar on May 30.

March 25 in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain
USA 2 Japan 1. Goals: Carleton 50, Cappis 75; Hirakawa 63.
USA -- Muse, Lindsey (Dest 79), Keita (Gloster 46), Richards, Real, Torres (Durkin 46), Cappis, Mendez (Amaya 70), de la Fuente (Amon 46), Akinola (Soto 46), Llanez (Carleton 46).
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