U.S. U-20

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Houston Dynamo hires U.S. U-20 coach Tab Ramos

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The Houston Dynamo has found its new coach in longtime U.S. U-20 boss and MLS veteran Tab Ramos.

Ramos, 53, takes over a Dynamo team which missed the playoffs due largely to its moribund 2-15 record away from home.

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He led the U-20s to the 2013 World Cup, the only time his men failed to advance past the group stage. The U.S. U-20s went to the quarterfinals in 2015, 2017, and 2019, and Ramos helped develop talents like Tyler Adams, Zack Steffen, Josh Sargent, and Sergino Dest.

From HoustonDynamo.com:

“I’m excited to join the Houston Dynamo organization and I’m looking forward to the challenge of leading this group of players,” Ramos said. “This is a club that has winning in its DNA, a club with a clear vision for the future centered around development and a team-first mentality, and Houston is a city that has tremendous untapped potential as a soccer market, both on and off the field. This is a fantastic opportunity, and I can’t wait to get started.”

The Uruguay-born midfielder earned 81 caps for the USMNT on the heels of a career at North Carolina State where he was three-time All-American. He’d play club soccer in the U.S., Spain, and Mexico, including a promotion run with Real Betis. He was the 1994 CONCACAF Player of the Year.

U-20 World Cup roundup: Quarterfinalists set, ranked

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The United States’ stunning come back to topple favorites France at the U-20 World Cup in Poland was followed up by the battle for the eighth quarterfinalist slot.

It took penalty kicks, as Mali and Argentina staged a thriller of their own that sat 2-2 after 120 minutes.

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Aboudlaye Diaby had a wild day, scoring an equalizer in regulation before conceding an own goal in the first minute of extra time and then scoring in penalty kicks as Mali clinched a spot in the final eight.

Insanity.

So who is going to win this thing, especially with France now out of the mix?

8) Ecuador — By putting them here, we’re assuring that La Tricolor will upset the Americans in the next round.

7) South Korea — The only team left from its group, they face a match-up problem with quarterfinal opponent Senegal.

6) Colombia — The wild card of the quarterfinalists, it’s difficult to have a read on Los Cafeteros other than to say its win over the hosts on Day One is laudable.

5) Mali — It may look insane to have Mali so low, given how exciting their matches have been and their taking of France to the wire, but nine goals allowed in four matches isn’t promising much.

4) United States — It’s just as easy to argue they can win the tournament than it is to say the Baby Yanks will bow out against Ecuador.

3) Ukraine — Still relatively untested after waxing Panama, but has to sit above the Baby Yanks after beating them in the group stage.

2) Senegal — Unbeaten with a pair of clean sheets on their record, the Senegalese are in the better part of the bracket when it comes to seeking the title.

  1. Italy — Vintage, tactical Italy has allowed one goal through four matches while averaging a single goal per game. Next up is a Mali team who’s shown an ability to be easily opened up by nearly every attack on the schedule.

U.S. U-20s meeting potential head-on

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The Yanks are coming.

Given the past year for the U.S. men’s national team, that’s a statement which might’ve required different and perhaps excessive punctuation even a few months before the U-20 World Cup in Poland.

Maybe: The Yanks are coming?

Or even: The Yanks are coming?!?

[ RECAP: France 2-3 U.S. U-20s ]

There was a cautious optimism regarding the United States U-20 team heading into the tournament, no doubt. Tab Ramos’ men had suitcases full of swagger and a boatload of nerve honed from win after win in CONCACAF and plenty of advancement in their club careers.

Sebastian Soto and Timothy Weah had broken into the fold at Hannover 96 and Celtic (and PSG). Paxton Pomykal was having one of the best seasons of any midfielder in MLS, and a handful of players including Chris Richards and Alex Mendez took MLS Academy-developed careers to Bundesliga clubs.

Ukraine, Nigeria, and Qatar was a manageable group, not an easy one, but if the hype and hope met halfway the Baby Yanks could have a shot at placing for the first time in 20 years (when the tournament had fewer teams).

Looking at the tournament field, the mandate of the ambitious seemed simple: Don’t just advance, but win the group and probably avoid France. The oddsmakers had France as better than even money to win the tournament.

So when the Baby Yanks’ early 1-0 lead turned into a 2-1 deficit via goals before and after halftime, many would’ve been forgiven for sensing in air of inevitability. That Ramos’ men would flip the script with two goals in the final 16 minutes was wondrous.

Perhaps that amazement is a product of how much weight was put on the Baby Yanks winning Group D with the hopes of avoiding France. Maybe that added to the specter of Les Bleus, casting a longer shadow over the field.

Of course it could all fall apart for the U-20s against Ecuador, even though the Yanks will be favored in Gdynia. These are young players, more likely to be swayed by in-game emotions. Wisdom is there to be gained from these tournaments, win or lose.

Yet this makes three-straight quarterfinal berths for the U.S. who, by the way, has U-20 eligible Josh Sargent on USMNT duty.

It’s a terrific feather in the cap of Ramos, whose 2017 squad took eventual finalists Venezuela to penalty kicks in the quarters and had neither Christian Pulisic nor Weston McKennie on the roster (Tyler Adams and Sargent were there, it should be noted).

That Venezuela team, for what it’s worth, lost to England who had Lewis Cook, Dominic Solanke, Dominic Calvert-Lewin as three of a several to now have Premier League experience under their belts. 2015 winners, Serbia, defeated the U.S. in the quarters (penalty kicks) and had Sergej Milinković-Savić and Marko Grujic.

The U-20 World Cup isn’t a kingmaker of a tournament, and many stars of this month (and last) won’t dance onto FIFPro Best XI, but tell any sad sacks trying to thumb their nose at this U.S. win to take a hike.

Only eight teams will remain once Argentina and Mali finish their tangle on Tuesday, and the United States is alive. For a men’s program which failed so fantastically in World Cup and Olympic qualifying, these wins are welcome feats of strength.

And really, it could be huge given the full USMNT’s promise under Gregg Berhalter, with three key players 20 years old and promise building into the Gold Cup and, we can only hope, the 2022 World Cup.

U.S. readies for loaded France at U-20 World Cup

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It’s the day any U-20 World Cup hopeful wanted to put off for as long as possible: the date with France.

Though Mali did its best to help the United States avoid that moment, the Baby Yanks will have to duel with the mighty French in the Round of 16 on Tuesday.

Well, okay then: Here is the chance to send a message to the world that your country’s prospects are just as bright as the reigning World Cup champions’ youngsters?

Somehow defying the favorites to win the tournament would be an incredible feather in the cap of Tab Ramos’ young men, themselves as well-regarded as any other tournament team despite a stumble in the opener against Ukraine and a nervy finale versus Qatar.

There have been several stars for the U.S., which has seen fine performances from Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96), and others, but there’s little doubt that the X-factor is Timothy Weah. The son of Liberian great George Weah, Timothy assisted in the opener against Ukraine and scored the lone goal against stingy Qatar.

Now the Paris Saint-Germain youth will be tested by a French team who boasts talents from the biggest names in Europe. There’s fellow PSG striker Moussa Diaby, Borussia Monchengladbach mainstay (at age 19!) Mikael Cuisance, and Borussia Dortmund’s Dan-Axel Zagadou amongst others.

Perhaps a better way to look at Tuesday’s challenge is to list some of the players France did not select for the team: Fiorentina starting goalkeeper Alban Lafont, Eintracht Frankfurt contributor Evan N’Dicka, Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi (Europa League duty), RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate, and PSG’s Stanley Nsoki.

Yikes.

The 2013 champions, France won a pair of 2-0 matches before their 3-2 thriller with Mali. Bernard Diomède’s men will not bat an eye at the United States, and his 4-3-3 has an attacking bend.

Ramos has used that formation at the tournament, too, but perhaps it’s telling that he opted for a more defensive 4-3-3 in a 2-2 draw with the French in March. Chris Durkin and Alex Mendez sat in holding roles, while Frankie Amaya pushed the creative buttons. That’s an even tougher midfield with Pomykal in for Amaya, so perhaps we will see Ramos go with the same tactics he chose in the group stage despite the step up in opposition.

Granted we’re talking months, but France’s average age of 19.8 is the oldest at the tournament, seven months senior to the Yanks’ 19.1 (only Mali and Senegal are younger).

Weah’s late strike pushes U.S. into Round of 16

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Timothy Weah’s 76th minute goal pushed the United States U-20 men’s national team past Qatar and into the knockout rounds of the 2019 World Cup in Poland.

The USYNT finishes second in Group D, and will face the winner of France and Mali’s Friday Group E decider in the Round of 16 (June 4 in Bydgoszcz).

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The Americans were flirting with an early exit from the tournament for most of the match, with Ukraine and Nigeria locked at 1.

Qatar had lost to Nigeria 4-0 and Ukraine 1-0, while the U.S. lost 2-1 to Ukraine and beat Nigeria 2-0.

Moments after Weah’s marker, the Baby Yanks had a chance to put the match to bed, but Qatar goalkeeper Shehab Ellethy dove right to parry Alex Mendez’s penalty kick.

Ellethy then stopped Weah 1v1 in the 89th minute to keep the knockout round berth in the balance.