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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).

Reyna, Busio headline U.S. U-17 squad for CONCACAF Championships

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Two of the top teen-aged talents the U.S. has ever produced will be wearing the red, white, and blue next month at the 2019 CONCACAF Under-17 Men’s Championship.

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Raphael Wicky announced his 20-man squad for the upcoming tournament, set to take place at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. It’s a small irony, as this is the first year without the residency program that was housed on the IMG Academy property.

The U.S. squad is led by Sporting KC midfielder Gianluca Busio and the son of USMNT legend, Claudio Reyna, Giovanni, who is reportedly set to join Borussia Dortmund’s academy officially in the coming months. Also included in this squad is FC Dallas youngster Ricardo Pepi, who already has four goals in USL League One this season. Another forward, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez is coming into the camp in red-hot form, having scored a hat-trick and helped lead his Seattle Sounders to the GA Cup title.

Griffin Yow just made his full D.C. United debut, and Las, just 17, has already reportedly attracted attention from Europe.

Here’s a look at the U.S. roster.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Damian Las (Chicago Fire; Norridge, Ill.; 13/0), 12-Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; Calgary, Alta.; 4/0)
DEFENDERS (7): 4-Axel Alejandre (FC United; Chicago, Ill.; 14/0), 3-Adam Armour (North Carolina FC; Cary, N.C.; 11/0), 13-Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 2/0), 14-Tayvon Gray (New York City FC; Bronx, N.Y.; 10/0), 5-Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 14/1), 2-Joseph Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.; 14/1), 15-John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.; 3/0)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 7-Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; Greensboro, N.C.; 7/2), 20-Gilbert Fuentes (San Jose Earthquakes; Tracy, Calif.; 13/0), 8-Bryang Kayo (D.C. United; Poolesville, Md.; 0/0), 6-Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders FC; Las Vegas, Nev.; 0/0), 16-Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy; Panorama City, Calif.; 17/1)
FORWARDS (6): 18-Jack de Vries (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.; 0/0), 17-Tyler Freeman (Sporting Kansas City; Shawnee, Kan.; 3/1), 19-Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Tacoma Defiance; Kent, Wash.; 14/5), 9-Ricardo Pepi (North Texas SC; McKinney, Texas; 6/1), 10-Giovanni Reyna (Unattached; Bedford, N.Y.; 8/1), 11-Griffin Yow (D.C. United; Clifton, Va.; 6/3)

Report: Dutch-American outside back Pierie undergoes medical at Ajax

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For the first time since the days of John O’Brien, an American will be in Ajax’s first team.

According to reports in the Netherlands, Heerenveen outside back Kik Pierie traveled to Ajax to speak with manager Erik Ten Hag and undergo a medical ahead of a transfer this summer. Pierie was born in Boston while his father was studying at Harvard Medical School, but Pierie and his family moved back to the Netherlands after his father’s year-long stay in the U.S. came to an end.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

So far, Pierie has appeared for Netherlands youth national teams, but he has also reportedly been contacted by U.S. Soccer. Pierie still has plenty of time before he locks in with one team or the other, though a move to Ajax certainly puts him on a bigger stage for both the Netherlands National Team and clubs across Europe.

Ironically, Pierie isn’t the only Dutch-American wing back on the books at Ajax. Sergino Dest, who is a regular for U.S. youth national sides and could start for the U.S. this May at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, is a member of Jong Ajax, the Ajax reserves side, and has a professional contract. The signing of Pierie certainly adds a barrier for Dest, though since both are 18, they have time to battle and break into the first team.

Next season, Dest could perhaps go out on loan and gain some first team minutes in the Eredivisie.

VIDEO: Giovanni Reyna stars for USYNT with goal, assists

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Seldom is a U-15 match truly worth national attention, but it certainly deserves eyes when the player who stars in the Stars and Stripes happens to be the son of USMNT royalty.

Giovanni Reyna is going to be known as Claudio Reyna’s son for some time, but if he keeps up starring roles like his goal and two assist performance against Panama in the CONCACAF U-15 Championship, Claudio will move into “Giovanni Reyna’s dad” status at some point.

[ MORE: Another American teen making Bundesliga name ]

That’s way down the line considering “Dad” is an American pioneer with 112 caps, eight goals and a career with Manchester City, Rangers, Sunderland, Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, and New York Red Bulls, but worth noting nonetheless.

Reyna’s goal was an absolute stunner:

And here are his two assists, putting Mexico on notice for Saturday morning’s final.

USA fight back to draw in U20 World Cup opener

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The U.S. U-20 national team drew 3-3 with Ecuador in Incheon, South Korea on Monday as a late goal from Luca de la Torre got the Baby Nats off and running in Group F at the U-20 World Cup.

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After going 2-0 down within seven minutes of kick off, the U.S. pulled a goal back before half time as Josh Sargent continued his fine form and he added another from Brooks Lennon’s fine cross in the second half to make it 2-2.

Gedion Zelalem went off with an injury for the U.S. early on and it looked like a mistake from goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann (the son of former USMNT boss Jurgen) would cost the USA a point as he dribbled into trouble and then a poor clearance allowed Bryan Cabezas to put Ecuador 3-2 up.

However, de la Torre scored deep into stoppage time as the Fulham midfielder was the hero.

The U.S. face Senegal on Thursday in their second group game, while Saudi Arabia and Ecuador do battle.