BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The first US U-20 camp of 2012 is now underway and the roster offers some insight into where the team sits at the beginning of the cycle
One thing that is important to remember is that at the U-20 age group, the status of players rises and falls very quickly.
In the beginning of the 2011 U20 cycle in 2009, the most anticipated players were Gale Agbossoumonde, Stefan Jerome, Carlos Martinez, Earl Edwards, Jack McInerney, Tristan Bowen, and Sebastian Lletget.
When looking at the best U20 players two years later, the best players from that age group were Josh Gatt, Terrence Boyd, Juan Agudelo, and Perry Kitchen.
For the current US U-20 team under new head coach Tab Ramos, things appear to be a little clearer.
In the midfield Luis Gil is on track to be one of the best players developed in MLS and with him earning first team minutes with Real Salt Lake, he is likely an important part of the team moving forward.
Not involved with the current camp but still an important part of the US U-20 team in the midfield is Marc Pelosi. The German-born youngster is earning positive reviews for his time at Liverpool's reserve team.
In the midfield, Fabian Hurzeler was briefly part of the U-20 team last cycle but he never filed for his one-time switch to the United States. Since then he has resumed play for Germany but it is unclear if he will consider a return to the US.
In defense another very interesting aspect on this team is that it could be very deep at left back. Sean Cunningham is expected to see first team minutes with Norwegian champions Molde FK who will play in the Champions League. Juan Pablo Ocegueda is also a nice left back prospect at Tigres.
The left back position becomes even deeper throwing Danny Potts into the equation. The youngster is also seeing first team minutes with West Ham but if his native England becomes interested, it is questionable whether he stays with the United States.
Likewise there are rumors that the US is pursuing Blackburn's 17 year old Adam Henley who is currently playing for Wales' U-19 and U-21 teams The youngster is a highly talented fullback who can play either on the left or the right. If the US can convince him to suit up for the Stars and Stripes, he could be a welcome addition that would affect the U-20, U-23, and full national team for years to come.
In central defense, Hertha Berlin's John Anthony Brooks is likely the be the central figure as he is training daily with the Bundesliga club's first team.
At forward, there are also good options. Omar Salgado was the number one overall MLS draft pick and he is likely to be a major part of the team this cycle. He was also part of the previous U-20 team while playing up a cycle.
Bulgarian-born Villyan Bijev was also signed by Liverpool but is now on loan in Germany. His impressive trial at Liverpool raised eyebrows but injuries have plagued him in recent months. Jerome Kiesewetter is not in the current camp but he was singled-out by Ramos as having an impressive camp in Germany.
The goalkeeping position is clear right now with Cody Cropper emerging as a very promising player for Ipswich Town.
The biggest question mark right now is how to evaluate the college players. By 2013 some of the players will turn professional either in MLS or Europe. In the past, some of the best American players ever have played in college but most players at that level won't make it. So right now, it's too early to say.
Also in question is whether more dual nationals will pop up and consider playing for the United States. There are youth players with American passports playing for other countries (like Aston Villa's Derrick Williams who plays for Ireland) and as we have learned with players at this age, a switch is always possible.
But here's a rundown on the early part of the 2013 U20 team with it likely to change drastically over the next 18 months.
Core: Cody Cropper
Core: John Anthony Brooks, Sean Cunningham, Juan Pablo Ocegueda
Contenders: Mikey Ambrose, Will Packwood, Jalen Robinson, Jordan McCrary, Bryan Gallego, Walker Zimmerman, DeAndre Yedlin, Boyd Okwuonu
Wild card: Adam Henley, Danny Potts.
Core: Luis Gil, Marc Pelosi,
Contenders: Caleb Stanko, Tyrone McCargo, Jose Villareal, Mikey Lopez, Will Trapp, Daniel Garcia
Wild Card: Fabian Hurzeler
Core: Omar Salgado, Jerome Kiesewetter, Villyan Bijev
Contenders: Jack McBean, Uvaldo Luna Martinez, Alfred Koroma, Andrew Oliver, Kellen Gulley