BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, January 10, 2013
US U-20 World Cup qualifying is just weeks away and Santos Laguna forward Daniel Cuevas has been part of the team's growth during this entire cycle.
Cuevas, 19, has been never been a part of any US youth national team until early 2012 when US U-20 head coach Tab Ramos began to regularly callup Cuevas to camps.
Just prior to the Christmas holiday, the US U-20 team completed their final camp of 2012 and it ended with a resounding 4-0 win over Venezuela in a friendly. Cuveas came away from the camp satisfied with the team's progress with qualifying fast approaching.
"I think the team is really good right now," Cuevas told YA. "We have grown a lot since the beginning of the process and it shows how much we have grown with our last result over Venezuela."
Cuevas was born in Sacramento, California and holds dual citizenship with both the US and Mexico. The rivalry between the two nations is well known and for Mexican-American players, it can be a conflicting occasion when the two teams meet.
On the current US U-20 team there are several other Mexican-Americans including Luis Gil, Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Tomas Gomez, Omar Salgado, and Cuevas' teammate at Santos Benji Joya.
For Cuevas, he insists he feels no conflict playing for the United States and in fact looks forward to the possibility of taking on El Tri at World Cup qualifying next month in Puebla.
"I feel no conflict at all representing the US," Cuevas explained. "I am just grateful and value the opportunity that I'm getting. Playing in Mexico while representing the US is suspenseful only because I have and idea of what Mexico's team is going to look like and makes me anxious to play against them."
"I am very confident that we will return victorious from [World Cup qualifying in] Puebla," he added. "We have a very talented group and when we work together we are really hard to defeat."
Cuevas has been part of Santos Laguna's organization since 2011 when he decided to turn professional at an early age instead of developing his game in college. To begin his career, his agent lined up trials with several Mexican teams.
On his trip to Mexico, his first stop was Santos Laguna and that turned out to be the only stop he would make. After a very successful trial, he formally joined the powerful Torreon-based club in June 2011.
Last season was difficult for Cuevas at Santos Laguna as playing time with the club's U-20 team was hard to come by as many of the team's first team players were also playing at the U-20 level to stay sharp.
This year however has been a different story as Cuevas is regularly training with Santos' first team and he is hopeful that possible appearances in Liga Mx games will happen sooner rather than later.
"My development at Santos has been really good recently," Cuevas concluded. "I've been training with the first team daily and now just waiting to get some first division action. I hope it just a matter of time before my names starts to get mentioned in Mexico's First Division."