BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, February 18, 2013
The United States U-20 team will open World Cup qualifying Monday night with a game against Haiti in Puebla, Mexico.
The US is currently in Group A along with Haiti and Costa Rica with the top two teams advancing to the quarterfinals. The two teams advancing from Group A will face off in the quarterfinals against two teams from Group B which consists of Canada, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
The game against Haiti is an important test for the Americans who will need to get a positive result against an expected difficult game against Costa Rica.
Tab Ramos is expected to play with a 4-3-3 that consists of Cody Cropper in goal and Juan Pablo Ocegueda at left back and Boyd Okwuonu at right back. Central defense is a position where injuries have hurt the American team but Ramos is likely to play team captain Caleb Stanko in the middle along with Colorado's Shane O'Neil.
In the midfield, Will Trap is likely to start in the holding midfield role where he will play behind Benji Joya and Luis Gil.
In the front three, Jose Villarreal is likely to start on the right wing with Daniel Cuevas playing on the left. In the middle, Stuttgart's Jerome Kiesewetter will likely get the nod despite missing significant time in 2012 with injuries.
For Haiti, they are expected to be the weakest team in the group but if they can secure a result, they can sneak into contention for a quarterfinal berth.
This US U-20 cycle is the first major coaching experience for Tab Ramos who was the national team captain at the 1994 World Cup. Ramos is trying to return the U-20 program back to its winning ways after the team failed to qualify for the 2011 U-20 World Cup.