U.S. under-20 men
With world tournament the prize, expectations are high for Americans.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Thursday, March 15, 2001) -- The preparations are just about over. The expectations are high.
The final United States under-20 menís roster was announced yesterday just before the team departed for Trinidad & Tobago for the CONCACAF Group B qualifying tournament which runs from Sunday through next Thursday at the Dr. Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence in Tunapuna.
The U.S faces Guatemala Sunday, Trinidad & Tobago Tuesday and Costa Rica next Thursday in the four-nation round robin from which the top two finishers advance to the World Youth Championship June 17-July 8 in Argentina.
If Group A was any indication, expectations can be a tricky thing. Host Canada and Jamaica advanced by finishing first and second, respectively, leaving traditional regional powers Mexico and Honduras to explain their failures.
During the final week of training, the under-20s lost 2-1 to Major League Soccerís MetroStars, defeated Haiti Select 5-1 behind two goals and two assists by Landon Donovan and edged the Miami Fusion 2-1.
"We are all very anxious and canít wait to get started with qualifying," head coach Wolfgang Suhnholz said. "The team has begun to play well, and now we get to bring in our full squad with Landon (Donovan), DaMarcus (Beasley), Conor (Casey) and Bobby (Convey). With all of the professional experience on this roster, we will be able to field a very strong side."
On paper, the U.S. looks powerful, but in the round-robin format, one bad outing could mean elimination.
Donovan, who is under contract to Germanyís Bayer Leverkusen, was named "Most Valuable Player" at the under-17 world championship in 1997 where the U.S. finished fourth. He is with the national U-20s for the first time.
DaMarcus Beasley (Chicago Fire, MLS), Bobby Convey (D.C. United, MLS) and Conor Casey (Borussia Dortmund, Germany) will be making their first appearances of 2001 with the under-20 squad. Casey, Beasley, Donovan and Nelson Akwari (UCLA) all made their under-23 national team debuts at the 1999 Pan American Games before playing in their first U-20 match.
Beasley, Convey and Donovan have combined for eight full national team appearances, giving Suhnholzís side unprecedented international experience.
Seven of the 18 roster members are professionals, including 2000 Summer Olympic teammates Donovan and Casey, as well as Seth Trembly (Colorado Rapids, MLS), Edson Buddle (Columbus Crew, MLS), Jose Burciaga (Kansas City Wizards, MLS), Beasley and Convey.
Eight players on Suhnholzís roster are from the team that advanced to the 1999 under-19 world championship semifinals, including goalkeeper D.J. Countess (UCLA), defenders Oguchi Oneywu (Clemson), Alexander Yi (UCLA), Trembly and Akwari. In addition to those five, Beasley, and Convey, and Donovan were also on the squad that placed an American-best fourth place at the 1999 event in New Zealand.
Conspicuous in their absence are three standoust from that U-17 team: midfielder Kenny Cutler, a co-captain, but was cut, high-scoring forward Jordan Cila who decided to stay at Duke and concentrate on his studies, and midfielder Kyle Beckerman who was not invited to try out.
The under-20s have posted a 7-3-3 record in 2001, including an impressive pair of wins against Mexico in Guadalajara in the teamís only two international matches of the year.
The U.S. finished 11th at the 1999 World Youth (U-20) Championship in Nigeria, losing only to eventual finalists Japan and Spain.