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U-20 USMNT Begins World Cup Qualifying Tonight vs. Haiti

By Kim Tate ctsy of US Soccer



Estadio Olímpico Universitario Lobos BUAP; Puebla, Mexico

The U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team begins its quest to qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup tonight. The team will face Haiti to open the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship at Estadio Olímpico Universitario Lobos BUAP in Puebla, Mexico. The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on FOX Soccer.

Midfielder Marc Pelosi, who also plays for Liverpool, is set for surgery after suffering a broken leg on a harsh tackle from West Brom's Liam O'Neil and will not play. Jose Villarreal is the leading goal scorer among this group with four tallies in six U-20 MNT matches heading into the tournament, including a recent penalty kick goal during the USA's Jan. 21 match against Panama. Goalkeeper Cody Cropper and forward Jerome Kiesewetter have been tied to the U-20s since 2010. Cropper enters the tournament with nine international appearances for the U-20 MNT. Midfielder Mikey Lopez and defender Boyd Okwuonu lead the team with 11 games apiece heading into the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, with both players appearing twice earlier this year for the team's two-game set against Panama in Puebla, Mexico. Midfielder Benji Joya had 10 caps in 2012 to lead the team, which posted a 4-6-0 international record last year.

This year marks the 24th occasion in which the U.S. U-20 MNT is competing in the CONCACAF Youth Tournament or Championship. The USA is looking to qualify for its 13th FIFA U-20 World Cup.


U-20 MNT Head Coach TAB RAMOS:

On the team's readiness for the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship:  "I believe we're as ready as we can be. We've had eight camps already [this past year] and in this particular group we have guys who have all been here [in Mexico] before, We have players who are prepared and we've had a couple of great weeks of training. We are training in great facilities, playing in an excellent stadium, the temperature should be OK, so there are really no excuses for us but to do the best we can and try to get to this first game."

On the leadership needed to advance through qualifying:  "It is very important for us that the guys who have been associated with this particular age group - guys like Luis Gil, Jose Villarreal, Mario Rodriguez, Caleb Stanko who's a leader on the team and Cody Cropper who has been here before - are really up to task when game time comes and that they're the ones who lead the way for us to get to the next round."

On Haiti:  "They're a very technical team. They move a lot without the ball and they're very honest workers on the ball and without it. I truly believe that Haiti's going to be able to compete well. I think that they would have the same goals we have, which is to get out of this group. The start of the tournament is a very tough matchup for us. And the key is going to be in us trying to keep the ball away from their two central midfielders. They keep the ball well and they distribute for the whole team. If we can win our matchup in the middle of the field, we're going to be in good shape."


2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship Page


ROSTER BY POSITION - DETAILED ROSTER

GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Cody Cropper (Southampton; Maple Grove, Minn.), 12-Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara; Santa Rosa, Calif.), 22-Zack Steffen (FC DELCO Academy; Downington, Pa.)

DEFENDERS (6): 18-Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), 3-Juan Pablo Ocegueda (C.D. Guadalajara; Riverside, Calif.), 2-Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina; Edmund, Okla.), 5-Shane O'Neill (Colorado Rapids; Boulder, Colo.), 4-Caleb Stanko (Freiburg; Holly, Mich.), 14-Javan Torre (UCLA; Santa Monica, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (5): 10-Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), 8-Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), 15-Mikey Lopez (Sporting Kansas City; Mission, Texas), 16-Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids; Brighton, Colo.), 6-Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; Gahanna, Ohio)

FORWARDS (6): 19-Brandon Allen (Georgetown; Old Bridge, N.J.), 20-Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), 17-Danny Garcia (North Carolina; Dallas, Texas), 11-Jerome Kiesewetter (Stuttgart; Berlin, Germany), 9-Mario Rodriguez (Kaiserslautern; North Hollywood, Calif.) 7-Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy; Inglewood, Calif.)


2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship Group Pairings:
Group A: Costa Rica, Haiti, USA
Group B: Canada, Cuba, Nicaragua
Group C: Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico
Group D: Curaçao, El Salvador, Mexico


ROSTER NOTES:

U.S. U-20 MNT vs. HAITI

•The U.S. U-20 MNT has faced Haiti twice in CONCACAF Youth Tournaments and Championships, posting a 2-0-0 record.

•The U.S. U-20s last played Haiti in the opener of the 21st CONCACAF Youth Championship, recording a 4-1 victory on Jan. 17, 2007, in Panama City, Panama. Andre Akpan tallied a hat trick and Anthony Wallace contributed a goal and assisted Akpan's first goal in the 26th minute. The USA went 2-0-1 in the CONCACAF tournament and qualified for the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada and took seventh place.

•The U.S. U-20 MNT also defeated Haiti in the opener of the 19th CONCACAF Youth Championship. The USA earned a 2-0 victory on Nov. 13, 2002, in Group B play in Charleston, S.C. Eddie Johnson and Santino Quaranta each had a goal. The USA was 2-1-0 in the tournament.

Notes courtesy of US Soccer. www.USSoccer.com