USYNT faces daunting challenge against France in U-20 WC

first_imgThe U.S. Under-20 national team has reached the quarterfinals of the past two Under-20 World Cups, but in order to make it three in a row, Tab Ramos’ latest squad will have to overcome one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament.The Americans face off against undefeated France on Tuesday in their Round of 16 clash in Bydgoszcz, Poland, and will do so burdened with the daunting task of trying to stop the high-flying French without two key pieces of their midfield.Alex Mendez and Chris Durkin will miss the Round of 16 clash due to suspension after picking up yellow cards in the U.S. team’s 1-0 group stage win against Qatar. Mendez had been one of the biggest bright spots on Tab Ramos’ side, with his passing ability and dangerous left-footed shot a key weapon in the U.S. attack. Durkin had also established himself as the team’s top defensive midfielder, and enjoyed a standout performance in the group stage victory against Nigeria. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ramos must build his lineup without those two, and do so knowing his team will be facing a France side that won all three of its group matches, outscoring opponents 7-2 in the process. Re-introducing Paxton Pomykal to the starting lineup after giving the FC Dallas midfielder a rest against Qatar should help with Mendez’s absence, but replacing Durkin will be a trickier proposition.The U.S. roster only has one other pure defensive midfielder in Edwin Cerrillo. The FC Dallas midfielder is new to the U.S. Under-20 squad, and still hasn’t made an appearance for the U.S. Under-20 team, but as a regular starter in MLS with FC Dallas and is a viable option because of his tenacity and defensive bite. Combining with Cerrillo with Brandon Servania and Pomykal would give Ramos an all-FC Dallas central midfield with as much defensive presence as he can put together in midfield without Durkin.The more likely scenario will be for Ramos to deploy Servania in a defensive midfield role. He is more of a box-to-box midfielder than pure No.6, but his experience at the World Cup — he has started two matches and played in all three — coupled with his familiarity with the squad could give him the edge.Starting Servania as a defensive midfielder would also allow Ramos to start PSV Eindhoven midfielder Richie Ledezma in a midfield trio next to Servania and Pomykal. Ledezma impressed during a second-half cameo against Qatar, and had been a regular starter on the U.S. Under-20 team before being sidelined by injury last fall. His vision and passing ability would help replace some of what is lost by Mendez’s absence.Ramos has some other tough lineup decisions to make, including who to start on the right wing. Konrad De La Fuente started all three group stage matches, but Ulysses Llanez was very impressive against Qatar in his first match of the tournament. Llanez has the speed to test French defenders, and the fresh legs to provide more running than De La Fuente, who has had a heavy workload at the U-20 World Cup.GFX USMNT U20 Projected XI 06032019Selecting a back four won’t be easy either, with multiple options available at right back. Mark McKenzie turned in a steady shift in that position against Qatar, while Sergino Dest has long been the first-choice starter in the role, and started the team’s first two group matches.Dest overcame a shaky performance in the tournament-opening loss to Ukraine by playing well against Nigeria, and should get the nod. LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo is another option at right back, but as an injury-replacement on the roster, it’s tough to see Ramos choosing him over Dest and McKenzie.If Ramos chooses Dest, as expected, then he can slide McKenzie into central defense in place of Aboubacar Keita, who started all three group matches. McKenzie came into the tournament as team captain, and was a key starter in Concacaf qualifying, but a recent appendectomy before the World Cup hampered his preparation, opening the door for Keita to replace him in the lineup as the center-back partner to Chris Richards.Keita made some clear mistakes in the win against Qatar, and Ramos could decide to bring McKenzie back into the starting lineup in his traditional, partnering with Richards in the same tandem that won the Concacaf Championship.David Ochoa was very impressive in goal against Qatar, stepping in for Brady Scott, but Ramos should turn back to Scott as his starter following Scott’s strong showing against Nigeria. Ramos made similar lineup moves with his goalkeepers in Concacaf qualifying, starting Scott in group play and the final while handing Ochoa a start in the tournament semifinals.Whatever lineup Ramos settles on will have its hands full against a France side featuring Paris Saint -Germain striker Moussa Diaby, Borussia Dortmund defender Dan-Axel Zagadou and Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder Michael Cuisance.The Americans will look to lean on strong performances from Tim Weah and Sebastian Soto, who have led the attack at the World Cup, and who have played well together since Ramos inserted Soto into the starting lineup after sitting him in the opening loss to Ukraine. Weah has had a hand in goals in all three U.S. matches, and will look to outperform his PSG teammates for a place in the Under-20 World Cup quarterfinals.last_img read more