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Grading the U.S. Under-20’s qualifying tournament

EmersonHyndmanUSU20MNT1-TrinidadAndTobago (Mexsport)


The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is headed for New Zealand this May, but it wasn’t always an assured result.

Tab Ramos’ squad had to grind out a couple of wins against host Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago on a rough pitch at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship before facing El Salvador, and winning the elimination game, 2-0, on Saturday evening. There were some memorable performances, like those from Zack Steffan and Emerson Hyndman, while others had a more forgettable time in the Caribbean.

As the U.S. now prepares for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, let’s take a look back at how each player performed during the tournament.


ZACK STEFFEN (A) – Came up big when the U.S. U-20s needed him in the team’s win over El Salvador, saving a penalty kick, and showed maturity and poise beyond his years, finishing with three shutouts.

SHAQ MOORE (B) – Showed off an impressive burst of speed and confidence along the wing, but his short-passing game wasn’t always on point.

CAMERON CARTER-VICKERS (A-) – It’s hard to believe that Carter-Vickers only recently turned 17-years old. The Tottenham youngster fit in very well in the U.S. backline and dominated for stretches as some opponents couldn’t handle his blend of speed and strength.

MATT MIAZGA (B) – The tall centerback showed flashes of brilliance in reading situations and being strong in the penalty area both attacking and defending on corner kicks. At the same time, he was caught out of position and was at fault for the Panama goal that eventually cost the U.S. a place in the CONCACAF Championship final.

JOHN REQUEJO (B-) – Wasn’t flashy, but did a solid job getting forward up the left wing as well as defending one-on-one against other CONCACAF forwards.

TOMMY THOMPSON (C+) – Showed off his flashy and silky dribbling skills, and was one of three players to have started all six games. However, there were multiple times when he wasn’t able to compose himself in front of goal.

EMERSON HYNDMAN (A) – After a slow start in the first two games, Hyndman came on strong in the final four matches, orchestrating the U.S. attacking and proving that he’s a level above his CONCACAF opposition at the U-20 level.

RUSSELL CANOUSE (C) – Stepped into the starting lineup after Kellyn Acosta’s injury and did a solid job protecting the back four, though didn’t add much else above his defensive responsibilities.

ROMAIN GALL (B+) – Scored a team-high five goals, including a pair from the penalty spot, and looked very confident when in front of goal. Played solidly on the left wing, out of position, though he couldn’t always connect with his teammates in the run of play.

BRADFORD JAMIESON (C+) – Displayed next-level speed but also missed many more chances than he finished.

BEN SPENCER (C-) – After struggling with match fitness in the first couple games of the tournament, Spencer partnered up top with Jamieson and former a solid partnership, which resulted in a few goals, though there were plenty of misses between the two.


PAUL ARRIOLA (C+) – The right winger was played a majority of the time out of position in the middle and struggled to make a big impression during the tournament, though he came up with a big insurance goal against El Salvador to secure qualification.

LYNDEN GOOCH (C-) – Played four times, including a start against Panama, but failed to finish with a goal. Had a couple of audacious attempts on goal, including a back-heel that was saved.

JUNIOR FLORES (D) – Was subbed off at halftime after starting the first two matches, and came off the bench in the final three matches. Never really lived up to the hype in Jamaica, which looks artificially enhanced.

KELLYN ACOSTA (INC) – Was named captain and started first two matches but was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury after the Panama loss.

CONOR DONOVAN (INC) – Started in the 8-0 thrashing of Aruba, came off the bench in the 84th minute against Trinidad and Tobago to provide defensive support.

AMANDO MORENO (INC) – Scored in the rout of Aruba, was a late attacking addition against Panama.

ETHAN HORVATH (INC) – Provided strong goalkeeping in the win vs. Aruba.

TYLER TURNER (INC) – Won a penalty kick and was very active down the right wing against Aruba.

FERNANDO ARCE JR. (INC). – Played the second half against Aruba, showed the ability to make deep runs out of the midfield.


What do you think of our grades? Who do you feel was rated too highly? Think anybody wasn’t given high enough of a grade?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. pretty good ratings but Canouse absolutely deserves higher. he played the #6 role leaving Hyndman to do as he pleased. rating him lower because he didn’t do more than defense is silly. when Acosta went down, i was worried but he stepped up big time.

  2. Totally agree with these ratings. Although many players received low grades, you could see their quality at times and know that these guys have potential to improve their game. I was very impressed with Ben Spencer’s hold up play, and his great touch, although he had a horrible time facing goal.

  3. I thought the US played 6 matches in total to qualify. I understand that we were supposed to beat Aruba but the game was still played. If your grades were excluding Aruba than you should at least say as much in your write up.

  4. After all the hype, I was very disappointed with Gall’s overall performance. Yes, he finished a few goals well and was cool from the spot. Credit where deserved there. But he otherwise drifted in and out of games and failed to match the physicality required given the sub-par field conditions. The fact that he and Moore were the US’ s only two best 11 selections is a total joke. Hyndman looked a cut above his teammates and his competition. He’s the only one of this group that looks ready to be included with the full Nats — at only 17, Carter-Vickers not far behind.

  5. Wayyyyyy to many Cs, not enough Bs.


    “Stepped into the starting lineup after Kellyn Acosta’s injury and did a solid job protecting the back four, though didn’t add much else above his defensive responsibilities.”

    This is equivalent to giving a Matic, Makelele, or Busquets a C because they don’t score often. Ridiculous. He’s a DEFENSIVE midfielder.

    Canouse, Hyndman, Thompson all looked a class above their opponents. How 2 of the 3 get Cs beats me.

    • Well its Concacaf and we didn’t win every game by 6 goals, so that means that all of our players are horrible, hence the low grades. “/s”

  6. Dual nationals of note who could be u20 World Cup eligible:

    Maki Tall (France)
    Luis Martir (Mexico)
    Desevio Payne (Netherlands)
    DeVante Parker (Germany)

    Disclaimer: I’ve not seen any of them play but heard great things about Parker and Tall, though they are very much a part of their respective countries’ youth setups

    • I read comments rating Devante higher than his brother Shawn… I saw only highlights and Devante is very quick and mobile player.

  7. Rubín

    Subs: Thompson, Flores, Novakovic, Canouse, Palmer Brown, turner, Donovan, Horvath, Gooch, 3rd GK?

  8. Corrected, Gideon is capped with Germany at the U17 not the U20 level. He is good to go for the u20WC

    Rubin, and anyone else, plenty of time btw end of season in April and the Gold Cup in July for him to participate in the U20WC. Not like he is going to be an automatic starter in the GC too

  9. @ATX the big one is Rubin, who is guarenteed a starting role after these guys struggled to score vs concacaf opposition.

    Besides him there seems to a large group of hyped players that haven’t broke thru yet in the intern’l and pro club games; Sonora, Pfeffer, Yomba, Redding, Palmer-Brown, Allen.

    keep in mind Zalhem & Green wont be eligible, so id say this team isnt far from the best we have

    • Rubin shouldn’t be wasting his time with U-20 stuff if he is a first team regular with Utrecht

      Rubin should either be with the full MNT or with his club…

      If I remember correctly it is unusual for first team regulars to participate in youth level tournaments….

      Hyndman is the only in season first teamer on this roster but he is by no means a week in week out type of player like Rubin is proving to be.

      • While I can kind of agree with you about Rubin….I’m not 100% sold on the need to have him at the GC in 2015. If he’s top 4 strikers available in the US pool than he should be w/ the Sr. Team.
        However, IF (big if) he’s 5th or deeper than I’d rather him play w/ the U-20’s and U-23’s.
        As of right now, our Striker Pool is Dempsey, Jozy, Johannsson, Rubin, Wondo, Boyd, Zardes….
        but if Rubin hits a rough patch or some guys heat up it may be good for him to get competitive international matches with the youth sides.

      • Guys, U20 performance is one of the top indicators for the next world cup: look at U20 WC winners and they subsequent WC performances:

        I give you Spain in 1999, Ghana in 2009, France in 2013, Portugal in 1989 and 1991. You look at Japan’s 2002 world cup performance in 2002 and think it came out of the blue… but then you see they were the 1999 u20 runners up, and suddenly it makes more sense. Germany didn’t win until 1990, but their 1981 U20 win was the foundation for back to back finals appearances in 1982 and 1986 (pace, maradona). Obviously this doesn’t translate if you are Brazil, Argentina, or Italy (which has shockingly never won one… anyway. There is a very statistically significant correlation between up and coming countries and u20 world cup performance leading to good world cup performance. Basically, what I am saying is this: our 2018 cup will be determined by our performance at this U20 cup.

      • Utrecht’s season ends about 2 weeks before the tournament starts May 30th. Pogba had 27 appearances for Junventus and played in the last U-20 World Cup. I’m pretty sure Rubin can do the same.

    • Rubin and that there fancy Arsenal kid.
      I imagine they are both at the U20 WC though… Rubin maybe goes to the gold cup? We’re short on strikers.

    • A couple headliners who weren’t there (although I have no idea club’s release policies for U20 WC): Julian Green, Rubio Rubin, Gideon Zalalem, Marc Pelosi (I think still is age-qualified). These are the biggest names that I can think of that weren’t in qualifying.

      • Green is not eligible. Pelosi is too old he’s a 94. Guys who could be added Joel Sonaro, Gedion Zelalem, Rubio Rubin, Mukelle Akale and Erik Palmer Brown

    • the current U-20 that qualified plus players below…

      G – Caldwell (Virginia)
      D – Palmer-Brown (Sporting KC)
      D – Redding (Orlando City)
      D – Amick (UCLA)
      D – Martir (Chivas Guadalajara)
      D – Gasper (UCLA)
      D – Odoi-Atsem (Maryland)
      M – Sonora (Boca Juniors)
      M – Baird (Standford)
      M – Delgado (Toronto FC)
      M – Felipe (Cruzeiro)
      M – Pfeffer (Philly Union)
      F – Muyl (Georgetown)
      F – Novakovich (Reading)
      F – Rubio (FC Utrecht)

      Also available for the U-20 WC…
      D – Payne (Groningen)
      M – Lickert (SC Freiburg)
      M – Zelalem (Arsenal)
      F – Yomba (Atletico Madrid)

  10. Flores issue lies more in the lack of quality players around him. Gall and Jamieson were awful No quality at all. Looking forward to Rubin coming in.

    • Think you are a bit harsh with Gall and Jamieson. I see talent there, but they are extremely raw and inconsistent. I do think the writer here was very harsh with Flores. He picked up a knock early in the tournament, but showed quality in flashes, particularly in that move to set up the second goal against El Salvador. The best players for me by a lot were Hyndman, Carter-Vickers, and Miazga.

  11. I thought the team played better with Spencer in the line up. If only for just giving them a focal point to play off of. Of coarse you want more goals out him but still I’d give him at least a C+ or B-.

      • Spencer was the only one playing good team ball. Mntime Moor gets a B for running fast, and nothing is subtracted for giving the other team chances on bad giveaways and having no idea when to be forward or back which is #1 concern for a rb.

        Grades at this level don’t mean much.

  12. I would rate Thompson higher. His ability to take on defenders and beat them in tight spaces gets more weight in my mind than missing some chances.


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