Top Stories

Who should the U.S. U-20s start vs. Colombia?

U20 USMNT starting lineup Ukraine



For the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team, last week’s lopsided loss to Ukraine is in the rearview mirror.

The sole focus is now on the road ahead.

The U.S. will look to keep its World Cup dreams alive on Wednesday when it enters the knockout rounds of the competition against a nation that also finished second in its group. Colombia settled for the runners-up spot in Group C after compiling an unconvincing 1-1-1 record, and enter the Round of 16 match-up at Wellington Regional Stadium (3:30 am ET, Fox Sports/Telemundo) as the underdogs given the Americans’ more impressive display thus far in New Zealand.

While the U.S. has looked better through three games at the World Cup, head coach Tab Ramos will need to mull over some of his lineup decisions after suffering a humbling 3-0 defeat to Ukraine last Friday. The good news for Ramos is that he should have all but one player in Maki Tall completely healthy and available, leaving Ramos with all of his top youngsters for a do-or-die match against a technical but not physically imposing Colombian side.

Which players will Ramos turn to for the Round of 16 clash with Colombia? Here is the starting lineup we could see take the field in New Zealand:

Projected U20s vs. Colombia

If this lineup looks familiar, it is because it is the same one that Ramos used in the Americans’ 4-0 thrashing of New Zealand back in the second game of group play. This group seems to be Ramos’ preferred starting eleven at this point, especially since he labeled that match against the Kiwis as the U.S.’s “most important” one last week.

Matt Miazga and Desevio Payne return to the fold here after sitting out the loss to Ukraine to avoid potential yellow card accumulation. The defensive duo should help fortify the American back line as well as give it more of an attacking edge, with Payne’s surging runs forward and Miazga’s passing range and aerial ability all helping the U.S. cause.

Miazga also provides the type of leadership in defense that was missing against the Ukrainians. Ramos said last week that Miazga is currently the leader of the back four, one that helps keep everybody organized and in good positions. That should help younger centerback partner Cameron Carter-Vickers as well as left back Kellyn Acosta against a crafty Colombian side that includes the forward tandem of Jeison Lucumi of America de Cali and Rafael Santos Borre of Deportivo Cali.

Behind the U.S. defense, starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen once again gets penciled in due to his ability and familiarity with his teammates. Colombia managed to score just once in each of its Group C games, and should not overly trouble Steffen so long as he and the defense stay on the same page.

In the midfield, Marky Delgado again slots in as the defensive midfielder due to the lack of other options there. Delgado has not had the best of World Cups so far, but will need to do a good job of limiting the impact of talented 19-year-old midfielder Joao Rodriguez, who is on loan at Portuguese outfit Vitoria de Setubal from Chelsea.

Delgado also has to move the ball quickly so as to get it to the attacking talents of Emerson Hyndman, Gedion Zelalem, and Paul Arriola. That trio will shoulder much of the chance-creating burden, and Hyndman and Zelalem both need to rebound strongly after looking like ghosts in the defeat to Ukraine.

Up top, Ramos should turn back to the tandem of Rubio Rubin and Bradford Jamieson against a Colombian defense that has conceded four times. Rubin was rested for the start of the Ukraine match, and his absence was felt in a big way as the Americans had no one who could consistently win aerial balls or hold the ball up well.

Rubin and Jamieson have worked well together when they’ve been on the field at the same time in this tournament. It could be argued that the technical and quick Tommy Thompson would serve as a better fit next to Rubin given the opposition’s skill set, but Jamieson has played too well – he’s been involved in three of the Americans’ six goals so far – when partnered with the Utrecht striker not to get the nod.

What do you think of this projected lineup? Hoping Ramos mixes it up a bit more? What will be the key to the game in your eyes?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Watching Hungary vs. Serbia, these two teams play quick one-two touch football which could dismantle our defense if we do advance against Colombia. Serbia’s wingers will give any outside backs trouble with those cuts and turns.

  2. I don’t think this center back pairing is disciplined enough to have just Marky sitting in behind them. But I do not mind this starting 11. I like Kellyn in their against an attack minded team in an elimintion game. John R would be really effective if we had a more solid group defensively and were a little better in goal.

  3. With six points in hand, key players likely to sit next game due to yellows, and a very safe multi-goal lead, why don’t coaches ever instruct those on yellow to intentionally hand the ball or do something else to get the second yellow in final minutes without endangering opponents?

    The key players are still back for the knockout phase, but they now have a clean slate. I’ve never heard of anyone trying it, but it seems like the sensible approach under those rare circumstances.

  4. Slightly off-topic, but I wonder how the below lineup would do. We could be headed in that direction:

    • Is this a projection to WC18?

      If so, there are some guys who are not mentioned that these kids will not surpass in time for 2018. This line up is pretty unbalanced and has far too little experience especially in the back. FabJ is probably the only guy who could possibly make this back line in 2018

      • Yeah, I mean Brooks is totally not going to be on the back line in 2018… you know, given that he is essentially the starter now. I think you would likely take off one of Morris or Zardes or Altidore depending on form for a more defensive minded midfielder… just for balance sake.

        Also.. and I mean this is key… these kids would have to continue their upward trajectory and actually play for top clubs all over europe… I mean right now, its just Bradley, FJ, and Brooks who can say that.

      • bc clearly all of your major soccer coaching expertise and time with this group would make that clear as day for you…

      • What position does Acosta play at the club level? Oh yeah, CDM. What position does Requejo play at the club level? Oh yeah, LB. You’re right, it doesn’t make sense to play guys in their preferred position.

      • There could be injury issues at work here we are not privy to. There could be something Ramos is seeing in training that is making him second guess Requejo. We just don’t know enough information.

    • that seems like the preferred more logical alternative. i wouldn’t mind a bit more defense in the midfield, maybe something like:


  5. I like the line-up. I have not been a big fan of Delgado. I think Acosta is better as the CDM, but I’m not sure Ramos likes his other LB options. If Ramos thinks Acosta benefits the team better playing LB than CDM, I’m not going to argue against him.


Leave a Comment