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

U.S. U-20s starting lineup New Zealand 14



Already qualified for the knockout rounds of the World Cup, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team can lock up the top spot in Group A with simply a draw on Friday.

Head coach Tab Ramos has no intentions of changing the Americans’ aggressive approach from the last game, however.

The U.S. will wrap up group play on Friday (3 am ET, Fox Sports 1) when it squares off against Ukraine, and the match will put first place and the Americans’ undefeated record on the line. The U.S. enters the battle of the top two Group A teams fresh off a confidence-boosting rout of New Zealand, but the game at North Harbor Stadium will be the third that Ramos’ side has played in seven days.

While other coaches might be inclined to make a handful of changes given the short turnarounds, accumulated fatigue, and guaranteed place in the Round of 16, Ramos is looking to try and field as good of a team as possible. He wants to further develop chemistry amongst the starters, but knows it will be wise to rest players dealing with niggling strains and pains.

What that means in terms of a lineup is unclear. There is no word out of U.S. camp about any injuries other than Maki Tall’s, but still Ramos made it seem on Wednesday that some changes were in the offing.

Who will Ramos turn to for the decisive clash with Ukraine? Here is the lineup SBI could see used:

Projected U-20s vs. Ukraine

Ramos could very well make more tweaks than indicated, but do not expect a reserve-filled lineup. The U.S. wants to continue to ride its wave of momentum by defeating Ukraine and winning Group A, and as such will likely rely on as many first-choice players as possible.

The one change to the starting eleven that could be in the cards is Tommy Thompson coming on for Bradford Jamieson. Jamieson has partnered well up top with Rubio Rubin in the absence of Maki Tall, but was the first American to exit the 4-0 victory against New Zealand as a substitute in the 62 minute. If Jamieson is dealing with a minor knock, sitting this one out and resting for the Round of 16 would be a good decision.

Thompson isn’t the same kind of player as Jameison, so the move would not be like-for-like if it did happen. That said, Ramos has shown confidence in Thompson’s ability to make an impact by inserting the San Jose Earthquakes winger in both World Cup games so far.

With Ramos wanting his players to establish more cohesiveness before the games get tougher, the midfield diamond will probably stay the same. Emerson Hyndman and Gedion Zelalem showed a good understanding between one another against the Kiwis, and Ramos will want them to continue to build on that chemistry against a Ukraine team that is seen as the Americans’ stiffest test in the group.

Paul Arriola served as a real bright spot for the U.S. on the right side of the midfield in his first start of the tournament, and he should again get the nod if he’s 100 percent healthy. His aggressive mindset, dribbling runs, shots from distance all helped the U.S. set the tone against New Zealand. His defensive work was also a plus, and that might be needed against a Ukraine team that will probably attempt to play more than the defensive-minded New Zealand and Myanmar did.

Defensive midfield is a position that Ramos might be tempted to tinker with. While Marky Delgado had a much better showing against New Zealand than he had vs. Myanmar, he still struggled at times to cover space and provide the type of bite that was needed in the second Group A game.

Still, the only real option to fill in for Delgado would be Kellyn Acosta and moving the FC Dallas youngster into the No. 6 role would leave a hole at left back that John Requejo would have to fill. That might be one too many moving parts for Ramos, and he might just prefer to keep the entire midfield from the last match in tact.

At the back, Matt Miazga is a concern due to the yellow card he is sitting on. Ramos, however, has labeled Miazga as the leader and organizer of the back line, and might not want to take the New York Red Bulls centerback out of the equation.

If Ramos thinks it is better to not risk Miazga, Erik Palmer-Brown will probably get the start ahead of Conor Donovan due to the impression the Sporting Kansas City centerback made on Ramos while playing next to Carter-Vickers in the April camp.

Acosta should be back at the left back after looking good against New Zealand, but Desevio Payne might be replaced by Shaquell Moore on the other flank due to the yellow card the FC Groningen right back received last game. At goalkeeper, incumbent Zack Steffen is once again the easy choice.


What do you think of this projected lineup? Hoping to see a couple more changes? Would you sit Miazga for this one? Think Thompson will have a big game if he gets the nod?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I wonder if Ramos might consider resting Hyndman or Rubin, as they have played so many minutes. Joel Sonora was much hyped and scored that really nice goal. If you are going to keep your best player sharp, not playing Hyndman the full game makes sense.

  2. Who would win between the U-20s and the U-23s? I’ve probably heard of more U-20 players, but the extra few years would probably give the edge to the U-23s due to the increased physicality.

    • I’ve been watching both tournaments. The speed of play and quality of play has been higher at the Toulon Tournament. If you’ve been watching the u-20 World Cup, you see that players have all kinds of time when they are on the ball.

      As far as who would win between our USA u-20 and u-23, I say it depends how much of a full-strength u-23 team you are talking about. If its a full strength u-23 then they are clearly better. But current Toulon team vs this u-20 World Cup team, I have no idea. I think it would be a close game.

    • A full strength U-23 squad would include Gil, Brooks, Trapp, Vilarreal, Guido, Khiry Shelton, and Yedlin, none of who are preent in Toulon. So keep that in mind.

  3. Admittedly a different youth team, but the u-23s backed into the 3rd place match in the Toulon Tournament, as France spanked the Dutch and Costa Rica drew Qatar. We’ll play England, Morocco, or Mexico.

  4. I think what plays the most into this is if people have small injuries that they can play with, but the coaches don’t want to exacerbate. This one may be harder to predict than the USMNT lineup against Holland. I might be inclined to rest Hyndman or Rubin too, just to save them for the knockout rounds.

      • Unless the win puts one of the starters we depend on out of the tournament for good. If Hyndman had, say, a sore quad that could be exacerbated by another game so quickly, would ignoring the warning signs be worth losing him for the rest of the tournament? If you lose him you run the risk of going one and out like the senior team. I agree in being aggressive but in the other article earlier today, Ramos said some players had minor injuries, I don’t think you force them out there and risk losing them. I think at that point you depend on the team depth you have.

      • Slow, again, It’s better to have a full-strength squad for a MUST win game, rather than for a game you don’t need to win. Anyways, this is supposed to be a deep team, lets not be scared to use a few players to substitute for those on yellow-cards.

  5. I would not start Payne or Miazga. Acosta at RB, Requejo at LB, and Palmer-Brown at CB would work well, I think. I would also like to see Acosta get some time at D-mid; I think that is his best position, and having him there with Requejo at LB in the knockout stage would create the strongest squad the U.S. can field.

      • This is silly. We need to play our best team to make sure we win the group. If we don’t we get Colombia or Portugal in the second round. Those are tougher opponents than any of the third-place teams we could get if we win the group.

      • I completely disagree with you Slow. It would be silly to go to the 2nd round with important players suspended due to yellow-card accumulation. We should be confident we can still beat Ukraine with a few new players in the line-up. Also, we have no idea who we would play as the other groups aren’t decided and could flip around after the results from the last round of games. We will play a quality team no matter what in the next round.

  6. Not a bad guess, Franco. In fact, that’s probably close to what we’ll see. But if I was in charge, I’d fill out the lineup like this:

    ————- Rubin ———————- Thompson ——
    ————————— Zelalem —————————
    ———- Hyndman ——————— Arriola ———–
    —————————- Acosta —————————-
    Payne ——— CCV ————— EPB ——– Moore
    ————————— Steffen ————————–

    I like Zelalem’s creativity to be closer to goal. Hyndman has more defensive chops, and on offense he’ll pinch in a bit to give Payne more room to overlap. Give Moore another run-out and move Acosta to DM. That gives Delgado a rest and puts Acosta where he really should be, in my opinion. And Miazga has been playing great but anyone who watches NYRB knows he can be prone to yellows. Give him a rest and keep him safe for the knockout round.

    • Zelalem just isn’t familiar enough with this team to be handed the responsibilities of being the # 10 for this team. I agree with Franco that he should be deployed on the wing, where he can create but doesn’t have to shoulder the duties of a 10.

      The only part I’ll disagree with Franco with is John Requejo. He’s been with this group of players the entire time, and while he may not have started last few matches for us, he’s still more then familiar enough with this group to handle being injected into the lineup.

      Saying that, Acosta needs to be deployed at DM, for me at least. He exceeds in the position. That’s where he starts for Dallas and I can’t help but feel our like our midfield would be genuinely brilliant, without any holes if started there. So for me…

      ————- Rubin ———————- Thompson ——
      ————————— Hyndman —————————
      ———- Zelalem——————— Arriola ———–
      —————————- Acosta —————————-
      Requejo ——— CCV ————— EPB ——– Payne
      ————————— Steffen ————————–


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