The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team capped the California portion of their three-leg pre-World Cup camp on Thursday with a light regeneration session at StubHub Center in Carson. A few hours later, the group embarked on a 15-hour flight to Sydney, Australia, where it will train for six days before heading to New Zealand for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“I think the guys have shown their excitement for what’s to come in New Zealand,” said forward Tommy Thompson of the camp. “Everyone’s been sharp, and everyone appears ready. Now we’re looking forward to our scrimmage against Australia and to continue to build on what we started in LA.”
Fifteen players participated in the first leg in Carson, including Cameron Carter-Vickers, who arrived from England in time for Thursday’s training. Kellyn Acosta, Eric Palmer-Brown, Rubio Rubin, Jordan Allen, Bradford Jamieson and Gedion Zelalem will join the group over the next few days in Australia.
“Although we don’t have those players, I think it’s for a good reason - it’s because they’re all playing, and they’re playing important roles within their clubs,” said U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos. “That’s a good thing. It’s a sign of our players getting better and our pool of players being more and more competitive.”
The team conducted five sessions in Los Angeles, including a scrimmage against a local club in which they didn’t keep score. As important as the trainings were, Ramos said the time also served another purpose.
“Team-building happens not just on the field and not just with tactics,” Ramos said. “Team-building is everything else that happens outside the field, too. Although we don’t have a full roster yet, I think what we did in the three days in LA has been very important for our team because we’re starting to build a camaraderie amongst the players which I think is going to be very important leading into the tough part of the competition.”
The team arrived in Sydney early Saturday morning, skipping over Friday with the 17-hour time change and had a light session in the afternoon to try to quickly acclimate. On Tuesday the U.S. plays a friendly against Australia at Central Coast Stadium, however the focus remains the World Cup opener on May 30.
“Right now although we’re going to play Australia and then follow that up with a game against Serbia in New Zealand. But our main focus continues to be Myanmar,” Ramos said. “That’s all we think about, that’s what the players will be watching over the next couple days.”
It didn’t take long for the message to be accepted by the team.
“It’s a World Cup, and we know we can’t take any game lightly,” said midfielder Emerson Hyndman. “But right now we’re only looking at the first game against Myanmar and we’re not looking past it.”
The team was given video of Myanmar matches to watch on the flight to Australia.
“We’re putting more resources and time into Myanmar and learning about Myanmar than we did for playing Spain in the last World Cup,” Ramos said, who also coached the U-20 MNT at the 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey. “Only because when you play a team like Spain or France or even Ghana, they play a style you’re somewhat familiar with, so you know their soccer culture, you know a lot more about them to begin with. In this case, we really had to learn from scratch. I think we’re putting a lot of time into that, and we feel comfortable that we’re moving in a good direction to be prepared for that game.”
The preparation will continue picking up steam as the final six players join the squad, which Ramos says everyone is looking forward to.
“I think we’ve selected an excellent group of players but also an excellent group of people,” Ramos said. “They are all ready to go. They are all waiting for their teammates to come. And the guys who are not here can’t wait to get here. I think all around we have a good group of people and sometimes for a team that’s more important than anything else.”