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USA 2737 43 United States U-20 Prospects - CONCACAF Championships 31592306 Test trial Test+trial USA

United States men's Under-20 coach Tab Ramos completed his squad for the CONCACAF U-20 championship last week and started the final preparations for the trials ahead in Puebla, Mexico over the next fortnight. Two group games against Haiti (Feb. 18) and Costa Rica (Feb. 20) and potentially a critical quarterfinal against Canada, Cuba or Nicaragua (Feb. 26) stand between the Americans and a place in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in June.

 

“The players that we’ve selected here are players who are comfortable on the ball, players that we’ve said from the beginning we want to make a difference in the game and want to make things happen and are not afraid to have the ball at their feet when it really matters,” Ramos said during a conference call earlier this month.

 

Read on to learn more about a few of the key players that will fuel the charge toward the knockout rounds:

Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-soccer-BRING-YOUR-BEST-TV-Pi_20130216202314300_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-soccer-BRING-YOUR-BEST-TV-Pi_20130216202314300_107_80.JPG
USA 2737 43 United States U-20 Prospects - CONCACAF Championships 31591403 Luis Gil, M, Real Salt Lake Luis+Gil%2C+M%2C+Real+Salt+Lake USA

No player in Ramos' squad boasts more first-team experience than the RSL midfielder. Gil appeared 54 times over the past two seasons for Jason Kreis' side in MLS play. The 19-year-old must lean on his significant professional experience and his creative qualities to propel the American attack in the final third.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G4_20130216203646653_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G4_20130216203646653_107_80.JPG
USA 2737 43 United States U-20 Prospects - CONCACAF Championships 31591405 Shane O'Neill, D, Colorado Rapids Shane+O%27Neill%2C+D%2C+Colorado+Rapids USA

Colorado assistant – and former US under-17 coach – Wilmer Cabrera suggested O'Neill as a potential contributor ahead of a camp last October. O'Neill grasped his chance with both hands and inserted himself into consideration for a role in central defense heading into this tournament.

 

“He works very hard, he can play either the number six role, which is a defensive midfield role, or he can play a center back role on the right side, which is a great help for us because we’ve been a little bit depleted in that area,” Ramos said. “He’s done a great job. I think he’s going to be an important part of this group, and possibly not only for this part of it but moving on if we’re lucky enough to move on.”

Justin Edmonds - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G2_20130216203646654_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G2_20130216203646654_107_80.JPG
USA 2737 43 United States U-20 Prospects - CONCACAF Championships 31591402 Caleb Stank, D/M, SC Freiburg Caleb+Stank%2C+D%2FM%2C+SC+Freiburg USA

Stanko impressed Freiburg scouts during a trial spell and signed a contract with the club in February 2011. The Michigan native features in a variety of spots for the Bundesliga outfit's reserve side, but he will likely lead this American group from one of the two available berths in central defense.

 

“He came here mostly as a defensive midfielder but also open to the idea of playing right back and center back,” Ramos said before appointing Stanko captain of the side. “He’s one of those players who’s open to playing wherever the coach wants to put him. I think he’s done well for us at the center back position the few times we’ve had him in there. That’s certainly a possibility going into [the tournament].”

Thomas Niedermueller/Bongarts - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G1_20130216203646652_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G1_20130216203646652_107_80.JPG
USA 2737 43 United States U-20 Prospects - CONCACAF Championships 31591400 Jose Villarreal, F, Los Angeles Galaxy Jose+Villarreal%2C+F%2C+Los+Angeles+Galaxy USA

Villarreal replaced Robbie Keane in his first professional appearance last July and scored his first MLS goal four days later. The Inglewood, Calif. native won't have to meet those lofty standards in Mexico, but he must contribute inside the penalty area in order to give the Americans a chance to progress deep into the knockout rounds.

RicTapia - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G5_20130216203646655_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G5_20130216203646655_107_80.JPG
USA 2737 43 United States U-20 Prospects - CONCACAF Championships 31591401 Mikey Lopez, M, Sporting KC Mikey+Lopez%2C+M%2C+Sporting+KC USA

The industrious midfielder left North Carolina after two seasons to sign a Generation adidas contract with MLS. His displays with the Tar Heels earned him a spot on this team, but he must ward off challenges from several competitors to earn a starting berth.

 

“He brings that intensity that’s contagious to the other guys and I think that Mikey is certainly one of those guys that, when we put the final 20 players together, was one of those guys that we put toward the top of our list because of his work ethic,” Ramos said.

Joe Robbins - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G3_20130216203646651_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/02/16/021613-SOCCER-usa-u-20-players-OB-G3_20130216203646651_107_80.JPG
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