The United States will be at the U-20 World Cup. That's because Tab Ramos' team went to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and didn't just qualify for the World Cup, they won the whole thing. It was a bumpy road early on, but they got better as the tournament went on and were crowned champions of the region.
The Americans only played six matches at the tournament, so the performances in such a small sample size are not indicative of how a player's career is going to turn out -- also, they're teenagers! -- but some guys did shine bright, while others struggled.
Who fit the bill?
The Americans lost their opening match to Panama and were 1-0 down to Haiti, when Lennon sparked the tournament turnaround. He scored hat trick against Haiti and the opener in their next match. From there, the U.S. rolled.
Lennon is on loan at Real Salt Lake from Liverpool, hoping that he can earn some playing time in MLS to jump back up to one of the Americans' top prospects. His performance at the U-20 CONCACAF Championships was a good start.
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The tournament wasn't so great for Palmer-Brown, although it's tough to blame him much. Ramos played the teenager, who is normally a centerback, as a defensive midfielder. Palmer-Brown has played there sparingly in his young career and it showed.
Palmer-Brown did make some good plays against Mexico, shutting down the middle of the pitch, and he scored the lone goal on a great header, but he had some serious issues, too. That he wasn't a complete liability is a sign of how talented and smart he is, but it is good news that he'll be playing centerback when he gets back to Sporting KC.
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There weren't many players on the team who looked ready to step into a professional team and hold his own right now, but Adams was one. That's not surprising considering how highly the Red Bulls think of him and that they expect him to play for their first team this season, but Adams was truly terrific, especially against Mexico.
There's still some debate as to what type of role Adams should play in the midfield, but that's because he's shown that he's so well-rounded and capable of so much that he can fit into several spots.
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Lewis wasn't supposed to be a star for the U-20s, but he was one of their best players at this tournament. He gave the team a real spark and destroyed opposing defenses, helping create space and chances for others. The most impressive part was how Lewis was able to pick his spots and time his runs and passes so well. It was a series of mature performances from Lewis, who could get some playing time as a rookie for NYCFC this season.
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Williamson's goal against El Salvador was as good as you will see. His strike from 25 yards was damn near perfect. He also played well throughout the match, btut prior to that contest Williamson was either uninvolved or sloppy with the ball throughout the tournament. It was an unimpressive few games for Williamson and then he got hurt in the final so while there was a bright match, there was a fair bit of downside too.
Sabbi was given the nod against El Salvador and immediately made an impact, scoring a goal. His movement was smart and he was tidy with the ball, giving the Americans the type of forward play they had missed earlier in the tournament. Sabbi moved to Las Palmas last summer and is considered a good prospect with the Spanish club so things are looking up for the striker.
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Luca De La Torre
De La Torre has long been one of the Americans' top young midfielders and it's not wise to take too much from a single tournament, but the Fulham man was underwhelming. It would have been one things for him not to star -- especially considering he was pushed out wide, where he's not most comfortable -- but he wasn't even effective for long stretches.
Glad was the breakout youngster in MLS last season, walking into the Real Salt Lake starting lineup and immediately holding down a spot. That's extraordinary for a teenage centerback, but Glad really is a special prospect.
As a result, Glad was expected to be one of the linchpins of the U-20 team, and he was exactly that. Glad was clinical with his defending, making it all look easy and almost like playing youth tournaments was beneath him. Seeing how well he's played in MLS, youth tournament may very well be beneath him.