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USMNT Weekly Youth Update: U-20 WCQ is underway

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The US U-20’s are in action trying to get to the U-20 World Cup

Germany U20 v USA U20 - International Match Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

The big story this week is that U-20 World Cup qualifying has started. The American youngsters got off on the right foot with a dominant 7-1 victory over Puerto Rico on Thursday. Recent Freiburg signing Alex Mendez was fantastic in the middle of the park, setting up the first goal off an interception and scoring the second. On Saturday, the United States ran away from the US Virgin Islands by a 13-0 margin. The star of the day was Ulysses Llanez, who was involved in all six first half goals by scoring a hat trick and contributing three assists, including this ridiculous touch and pass to set up the second goal.

The U-20s take on Trinidad and Tobago on Monday at 7:45 PM ET. T&T has also won their first two matches of the group stage.

On the club side, this was a relatively quiet week with very few quality standout performances. Here’s what happened this week.

Germany

Christian Pulisic - Attacking Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund

Pulisic got the start on Wednesday in the DFB-Pokal against second division Union Berlin. Pulisic opened the scoring following a scramble in the box in the 40th minute. Union Berlin would level the score in the 63rd minute. In the 73rd minute, Pulisic would make another play to again pull them in front with a lovely through ball that Maxi Philipp deftly finished from the right side of the box. Union Berlin would force extra time with a late goal in regulation.

Pulisic would again make his presence felt by drawing a penalty in the dying minutes that Marco Reus would put home to send Dortmund through to the next round. On Saturday, Dortmund would win 1-0 with Pulisic coming off the bench in the 78th minute. He has a huge week ahead of him aa they travel to Spain to take on Atletico Madrid before hosting Bayern Munich in “Der Klassiker” on Saturday.

Chris Richards - Centerback, FC Dallas (On Loan at Bayern Munich)

The 18-year-old opened eyes in a big way this summer when he was involved with the first team on their US tour in the preseason. There was some speculation that he would get first team opportunities in the regular season, but that hasn’t yet happened. Regardless, the young man has been a regular with the U-19s, playing in the UEFA Youth League and impressing defensively at the youth level. He’s even contributed a bit offensively with two goals in all competitions. It remains to be seen what will happen with Richards in the coming months when his loan runs out. Perhaps he will go back and fight for a first team spot at FC Dallas or Bayern could look to extend his deal.

Kevin Lankford - Winger, FC Heidenheim

Lankford is struggling with injuries at the moment. After getting subbed off at halftime against Jahn Regensburg at the end of September, Lankford has missed the last six matches in all competitions with muscular problems. Hopefully the 19-year-old can get back to full health soon. Heidenheim is doing well in the 2. Bundesliga this season, sitting in sixth place but just three points behind league leader FC St. Pauli going into Monday.

England

Gedion Zelalem - Central Midfielder, Arsenal

Zelalem has finally made his return from his injury. Zelalem came off the bench in the 63rd minute for Arsenal’s U-21s in their 6-2 loss in the EFL Trophy on Wednesday following nearly a year and a half without fooball. Zelalem suffered a torn ACL in the 2017 U-20 World Cup and had several setbacks along his road to recovery. With his contract set to expire in June, the clock is ticking for the 21-year-old to get back in the picture at Arsenal or to impress some other clubs into giving him a shot.

Charlie Kelman - Striker, Southend United

Kelman had a big week. Playing for Southend’s U-18s, the 17-year-old scored the winner in the 120th minute in their midweek comeback 4-3 win over Leyton Orient in the FA Youth Cup.

Down 3-1, they scored twice to force extra time before Kelman’s late heroics. The young man has been on a tear this season, producing double digit goals and assists already. His superb form has drawn the attention of some big clubs, with West Ham United, Brighton and Hove Albion, Bournemouth and Aston Villa reportedly interested. After receiving a call up to the US U-18s this past summer, Kelman should continue to be a priority for the United States.

Netherlands

Erik Palmer-Brown - Centerback, Manchester City (On Loan at NAC Breda)

As I reported last week, Palmer-Brown has been mightily struggling for playing time. He got another shot this week, though. With Karol Mets missing through injury, the 21-year-old got his chance to start on Saturday. Palmer-Brown showed off his usual quality on the ball, completing 90% of his passes. After giving up the tying goal, NAC Breda would come up with a late winner in the 88th minute. The win was a huge one for them as they climb above Groningen and out of last place. They have earned only eight points from eleven matches. Hopefully EPB can start getting on the field far more often going forward.

Kyle Scott - Central Midfielder, Chelsea (On Loan at SC Telstar)

Scott started as usual on Sunday and was on the mark for the second time this season. In the 67th minute, Scott opened the scoring off a scramble following a counter attack. Telstar would go on to win 2-1 over second-place Go Ahead Eagle. The 20-year-old now has two goals on the season. The win has Telstar in 13th place in a crowded Eerste Divisie.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Anel Šabanadžović - Central Midfielder, FK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo

The 19-year-old Bosnian-American is making some noise in Eastern Europe. He’s been a regular for Zeljeznicar all season and his solid play in midfield has caught the eye of Greek giants, AEK Athens. AEK is reportedly signing Šabanadžović at the end of the season for a one million Euro transfer fee. As part of the deal, he will sign a five year contract to keep him in Greece for the foreseeable future. Šabanadžović was born in the United States but is provisionally cap tied to Bosnia after featuring for them in official events at the U-17 and U-19 levels. He would have to file a one-time switch to play for the USMNT.

United States

Brooks Lennon - Right Back, Real Salt Lake

Lennon started as usual in Real Salt Lake’s knockout round match against MLS newcomers LAFC. The 21-year-old made a fine play to help put RSL in front in the 21st minute. Lennon out hustled LAFC to the ball on the endline and crossed it into the box for Damir Kreilach to finish.

Real Salt Lake would go on to win 3-2 on a Walker Zimmerman own goal in the 69th minute, advancing them to the Western Conference Semifinals against Sporting Kansas City. It’s good to see Lennon making an impact.

Jeremy Ebobisse - Striker, Portland Timbers

Ebobisse is continuing his excellent form. In Portland’s first leg match against Seattle, Ebobisse tied the score in the 17th minute by getting behind the defense and expertly chipping the keeper.

Portland would go on to take the lead and hold on for a 2-1 win. For Ebobisse, he has been on a nice scoring run in recent weeks. The 21-year-old has scored twice and provided an assist in his last five games (4 starts). Hopefully he can keep this up in the remaining playoff games. I would like to see him get a shot in January camp.

Hit the comment section to let me know if there’s anything major I overlooked or if there’s anyone you’d like to hear about.