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USMNT Weekly Youth Update: U-20s in Argentina, Che debut, goals in MLS, USL

That and some young players the USA is trying to snag from Mexico and elsewhere

Welcome back to the USMNT Weekly Youth Update! Let’s take a look back at some developments in the young US player pool over the past week. By reader request, here’s a breakdown of which birth years are eligible for which youth national teams and tournaments:

  • 1999 and younger: eligible for “age-based” U-23 team (this is not something US Soccer does, but I advocate for it)
  • 2001 and younger: eligible for 2024 Paris Olympics (U-23 team)
  • 2003 and younger: eligible for 2022 Concacaf Championship, 2023 U-20 World Cup
  • 2006 and younger: eligible for 2023 U-17 World Cup

Ecuador

Andrew Draper (W, 2001) has been called in to train with Ecuador’s national team as they prepare for World Cup qualifiers. Draper was born in Houston, and plays with Universidad Católica in Ecuador’s first tier.

Ecuador is 44th in FIFA’s official ranking, but much higher in Elo Rating (15th). In fact, they’re third in CONMEBOL qualifying at the moment, ahead of Uruguay, Peru, Chile, and Colombia. They’ve pulled off results such as a 4-2 win over Uruguay, 6-1 over Colombia, 2-0 over Chile (away!), and a 1-1 draw with Brazil.

England

Alex Borto (GK, 2003) started for Fulham’s U-23s and earned a clean sheet, credited for strong saves not once, but twice. Good to see the 18-year-old playing so far above his age level.

Germany

Malik Tillman (AM, 2002) has been called up to Germany’s U-21 side for Euro qualifiers. He’s already been capped at this level, meaning he’s ineligible for USYNT sides - he can only represent the US at senior level, and would need to file a one-time switch.

Gelsenkirchen - Evan Rotundo (AM, 2004) scored a brace in a 10-0 win for Schalke’s U-19s over Ibbenbüren. Rotundo is highly rated at Schalke, and is one of only two Americans to make the Guardian’s 2021 top 60 list of young talents in World Football. Rotundo was not called up to this week’s U-20 camp (more on that camp later), and has not been involved in any of the three U-20 camps of the new cycle.

Hoffenheim - Justin Che (CB, 2003) made his Bundesliga debut for Hoffenheim. The 18-year-old from Richardson, Texas played 13’ to close out a 0-3 loss to Hertha Berlin. Hoffenheim is 6th in the German table (1 point back from 4th) and will be fighting for Champions League places to close the season.

Italy

Venice - Jack De Vries (W, 2002) and Patrick Leal (AM, 2003) both scored, and Leal added an assist in Venezia U-19’s 5-1 win Saturday. Both De Vries and Leal have been in strong form for the U-19 side. Like Evan Rotundon, Leal was not on this week’s U-20 roster, and has been left off all three U-20 rosters of this cycle.

Mexico

El Tri has released their latest U-20 roster, and it includes at least four US-eligible youth. Anthony Ramos (GK, 2003) left the Galaxy youth setup for Real SC in Portugal two months ago. Ramos was in the last US U-20 camp in January.

Tony Leone (CB, 2004) is the highest-rated CB in the US U-20 pool, and has started the first two Las Vegas Lights games in USL this season, on loan from LAFC. Leone has been with the US U-17s in the past, but has consistently been in Mexico U-20 camps this cycle.

Jonny Pérez (W, 2003) hasn’t been with the US since U-16 level in 2019. Pérez has been an unused sub in the last three LA Galaxy games. Christian Torres (ST, 2004) was last in US camp with U-17s last May, and is playing alongside Leone at Las Vegas, on loan from LAFC. Torres has been linked with Hertha Berlin in the past.

Mexico City - Jorge Ruvalcaba (W, 2001) made a 22’ cameo in Pumas 3-0 comeback penalty win over New England in CCL. Born in Rialto, CA, Ruvalcaba made headlines when he scored his first Liga MX goal in January, and has yet to represent Mexico or USA at any level.

Netherlands

Volendam - John “Xuxuh” Hilton (LB, 2001) made headlines back in 2013 (at age 12), trialing with Man City and being heralded as “set for global domination”. Hilton left the LA Galaxy setup in 2017, moving to Koninklijke in the Netherlands. After two years there, he joined Volendam, where he is today.

Hilton made 8 appearances from August to November for Volendam in the Eerste Divisie (the Netherlands’ second tier), but hadn’t played since then until Saturday, featuring with the reserves instead. Xuxuh came off the bench to play 45’ on Saturday in a 1-1 draw. Volendam are second in the table (4 pts off the top) and are pushing for promotion to the Eredivisie.

Portugal

Vizela - Alex Méndez (CM, 2000) came on at 62’ in a 1-1 draw with Famalicão on Friday. He didn’t do anything especially notable, but there is video of his performance, so here it is. Vizela are 14th of 18 in Portugal, two spots and 4 pts above relegation playoffs.

Spain

San Sebastián - Jonathan Gómez started and went 74’ for Sociedad B in a 1-3 loss to Mirandés (1-1 when he subbed off). Sociedad B will have wanted points from that game, as they are in relegation position, 6 points from safety. JoGo wasn’t as involved in the attack this time out, but he did make a couple key tackles.

USA

The U-17s closed out camp with a 2-1 win over Uruguay, with Austin FC’s Micah Burton supplying the late winner at 88’.

The U-20 team is in camp right now, with a 20-man roster released last week for games with Argentina and River Plate. There will only be one more camp before this summer’s crucial U-20 Championship, which will determine qualification for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. That penultimate camp will be held from April 22-May 1.

The roster includes notable names like Caden Clark, Paxten Aaronson, Justin Che, Kevin Paredes, and Obed Vargas. Notable omissions include Gaga Slonina, Jonathan Gómez, Noah Allen, Moses Nyeman, Cade Cowell, and Malick Sanogo. It’s likely clubs played a role in those exclusions, as confirmed with Slonina and the Fire. Interesting decision by Chicago, who have no games during the U-20 camp.

A few other interesting exclusions are Alejandro Alvarado (CM, Vizela), Zach Booth (CM, Leicester City), Kaïlé Auvray (FW, Lille), and Fede Oliva (FW, Atlético Madrid), as well as the aforementioned Rotundo and Leal, and the four dual-nationals who are in U-20 camp with Mexico. None of the players mentioned in this paragraph have been in any of the three U-20 camps so far this cycle.

Alex Borto, Mauricio Cuevas, Rokas Pukstas, and Dante Sealy are from clubs outside the US, along with Che and Paredes. Sealy was replaced by Tyler Wolff, though we don’t know why. Kobi Henry and Diego Luna are the two USL players in camp. Noah Mavrommitis (LB, 2003) is training with the team, as he plays club soccer close by with Argentine club Platense. Philadelphia Union have the most players on the roster with four (Aaronson, Brandan Craig, Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan). Obed Vargas is the lone 2005 on the roster — playing up a cycle — the rest born in ‘03 or ‘04.

Atlanta - Pavel Romero (CM, 2006) made his pro debut with Atlanta United 2 in USL.

Charlotte - Ben Bender (LM, 2001) picked up a goal and an assist Saturday in Charlotte’s 3-1 win over New England. Bender is on a tear, after assisting the first goal in franchise history last week vs Atlanta.

Chicago - Gaga Slonina (GK, 2004) made Goal’s list of top 50 wonderkids in football. He also made another nice save vs Sporting KC:

Also in Chicago, Brian Gutiérrez (AM, 2003) picked up an assist. He’s been included in all three U-20 camps so far this cycle.

New York - Jordan Adebayo-Smith (ST, 2001) scored for Red Bulls II, who also handed debuts to Ezra Widman (mid, 2005), Illia Tyrkus (FW, 2005), and Arian Recinos (mid, 2005).

Philadelphia - As if not to be upstaged by his four teammates being called into U-20 camp, Nathan Harriel (RB, 2001) provided an assist vs NYCFC, earning a place in MLS’ Team of the Week.

Seattle - Prior to being the only 16-year-old called into U-20 camp (playing up a cycle) Obed Vargas (CM, 2005) played twice in 3 days for the Sounders, first off the bench vs León in CCL, then 90’ vs Austin.

Washington - Loudoun United’s 3-0 win Saturday over Red Bulls II was a smorgasbord of USYNT content, with two goals for just-signed Tyler Freeman, an assist for Jeremy Garay, a goal for Jacob Greene, and a debut for Isaac Espinal (wing, 2005)

Here’s the first goal for Freeman (wing, 2003):

Freeman’s second goal, assisted by Garay (CM, 2003). Garay was with the US U-20s at Revelations Cup in November, but has been left off the two rosters since.

Loudoun’s third goal came from Jacob Greene (LB/RB, 2003), who earned Team of the Week honors. Like Garay, Greene was at Revelations Cup, but hasn’t been with the U-20s since.

Hit the comments to let me know if there’s anything major I overlooked or if there’s anyone you’d like to hear about. Thank you for reading!