The U.S. and Egyptian U20 teams will face off for a pair of friendlies on June 27 and 29. Goal.com's Adam Hastings previews the action.The United States U-20 MNT is set to kickoff a two-match friendly with Egypt in Cairo on June 27 and finish up June 29. The game is a friendly precursor to the U-20 World Cup which will be hosted by Egypt from Sept. 24 to Oct. 16. The U.S. has been drawn into a group with Germany, Cameroon, and Korea Republic. CONCACAF qualifying wrapped a few months ago and saw the U.S. finish second behind Costa Rica.
Head coach Thomas Rongen will take his 18-man roster to Egypt to give them a chance to acclimate to the regimen of the World Cup. Having two games against Egypt will certainly give the skipper a chance to put as many different bodies on the field to see what he has to work with. Rongen made eight changes to his line-up in the championship game of CONCACAF qualifying, after his team had already booked a spot in Egypt. He has a few new arrivals set to make a debut for the U.S. U20 team, including Gatorade High School Player of the Year Dillon Powers. The group is led by keeper Brian Perk, who held four straight shutouts through qualifying. A few players missing form the trip are Bryan Arguez, Abdus Ibrahim, and Brek Shea.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Sean Johnson (Central Florida; Lilburn, Ga.), Brian Perk (UCLA; Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (5): Gale Agbossoumonde (unattached; Syracuse, N.Y.), Jorge Flores (Chivas USA; Anaheim, Calif.), Aaron Maund (Notre Dame; Dorchester, Mass.), Zarek Valentin (PA Classics; Lancaster, Pa.) Sheanon Williams (unattached; Boston, Mass.)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Danny Cruz (Houston Dynamo; Glendale, Ariz.), Dilly Duka (Rutgers; Montville, N.J.), Gerson Mayen (Chivas USA; Los Angeles, Calif.), Brian Ownby (Virginia; Glen Allen, Va.), Dillon Powers (Andromeda; Plano, Texas), Gerardo Saavedra (Mequon SC; Milwaukee, Wis.), Michael Stephens (UCLA; Naperville, Ill.), Andrew Wenger (PA Classics; Lititz, Pa.)
FORWARDS (3): Sam Garza (Denver; Highland Village, Texas), Peri Marosevic (FC Dallas; Rockford, Ill.) Tony Taylor (Jacksonville; Jacksonville, Fla.)
Egypt returns home from the Toulon Youth Festival where they had a 0-2-1 record, including a tough loss coming in a back-and-forth battle with Argentina and a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands. Overall, the young Pharaohs are 1-3-1 over their last five games, with their most constant contributor being striker Mohamed Talaat who plays for the Al Ahly U23 team. The Al Ahly senior team played against Jose Francisco Torres and Pachuca in the Club World Cup. Talaat was not a part of that game, but did get a few call ups to the senior team and tallied one goal.
Miroslav Soukup is the man calling the shots for the Egypt U20 squad. Most recently Soukup led the Czech Republic to the 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup in Canada where they lost in the championship game 2-1 to Argentina and Golden Shoe winner Sergio Aguero.
In January, Egypt took part in the African Youth Championship in Rwanda even though they were already automatically qualified for the U20 World Cup. They lost their first game to eventual third-place winner Nigeria, but came back to beat Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa. They lost out to South Africa on goal differential and did not move into the second round. Goalkeeper Mohamed Abugabal stepped up and had some good performances and seems to have taken over the role as net minder. He still has tough shoes to fill though, following behind Essam El Hadary who had a tremendous game against Italy in the Confederations Cup.
About the championship, Soukup said, “We learned a lot of lessons in Rwanda and hope we can fix our mistakes before the FIFA U-20 World Cup. With the tournament taking place in September and October, we hope we would have enough time to bring new players to the side and give them the experience they lack especially that none of them have broken into the senior teams of their clubs.”
The last time the U.S. and Egypt met was in the 2005 U20 World Cup in Germany, with the U.S. walking away with a 1-0 victory. Expect to see a lot of different players start and feature in these pair of games.
Adam Hastings is a contributor to Goal.com
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