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College Soccer Professor: Kelyn Rowe And Sebastien Ibeagha Chat About U20 Experience

College Soccer Professor: Kelyn Rowe And Sebastien Ibeagha Chat About U20 Experience

Rowe and Ibeagha discuss their futures with the U.S. U20 team

Kelyn Rowe and Sebastien Ibeagha’s ascension from college stars to U.S. U20 hopefuls happened in a hurry over the last four months. The collegiate stars journey from classrooms to U20 camps has been a whirlwind tour since the end of the college season.

The Duke defender, Ibeagha, was invited to his first camp in November after a successful debut season with the ACC squad. Following that first call, Ibeagha has become an important piece of coach Thomas Rongen’s side with invitations to both camps since.

Rowe, the UCLA star, joined the picture a month later during a camp in Florida. His play in the first get-together was good enough to join Ibeagha for a callback for the 25-man January camp. 

Rongen told Goal.com last week that the January camp was the best compilation of talent for this cycle (sans Josh Gatt) since it began thirteen months ago.

While the two college stars are still fighting for a place on the squad, they both were grateful for the opportunity.

Rowe said, “Being one of the last, if not the last, player to join this team is an honor more than anything. I was given the shot to perform, and that’s what I did.”

Ibeagha talked about adjusting to the team dynamic as one of the last to join, “I felt like I fit in pretty well. When we get there, we are on the same level – the professionals and the college players. We are all there for a reason.”

The coach also gave the twosome some things to improve on while away from the national team in the college system. Rowe said Rongen told him to work on, “My balls over distance, one and two touch play, and to keep my fitness level at the highest point I can.”

Ibeagha received a different piece of advice from the coach, “He told me to stay fit and also go to Oregon to the Nike Headquarters to get some training in during spring break.”

While the defender did not elaborate on the trip to Oregon, he did mention how he enjoyed playing in Rongen’s system, which he described as technical. Rowe had the same feelings towards Rongen’s coaching. He explained, “Fortunately for me, I fit into the style that Thomas [Rongen] likes to play, and I proved that at both camps.”

While the two play different positions and attend universities on different coasts, their plight to the pinnacle of the US youth national system has been similar over the last year. Both joined prestigious college sides that had other players with appearances on Thomas Rongen’s team during this cycle.

Now, nearly a year later, the two (plus Dillon Powers from Notre Dame) appear to be lone college stars left in the mix.

For Rowe, he is the only hope for UCLA to keep their U20 World Cup appearance streak alive. The last time the Bruins failed (1995) to put a player in the tournament was the same year US did not qualify for the event.

There is a long road between now and when Rowe could keep that streak alive. The first step is next month when Rongen assembles the players one last time before qualifying.

Ibeagha said Rongen is calling in 30 players for a week training stint on March 20 prior to the CONCACAF Championships.

From there, the coach is cutting 10 players prior to heading down to Guatemala where the US will play Panama and Suriname in group play. The top two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals. The winners of the quarterfinal games will represent CONCACAF at the 2011 U20 World Cup in Colombia. 

Rongen has maintained that there is a place for one to two college players on this team, even though he prefers players in a professional environment.

That said the college kids keep playing their way onto the roster. As Rowe put it, “[Rongen] was happy with my play, so I must have done something right.”

Quick Hits:
  • NCAA told Goal.com that a decision regarding the location of the 2012 College Cup will come shortly after the bids are sent out in early spring. Spokesperson Kristen Jacob Smith said in an email, “The committee did meet this past week, but our entire championships group is on hold for awarding sites beyond 2011.”
  • Elmar Bolowich resigned from his position with UNC last week to accept the head coaching spot at Creighton, which was recently vacated by Jamie Clark who left to take the same job at University of Washington. Bolowich said in a press release, “[Creighton’s Athletic Director] Bruce Rasmussen has made me an offer I couldn't refuse, as he is willing and able to provide the resources to make Creighton soccer a national power.

J.R. Eskilson is the Youth Soccer Editor at Goal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NCAAsoccer.

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