As kids, Sheanon Williams and Aaron Maund had dreams of playing together for the U.S. on the international level. That could be about to come true, but the timing with FIFA approval will be close. Goal.com special guest Frank Dell'Apa reports.By Frank Dell'Apa, Special to Goal.com
Since they were youngsters growing up in the Dorchester section of Boston, Aaron Maund and Sheanon Williams have hoped they would become teammates on the U.S. national team. Their wish came true this week as they were both named to the team for the FIFA U20 qualifiers in Trinidad & Tobago March 6-15.
The squad reported to Florida today for training, but Maund is awaiting an eligibility ruling from FIFA, since he performed for Trinidad & Tobago in the FIFA U17 finals in South Korea two years ago. The deadline for the roster to be finalized is March 4.
U.S. coach Thomas Rongen believes it is worth the wait for Maund, who he compares to former U.S. central defender Eddie Pope.
Maund and Williams, both born in the U.S., were recruited by Trinidad & Tobago at the U17 level. Maund's father, Arnott, and Williams' father, Stephano, moved from Trinidad & Tobago to Boston as youngsters, their sons growing up with the game in the Caribbean community and also with Dorchester Youth Soccer. Maund and Williams starred for the Greater Boston Bolts team which won the U.S. Youth Soccer Association U15 national title under coach Francis Okaroh, a defender for the Chicago Fire's MLS Cup-U.S. Open Cup double winner in 1998.
Maund had been involved in U.S. national team youth camps but, after being dropped from the program, took up the T&T offer. Maund, a sprinter on the track team in high school at Roxbury Latin, performed as an outside midfielder in the U17 finals but moved to central defender at the University of Notre Dame in his freshman season.
Rongen said Tuesday Maund has a "50-50" chance of being approved by FIFA before this tournament.
"The ball is with FIFA right now," Rongen said. "It's going to happen, there is not a problem with the application, or anything, but it's a matter of when FIFA's judge makes a decision. They will decide 100 percent in our favor and, obviously, we hope it happens before qualifying. We have alternates on the team who we feel comfortable with and they could clearly be included if they are needed. We have nine pros and 11 collegiate players and they should all have a future in the pro game."
The successful recruitment of Maund and Williams represent positive developments for the U.S., which lost out on New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi (Italy) and Neven Subotic (Serbia).
Before the U.S. camp, Rongen said Maund could draw comparisons to Pope, and confirmed that evaluation as the team gathered Tuesday.
"He's lanky, he has good feet for a big player, he reads the game well, he's a good athlete," Rongen said. "I think it is very important we try and select players who first and foremost want to represent this country and are proud of wearing the colors, and Aaron stands for all those things. When I first talked to him, without knowing he had played for T&T, I noticed that -- he feels he is 100 percent American and wants to represent this country. Nowadays, when countries are vying over rights for players, it's more important that, first of all they can play the game, but also that they want to represent their country and they are proud to do so."
Rongen said players have until their 21st birthday to make a decision on which country to represent. Maund turns 19 in September, Williams turns 19 in March.
Williams was among the leading scorers as a striker on U.S. youth teams, but was switched to right back two years ago. The change seems to have paid off, Williams' speed allowing him to keep up with opposing wingers and also launching him into the attack on outside. Williams played his final college match for the University of North Carolina in the NCAA title game loss and hopes to move to a European club next season. Williams has worked out with several Bundesliga clubs and had a formal tryout at Wolfsburg in January.
Frank Dell'Apa is a veteran soccer writer based in Boston.