CARSON, California – The U.S. U20 Men’s National Team ended one of its final camps before the World Cup on Sunday with a 6-2 victory over Cal FC, an adult league team from Thousand Oaks, California.
“I am happy with the first half in particular,” U20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos said after the game. “Obviously, we put in some [substitutes] in the second half, which we made into a mess ourselves, but once our guys adjusted, they did well and got a couple more goals. It was a great week in camp.”
Second-half substitute Alfred Koroma scored twice for the U.S. including the final tally in the last minute of the game. Dillon Serna, Benji Joya, Victor Pineda, and Danny Garcia also scored for the youth national team in the scrimmage.
Garcia had the opener in the first half off a cross from Seattle Sounders Academy attacking Jordan Morris that Jose Villarreal knocked down at the top of the box. Garcia was there to smash the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
The U20s dominated a large stretch of the first half, but could not find that second goal. Cal FC nearly found the equalizer against the run of play shortly before half, but a diving save from Cody Cropper kept the U.S. in the lead at the break.
Shortly after half, U.S. double its lead thanks to a swift movement into the attack that sprung Morris down the left side. With only the keeper in front of him, Morris unselfishly made the square pass to Victor Pineda who slotted the ball into the empty net.
The national team extended the lead once again in the 68th minute when Joya whipped in a cross to the center of the box that Koroma headed to the far post for his first goal of the game.
“I felt like the team really worked together to win 6-2,” Joya said. “I felt like I did better on the wing because when I play as an eight I always drift out. But it is a good challenge to play two positions in a game.”
Cal FC turned it into a nail-biter at the end though. The adult amateur team used goals from John Caceraes and Dylan Riley to cut the deficit to only one-goal with five minutes left in the game.
But the U20s scored three goals in the final three minutes to succinctly end the camp on a high note.
Joya started the onslaught of tallies with an impressive curling effort from the top of the box to restore a two-goal advantage for the U20s. Koroma then setup former Akron teammate Serna for the fifth goal of the game.
Koroma capped the day with a nifty flick at the near post off a cross from Joya for his second of the game and sixth for the U20s.
Originally, the U20 MNT was scheduled to play Chivas USA’s reserves on Sunday, but Chivas USA sent the national team staff an email earlier in the week to inform them that they were planning to use five U18 players in the game. The U20 staff decided to look for other competition at that point.
Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Javan Torre, Jeffrey Payeras, and Joya were the only four players to play all 90 minutes on Sunday. “You always try to keep your two center backs together as much as you can,” Ramos said. “[Jeffrey] Payeras is in good form. Javan [Torre] we want to get to get as much as time as possible, same with Juan Pablo [Ocegueda].”
U.S. U20 Starting XI:
Cody Cropper; Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Javan Torre, Jeffrey Payeras, DeAndre Yedlin; Wil Trapp, Benji Joya, Daniel Garcia; Jordan Morris, Jose Villarreal, Victor Pineda
Second half lineup:
Kendall McIntosh; Ocegueda, Torre, Payeras, Oscar Sorto; Trapp (Kellyn Acosta ’66), Joya, Collin Martin; Morris (Marlon Hairston ’64), Alfred Koroma, Pineda (Dillon Serna ’70)