United States U-20 national soccer team head coach Thomas Rongen unveiled his squad for CONCACAF qualifying to the U-20 World Cup on Thursday, and it included two members of the Philadelphia Union.
Midfielder Amobi Okugo and goalkeeper Zac MacMath have been summoned by Rongen to take part in the 2011 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Guatemala, where the four semifinalists will qualify for the 2011 Under-20 World Cup.
Okugo has been one of the leaders during this Under-20 cycle. He has established himself as a regular member of the starting 11, sometimes in defensive midfield and sometimes as centerback. He actually competed in the 2009 edition of CONCACAF U-20 qualifying as well, helping to earn the U.S. a berth in the 2009 U-20 World Cup, but he just missed out on Rongen's final list of players who headed to Egypt.
Okugo is also a strong candidate to captain the squad. Rongen will take into account where he wants to play DC United's Perry Kitchen when he decides where to place Okugo, as both have each played defense and midfield throughout the current cycle. One will probably play center back while the other plays defensive midfield; Kitchen has been used mostly as a CB by DC coach Ben Olsen throughout this preseason but Okugo has been used all over the field by Peter Nowak.
MacMath has emerged as the clear starter in goal for the Under-20s, and was a lock to be called into this roster. This will allow MacMath to compete at a high level as he continues his development for the Union. MacMath is unlikely to start many games for Philadelphia after their acquisition of Faryd Mondragon. More after the jump, including one Union player who was snubbed from the list.
One Union player that missed the cut was striker Jack McInerney. The young forward had been involved with the U-20s for much of the cycle, but as qualifying neared McInerney began to appear less and less in Rongen's training sessions. His absense from the 20-player roster can be attributed to a talented crop of forwards that includes Vancouver Whitecaps FC's Omar Salgado and Joe Gyau of TSG Hoffenheim. Juan Agudelo of the New York Red Bulls would probably have been summoned as well had Bob Bradley not named him in the squad for the senior US team's upcoming friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay.
The squad includes eight players in total that come from Major League Soccer. Okugo, MacMath, Salgado, Kitchen, FC Dallas's left back Moises Hernandez, Red Bulls homegrown central defender Sacir Hot, Columbus Crew right back Korey Veeder, and Chivas USA defender Zarek Valentin will all travel to Guatemala and most of them will probably be in the starting eleven.
Okugo and MacMath will be with the U-20s from March 20 to April 10 if the United States makes the final, meaning they will be unavailable for the Union's matches against Vancouver, Los Angeles, and New York. The duo will, however, be available for the season opener in Houston on Saturday.