Friday, April 15, 2011

Favorite U20 team?

Bear with me and my circular logic - today Benny Feilhaber signed with MLS. I first covered Benny as a player when he was a surprise pick for Sigi Schmid's USA U20 team, back in 2005. Sigi was between MLS coaching gigs at the time, and his kid, Kurt, had told him to check out this UCLA player that had kind of flown under the radar.

That was Benny, and he turned out to be a great fit for the U20 squad, weaving around opponents with his curly mop of dark hair making him easy to spot. He was a fun interview, too, open and funny. I asked him about signing with MLS back then, and he seemed excited about the idea, but I think his head was later turned by the European option. Anyway, he's finally back in MLS now.

However, that got me thinking about how the 2005 squad was one of my favorite U20 teams, probably because I did a lot of articles and features on them at the time. I happened to ask US Soccer federation head Sunil Gulati the same question. Here's his response, exclusive to Sideline Views because I couldn't really figure out how to fit it into any other article.

The team in Canada was quite good and a little unlucky not to make it farther than the quarterfinals. Fredy, Jozy, Michael Bradley - it was a good squad. The 89 team was a bit unusual in that they advanced after having been eliminated. Mexico had some problems with ineligible players, so we went instead. They got to the semifinals. That team had Kasey Keller, Chris Henderson, Mike Burns, players that would go on to feature in the World Cup. Those two were very strong teams. I also remember well the team that played in the UAE, and lost to Argentina late in extra time in the quarterfinals. Perhaps not surprisingly, the teams I remember as being the strongest are the teams that went the farthest in the tournament.

What about your favorite U20 squad? Tell us about it.

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