U-20s: Villarreal takes the reins in US win over Costa Rica

PUEBLA, Mexico – When the US U-20s struggled to score from open play in their 1-0 win over Costa Rica on Friday evening, they turned to a tried and true method of putting the ball over the line: set pieces.

And none other than goal hero Jose Villarreal stressed his side’s prowess from dead ball situations after scoring the winning header, pointing to that paricular strength as a deciding factor.

“The US is known for set-pieces, so we took advantage of that and capitalized,” the LA Galaxy player told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “It was a great ball by Luis Gil. I’m happy with the win.”

Villarreal was shifted to his preferred No. 9 role for the Costa Rica game, as opposed to being on the right wing against Haiti on Monday. He admitted he is more comfortable at center forward leading the offense, but is ready to play wherever his coach Tab Ramos wants him.

READ: U-20s: Ramos quickly shifts focus to decisive quarterfinal matchup

“I’m comfortable anywhere on the attacking side but center forward is kind of my spot,” explained Villarreal. “I like to play that role, but if the coach needs me out wide, I’ll play for him out wide. It’s just what’s best for the team.”

Like his manager, Villarreal is now looking forward to the quarterfinals and believes that the tests are only going to get more difficult in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.

“We’re going game by game, we got this one over with, so we’re happy with the win and we’re looking forward to the next game,” he said. “The games are only going to get tougher and hopefully we’ll be victorious.”

Finally, Villarreal revealed he has been getting messages from Galaxy fans and teammates, which he says gives him the motivation that could be crucial in pushing the US further on in the tournament and eventually to this summer's U-20 World Cup in Turkey. 

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.