American Exports: Nearly fit again, Daniel Cuevas targets Santos Laguna debut, U-20 World Cup

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Santos Laguna and US Under-20 national team forward Daniel Cuevas has returned to full training after tearing his meniscus during the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Puebla in February.

“[The tear] wasn’t big enough so it was necessary to do surgery, but then it wasn’t small enough to not think about it,” Cuevas told MLSsoccer.com last week. “It was right in between, so that’s why they took a while to debate whether I should have surgery or not.”

Cuevas could return to competitive action for Santos Laguna’s U-20s when they host Toluca on Friday, but the 19-year-old has already set his sights on making his full debut for the Liga MX club and has been hearing some encouraging noises on the matter from head coach Pedro Caixinha.

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“He’s always trying to find out where I’m at with the injury, when I’m back,” said Cuevas. "He’s been real interested in the healing process. Hopefully Caixinha’s interest is meant for something. I hope to get called up and try to make the bench at least and get the debut already, but we’ll see how that goes.”

The Sacramento, Calif., native was a virtual unknown in US soccer circles before the CONCACAF U-20 tournament, but scored two important goals and looked one of the most complete players on the American squad during the competition, before the injury ruled him out of the final against Mexico.

The excellent tournament both he and Santos teammate Benji Joya had didn’t go unnoticed in Torreón, where players and coaches alike sat up and took notice of the duo.

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“Herculez [Gomez] actually commented that they were in a concentration after the Cuba game and they watched the replay and said everyone was amazed how I scored the goal,” Cuevas said. “All the coaches were there also, so I was pretty happy about that.”

Although the stocky forward still needs to prove his fitness and form to make sure he’s on the plane with Tab Ramos’ squad for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey in June, he’s already looking forward to potentially playing in what is considered the Group of Death with Spain, France and Ghana.

“It’s exciting, they are going to be good games,” said the forward. “[Spain] are the best in Europe so we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully everyone is healthy and everybody gets to go.”

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