PUEBLA, Mexico – Jose Villarreal and Luis Gil may have established themselves as the stars of the US Under-20 national team, netting a brace and the vital equalizer, respectively, in Tuesday's 4-2 victory over Canada, but you won't find two players quicker to point to squad chemistry and camaraderie as the key factors in the team's passage to the U-20 World Cup.
“We all stick together, we have fun together, we’ve always doing stuff together,” enthused Gil after the game. “We’re just a real big family.”
Galaxy starlet Villarreal (above) was also keen to play down the key role he played in the do-or-die game.
“I’m just happy to be able to help out my team however possible,” he said. “If they need me to score, I’ll score, if they need me to defend, I’ll defend. We work as a unit so I’m proud.”
However, Gil will be one of a number of the group missing as he returns Wednesday to club side Real Salt Lake, where he is a possible starter for this weekend’s season opener against San Jose (Sunday, 10 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
He leaves the group content with what the victory means not just for this group of players, but for US Soccer in general.
“It gives us hope and it gives other players the feeling that we’re still in and that US Soccer is growing,” stated the attacking midfielder.
Gil, who has already made over 50 professional appearances at the age of 19, was especially pleased with the way the team showed grit to come back when Canada took the lead.
“We haven’t been put in that situation in this tournament before, so I felt like it was a good thing for us to go through and I felt like we handled it well,” said the 19-year-old.
Villarreal, on the other hand, will stay on in Mexico and will look to add to his running three-goal tally in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship when the US face Cuba in Friday's semifinal (6 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
He left the Estadio Olímpico with his familiar wide, ear-to-ear smile and the feeling that the team had gone some way to proving critics wrong.
“We kind of knew that we had a lot more to show, to the crowd and all you guys so it was good we got the four goals and it’s good momentum for the team,” he concluded.