Cesar Zamora is one of four Chivas USA Academy players on the U.S. U-20 squad.
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Zamora returns from U.S. U-20 national camp

Cesar Zamora is back in town.

Chivas USA’s youngest player has returned to the Home Depot Center after serving as part of the U.S. U-20 national team at the Dallas Cup last week. The 18-year-old midfielder made two starts and one substitute appearance for the team during the tournament.

“It’s always good to spend time with the national team,” said Zamora after Chivas USA practice on Tuesday morning. “I got good feedback while I was there so I need to just keep playing and bring what I learn back to Chivas.”

The U-20s started their campaign with a 1-0 loss to Mexico on March 28. The team rebounded with a 1-0 victory against the Vancouver Whitecaps a day later, but dropped out of the tournament with a 1-0 loss to German side Eintracht Frankfurt.

Zamora got the start in the first and third games, and entered the second in the 90th minute.

“You always try to get good results, but obviously it didn’t go our way,” said Zamora of the team’s 1-2 record. “But we still have two full years to work on the things that we didn’t do well.”

Members of the U-20 national team are recycled in two-year increments to refresh the player pool as athletes get too old for the age limit. At 18 years old, Zamora is at the start of what could be a lucrative cycle on the squad.

Zamora follows in the footsteps of Chivas USA teammates Jorge Flores and Gerson Mayén, both of whom earned numerous caps with the U20s over the course of the last two years. And while he admits it will be different without Mayén and Flores on the squad anymore (both have aged out), Zamora is ready to step into a larger leadership role himself. 

“It was good having them around,” said Zamora. “Having your teammates there makes you more comfortable, but it’s also good experience to be on your own. I’m trying to be a leader. Hopefully one day I could captain the team. I’m aiming for that and we’ll see what happens.”

While Flores and Mayén are now in the U-23 age group, Zamora is not completely without friendly faces on the U-20 squad. Chivas USA Academy members Ian Hines-Ike, Bryan de la Fuente, and Ruben Gonzalez all joined Zamora at the Dallas Cup. The four had been teammates on past Chivas youth teams.

“It’s always nice to see guys that you’ve played with before,” said Zamora. “We got along well and we understood each other on the field. That’s a big plus.”

While time spent in international play takes Zamora away from his club team, U.S. U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen knows Chivas USA Head Coach Martín Vásquez well. Vásquez served as an assistant coach to Rongen during Chivas USA’s 2005 inaugural season.

“Thomas and Martín are good friends,” said Zamora of his coaches. “We try to work on things here [at Chivas] that will help me out when I go [with the national team], and vice-versa. It’s a great system.”