FRISCO, Texas – The US Under-20 national team has their work cut out for them if they want to advance to their first Under-20 World Cup in four years. Jonathan Top learned that first hand.
The FC Dallas forward spent the last nine days in Puebla, Mexico, the site of next month’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship, as a part of Tab Ramos’ youth national team camp. Top played in both of the closed-door matches against Panama as part of the last camp before qualifying begins.
“It went well, but the results didn’t go our way,” Top told MLSsoccer.com in FC Dallas camp this week. “We tied one game and we lost one game, but I feel like we’re preparing right and did most of the things right. We did what we could do whenever we were down there. It was about getting used to the environment and where we’re going to be at.”
To be fair, Puebla is no easy place to get used to. At an elevation of around 7,000 feet, it’s higher than any major US metropolis, something that takes well more than a week to get fully adjusted to.
“It was hard,” Top said. “Sometimes you’d just be lying in bed and you’d have to take a deep breath just to catch your breath. During the games, it was tough when you’re warming up; those first couple sprints you’re just gassed with no air in your lungs.”
Top made no excuses for the subpar results, however, and noted that the camp could prove to be essential as they countdown the final days before the all-important qualifiers.
“We pulled through and fought,” Top said. “We knew [what to expect] before, but we know that there’s not going to be an easy game in qualifying, especially with Costa Rica and Haiti. Those games are going to be tough and chippy, but I think we’re ready for it.”
The CONCACAF Championship, which doubles as qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, begins for the US on Feb. 18 against Haiti, and their other group-stage game is against Costa Rica on Feb. 22. Should the United States advance from their group, they will either play Canada, Nicaragua or Cuba for a spot in the U-20 World Cup beginning in June in Turkey.