US U-20 Caleb Stanko battles Costa Rica's Jhon Ruiz for the ball

U-20s: Stanko's captaincy gives him "an extra 10 percent"

PUEBLA, Mexico – In many ways, it was a surprise when Caleb Stanko was made captain of the US Under-20 national team. Bigger names like Cody Cropper, Luis Gil and Wil Trapp will all have been in the frame, but Stanko may well have been a shrewd choice by Tab Ramos.

It is certainly driving the 19-year-old, who plays his club soccer with Bundesliga outfit Freiburg's reserve team, on to a higher level of performance.

“I think it gives me the extra 10 percent to work 110 percent,” the Holly, Mich., native told on Friday after the 1-0 victory over Costa Rica.

READ: U-20s: Ramos wastes no time in turning to quarterfinal showdown with Canada

Stanko is happy with how his burgeoning partnership with Colorado Rapids defender/midfielder Shane O’Neill at the heart of the US defensive unit is developing, highlighting the communication between the two on the field as both get used to playing a position they are not accustomed to.

“Definitely in the first game, you could notice we hadn’t really played together," said Starko, "but Shane is a great player, he talks to me so it was easy to adjust to that."

However, the clean sheet and the six points from two games were already being pushed to the back of Stanko’s mind Friday evening as his team’s thoughts turned to Tuesday’s make-or-break clash against Canada, with a ticket to June's U-20 World Cup in Turkey at stake.

“This team wants to win it all,” he said. “We want to go as far as we can and we’ll be starting tonight to work for the game.”

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for E-mail him at


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