Chris Richards, Chris Gloster, Sebastian Soto, Alex Mendez, Ullyses Llanez and Brady Scott (from left) will all played their part for the US at the U20 World Cup in June. - © DFL 2019
Chris Richards, Chris Gloster, Sebastian Soto, Alex Mendez, Ullyses Llanez and Brady Scott (from left) will all played their part for the US at the U20 World Cup in June. - © DFL 2019
bundesliga

Bundesliga starlets who earned their stripes at U20 World Cup

The Bundesliga continues to produce talented players who can shine at the biggest tournaments around the world. bundesliga.com profiles the six Germany-based players who were in the United States’ squad for this month’s U20 World Cup in Poland.

The USA kicked off their campaign with a narrow 2-1 loss to Ukraine in Bielsko-Biala on 24 May, before beating Nigeria (2-0) and Qatar (1-0) to progress to the knockout rounds as Group D runners-up. They stunned France 3-2 in the Round of 16, but went out to Ecuador in the quarter-finals, though half a dozen players on the books of Bundesliga clubs leave with their heads held high...

Chris Gloster
Position: Left-back
Age: 18
Club: Hannover

New Jersey native Gloster has wasted little time in moving up the ranks since arriving in Germany last summer. The teenager from South Orange played a handful of games for Hannover’s U19 side before making 16 league appearances for the reserves this term. Inspired by the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent, he played alongside the latter at the U17 World Cup in 2017. Gloster was previously at New York Red Bulls, where RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams also started his career.

In Poland: Left-back Gloster started every game for the US. Although he is left-footed, he is just as happy to cut inside his marker when on the overlap – something he did to great effect in setting up Sebastian Soto’s second goal in the 2-0 group stage win over Nigeria.

Chris Gloster's (r.) delivery from the left has wrought havoc among opposition defences. - imago images / VI Images

Ulysses Llanez
Position: Winger
Age: 18
Club: Wolfsburg

Llanez turned 18 at the start of April and will officially link up with the Wolfsburg first team when he returns to the club after the summer break. Right footed but capable of playing on either wing, the Californian made great strides at Los Angeles Galaxy, scoring 48 goals in 79 games at youth level before netting twice in 10 appearances for Galaxy II in the 2018 United Soccer League campaign. He was in Wolfsburg for several weeks before the end of the 2018/19 season and played in three friendlies with the U19s, even scoring twice in a 4-1 win over JFV Calenberger Land on 19 April.

In Poland: Llanez was an unused substitute in the opening Group D games against Ukraine and Nigeria, but came off the bench for the final half-hour against Qatar, his incisive running helping the U20s record a 1-0 win which might have been 2-0, had Alex Mendez’s penalty – earned after a Llanez through-ball – not been missed by the Freiburg youngster. He came of the bench in the second half to help his side overcome France in the last 16, and played the entire second half of the quarter-final defeat to Ecuador.

Not just a one-trick pony: Ulysses Llanez can win the ball back as well as unlock opposition defences when in possession. - imago images / Newspix

Alex Mendez
Position: Central midfielder
Age: 18
Club: Freiburg

Another product of the LA Galaxy academy, Mendez signed a professional contract with Freiburg in October 2018. A month later, he netted eight times at the CONCACAF U20 Championship – including twice in the final against Mexico – and got six assists. He was named 2018 U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year as a result, and scored three goals in 12 matches for Freiburg’s U19 team in the 2018/19 season. The left-footed midfielder from Los Angeles made his professional debut with Galaxy II before completing his switch to Germany.

In Poland: Mendez was one of the US stars most convincingly earning their stripes at the World Cup. The left-footed midfielder was at the heart of most of the side’s attacking play - he started every game except the win over France -  contributing two assists, and was a real danger from set-pieces, that missed penalty aside.

Alex Mendez's free-kick against Qatar may have been kept out, but the Freiburg youngster remains deadly from set pieces. - imago images / VI Images

Chris Richards
Position: Centre-back
Age: 19
Club: Bayern Munich

Bayern initially brought in Richards as part on a one-year loan agreement, but the defending Bundesliga champions and league leaders signed him on a permanent basis in January. The defender has already played in glamour friendlies for Bayern’s first team against Juventus, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, and he featured 21 times for the U19s this season. From Birmingham, Alabama, Richards was formerly at FC Dallas, who last year penned a partnership agreement with the record German champions.

In Poland: Richards only missed 30 of the USA’s 450 minutes of action in Poland, with the Bayern youngster subbed off in the 2-0 win over Nigeria. Two clean sheets in five games are a respectable return for the 18-year-old who – somewhat alarmingly given the leadership qualities he has displayed – still has two years left at this level.

Watch: See what Richards was hoping for when he signed for Bayern

Brady Scott  
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 18
Club: Cologne

From Petaluma in California, Scott joined Cologne in July 2017 and will have been relieved to see the Billy Goats seal a swift return to the top flight earlier this month. Although he trains with them often, the teenager has yet to feature for Cologne’s first team. Having turned pro rather than take up an offer to play at the University of Virginia, however, he featured 13 times for the Bundesliga 2 winners’ reserve side this season. The former De Anza player was the third-choice goalkeeper for the USMNT at the 2017 U20 World Cup in South Korea, acting as a back-up to Hertha Berlin’s Jonathan Klinsmann.

In Poland: Scott was the first-choice goalkeeper for head coach Tab Ramos, although he was rested for the final group game against Qatar with the side already qualified for the knock-out stages, and for the clash with Ecuador. A save on the line from Borussia Dortmund’s Dan-Axel Zagadou helped the US to a headline-grabbing 3-2 win over France in the last 16.

"Pssst, Richard, how many clean sheets do you think I can get in Poland?" - Cologne-owned Brady Scott helped the US to two shut-outs in five games. - imago images / DeFodi

Sebastian Soto
Position: Forward
Age: 18
Club: Hannover

Another Californian in the US squad, Soto has made impressive progress since leaving Real Salt Lake for Hannover in August 2018. He netted 17 goals in 24 matches for the club’s U19 side this season, and made his debut for the first team as a substitute in the 3-1 loss at Wolfsburg on Matchday 28. Two more brief appearances followed in April, meaning his childhood dream of playing in Europe has already become a reality.

In Poland: Undoubtedly the star of the show for the US. Soto scored four goals in Poland, the opposition net rippling every 96 minutes he was on the field. His first goal against France showed an unerring ability to finish into the corners when under pressure, and a first senior start with Hannover could now be just around the corner.

Dan-Axel Zagadou (r.) may be a Bundesliga runner-up with Borussia Dortmund, but he couldn't stop Sebastian Soto from opening the scoring for the USA against France. - imago images / Newspix