Union forward Julian Carranza (9) and midfielder Jack McGlynn (16) and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (11) celebrate after a win over the Colorado Rapids on May 13. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
No U.S. male team has won a FIFA youth World Cup since the Under-17 and U-20 tournaments started in the seventies.
Jack McGlynn thinks the U.S. squad can remedy that at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina.
At the moment, it might be smart not to get into an argument with McGlynn. After all, the Americans are off to a fabulous start, winning their group with a perfect 3-0-0 mark while outscoring their foes, 6-0.
They take on New Zealand in the Round of 16 on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. ET (FS2).
“We all believe we can win it all,” the former Blau-Weiss Gottschee standout and current Philadelphia Union midfielder said during a Monday afternoon media conference call. “That’s why we’re here and that’s why we’ve done so well. We all believe in each other to the fullest and trust each other on the field. I think as long as we keep doing that, we can go all the way.”
Strong words, indeed.
That certainly would be a big deal for the U.S. Its best finish was fourth place at a pair of FIFA tournaments – the 1989 U-20 World Cup and the U-17 World Cup in 1999, a team that featured National Soccer Hall of Famers Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley.
The USA has reached the quarterfinals in the last three U-20 world tournaments but has never reached the final four. Of course, there is a first time for everything. We have to remember that this particular team and generation of players captured the Concacaf U-20 tournament last summer, clinching a spot in the World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics last summer. That snapped a 16-year drought.
“I think everybody playing at a high level at their clubs really helps when you come here,” McGlynn said. “I think everyone came in sharp and game fit. That helped us get off to a great start in the tournament. Playing those big games with your club really kind of gets rid of the pressure when you play them here. You’re used to it.”
The former Gottschee standout won’t take New Zealand, a team that hails from the Oceania Confederation that hasn’t much success at the international, lightly.
“They’re going to be really tough opponent,” he said. “They’re still in the tournament for a reason. We’re going to have to give everything.”
Which is the philosophy that McGlynn has lived by in soccer.
“You take every game as though it’s kind of your last one you put everything on the field,” he said. “You try to have your best performance possible. I don’t view the view games differently. I kind of view them as all the same.”
The 19-year-old McGlynn’s talent and passion are two reasons why head coach Mikey Varas has relied on him.
“Jack is a key player that has been through the whole cycle,” he said. “Jack brings us a range of possession and a range of playmaking that I think is at a really high level. On top of that, he’s a really hard worker, and he’ll put in an honest shift every single time he steps on the field.”
In a separate interview, McGlynn returned the compliment to Varas.
“You go on the field to try to win for him because he gives you so much faith and trust when you step on the field,” he said. “He’s such a great guy to talk to you, off the field, not even talking about soccer. He’s always there for you no matter what. Playing for him is a real privilege. Every time you step on the field you want to win for him.”
And of course, win it for themselves and their country.
McGlynn said that the squad is a pretty close-knit group.
“Every night after dinner, we play a game with each other,” he said. “We’re all best friends off the field. I think that shows with our chemistry on the field.”
That game is called Mafia, which is a game of survival.
“There’s so many good liars on this team, it’s crazy,” McGlynn said, adding that defender Josh Wynder was the best liar. “He lied in every round.”
Most importantly, he helped the Americans keep the opposition off the scoreboard.
And that’s the truth.
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