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U.S. U20s' Ebobisse Lifts Weight with Strike

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/03/17, 12:29PM EDT


First goal since loan stint with Battery helped side into Venezuela showdown

Having gone six competitive games without a goal for the United States U20 National Team, including the duration of the 2017 CONCACAF U20 Championship, Portland Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse needed something to get back on track.

With his outstanding turning finish against New Zealand on Thursday, part of a 6-0 romp in the Round of 16 at the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup, things began to brighten for the standout striker.

“It definitely feels as though I lifted a weight off my shoulder,” Ebobisse said. “Obviously going through CONCACAF without scoring a goal after the goal-run that I had been in throughout the cycle was tough mentally, but my teammates stuck by me, supported me, never doubted me, which was huge, and the coaching staff as well. I knew that as soon as I got another chance in this World Cup I would bury it, and it was just a really great feeling to do that.”

In fact, to find the last goal Ebobisse scored in a competitive game, you have to go back to his time on loan with the Charleston Battery in the USL late last year. Ebobisse’s first professional goal for the Battery on Sept. 7, 2016 against Montreal after leaving Duke University prior to his junior season was his last until Thursday night’s blast against the All Whites.

The 20-year-old has since made two appearances on loan with the Portland Timbers 2 in the USL, in addition to making his MLS debut for the Timbers as a substitute against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 6.

Now Ebobisse is hoping to play a role in Sunday’s quarterfinal against Venezuela, which offers the United States the chance to reach the semifinals of the U20 World Cup for only the second time in its history. The 1989 team that finished in fourth place at the tournament is the lone side to have achieved that feat to this point, and included the likes of U.S. Soccer legend Kasey Keller, current LA Galaxy Head Coach Curt Onalfo and current Seattle Sounders FC Technical Director Chris Henderson.

After being part of the side that missed out on a semifinal berth after losing to Serbia in a penalty shootout two years ago, Swope Park Rangers loanee and U.S. captain Erik Palmer-Brown is looking forward to the chance to go one step further this time around. It won’t be easy; Venezuela has yet to give up a goal while having defeated Mexico, Germany and Japan on its way to the last eight.

“They’re a technical team,” said Palmer-Brown. “They have players that can hurt you on the offensive side of the ball, they’ve given up zero goals this tournament and they’re strong defensively, so we have a good matchup on our hands, but we believe in our team and we believe in our abilities to go in and win this game.”

With the dynamism the United States has shown in attack this tournament, and Ebobisse potentially joining tournament co-leading scorer Josh Sargent in finding his rhythm in front of goal, the team feels the win is there for the taking.

“In the back, I don’t think they’re anything special, anything different than what we’ve faced,” Ebobisse said of Venezuela. “I think I’ll be up to us to check our runs and get in behind and really make them work, not make it easy for them by keeping the ball in front of them. I think it’s going to important we use all of our different options on the wing and in the center of the field.”

After equaling the program’s biggest victory in U20 World Cup history on Thursday, the side is now just three wins away from history.

“We want to challenge for the championship,” said Palmer-Brown “We feel we’re one of the best teams left in this tournament and that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to play our hardest every game.”

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