What it was like to win U20 CONCACAF Championship – Guest post by Jeremy Ebobisse

USA vs Panama

The early part of the season was quite hectic. From numerous flights and bouncing around between the US Under-20 National Team and Timbers, I had little time to settle into my new home. I spent about a week with the Timbers before jetting off to Florida to prepare for World Cup Qualifying.

Unlike every other draftee, I would not have the benefit of an entire preseason to fully assimilate myself into my new team’s culture, both on and off the pitch, so I had to maximize the little time I had there. Like anyone else stepping to a new environment, I was quite nervous.

How was I going to make friends?

What was the right balance between not saying enough and saying too much?

How would I react to being the least experienced player on the field for a change?

Those questions would resolve themselves shortly thereafter.

Preseason: Welcome to MLS

The word preseason can sometimes come off with a sort of negative connotation, but I absolutely loved it. Maybe its my youth, maybe it’s the fact that it was my first (although limited) preseason, but regardless, it was the perfect introduction to my new environment. I felt right at home and vindicated for my decision to leave college early. The other Timbers players challenged me, but also guided me along the way. The two-a-days flew by and, before I knew it, we were playing our first games against New York Red Bulls and NK Istra.

It was my first taste of professional action and, though it was limited, I would remember those minutes as I went on with the US team, knowing that there was a lot waiting ahead of me when I got back.

CONCACAF U-20 Championship

Off to Costa Rica

Though we had only been apart for about a week, it definitely felt good to be back with the US U-20 team as we prepared for our journey to become the first American team to bring home a CONCACAF U-20 title.

3 games in 11 days, along with two-a-days and meetings to prepare, meant that there were no breaks. We would be ready for our opening match against Panama, and to succeed in such a major tournament.

Since January 2016, I remember the team setting the goal of winning the CONCACAF U-20 tournament. If I’m being honest with myself, I had been waiting for this opportunity since I realized I wouldn’t be a part of the U-17 cycle several years earlier. It doesn’t matter how/what path we took to make the team, what was important was that we were together, shared a common goal, and knew how to achieve it.


USA vs Panama

A 1-0 loss to Panama early on, after a couple of successful tune-up matches, had us all fearing the worst, even if we didn’t necessarily admit it to ourselves. But we all knew, deep down, that one loss was never going to be the end of our CONCACAF hopes, as we proved. It definitely wasn’t the way we wanted to start the campaign, but maybe it’s what we needed in the long run.

Despite all of the anxiety from supporters back home, and increasing media criticism, the team never gave up hope.

USA u20 vs haiti

After a slow start against Haiti (tied 1-1 at halftime), we recuperated and bounced back, defeating Haiti 4-1. The vibe around our locker room was back…. we were ready to face anyone, and as a team, we could still improve and build on the result.

A final group game against St. Kitts was rather routine and professional (USA won 4-1), and we now had one focus: beating Mexico.

usa vs mexico 2017

There was quite a bit of build-up heading into such an important match against our bitter rivals, but we felt prepared and ready. We were able to score the first goal that Mexico conceded all tournament early on from a corner, held on for the rest of the match and won the match 1-0.

Next up was El-Salvador, who Mexico made short work of a few days prior, beating them 6-1. We knew that our dream of making it to the Final was ever so close, and we were focused on making that dream a reality.

We won the El Salvador game 2-1, with the winner coming from (fellow DMV’er) Eryk Williamson, who could forget that goal?!

It’s a Celebration

In the Final, we were able to beat Honduras in penalties and claim the U-20 CONCACAF U-20 Championship!

USA vs Honduras u20

The rush of emotions, the sheer joy from winning CONCACAF and making history would be something I’ll never forget. The streamers falling out of control, the victory lap with our fans, the unrelenting excitement, it was all so special. A month away from our family, friends, and clubs ended in the most spectacular of fashions.

We had done something that many great players attempted. We would go back to our clubs, carrying this piece of history with us, and taking valuable experiences to improve our game at the club level.

With one eye already on the World Cup, we knew that the next three months would be crucial, so it was straight back to work.

The Beginning of A New Chapter

jeremy ebobisse timbers

Note: this is a guest post by Jeremy Ebobisse of the Portland Timbers, edited by the staff of DMVSoccer.com

It was all finally coming to an end. One chapter of my life was closing, and my dream of becoming an MLS player was FINALLY starting to come to fruition.

After six months of limbo looking for a professional club, followed by six months of bouncing around, training, and playing with different teams, I was finally going to find a permanent home.

I had been at camp with the US U20s when it finally settled that I would be settling down and really focusing on my professional career. Amid preparing for World Cup Qualifying, the MLS Draft was always in the back of my mind. The big question: where would I end up?

Leading Up to the MLS Draft

Fast forward to the 2017 MLS Combine

jeremy ebobisse MLS combine

Jan 12, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Team Copa forward Jeremy Ebobisse (left) moves the ball defended by Team Control defender Jordan Wilson (right) during the second half at StubHub Center. Team Copa won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

I showed up a couple days late due to my national team commitments, and then had a further delay in playing because of paperwork issues. Though I wasn’t as involved in the combine as guys who were there all week, I enjoyed every minute of it. From meeting with different teams, to hanging around with such a diverse group of young players who share my passion to succeed, my short spell at the Combine went by ever so quick.

Having had the privilege of being a pre-signed player for the draft, the question I was being asked when I was walking around the hotel was basically always the same: Where do you want to go?

In the end, my responses were similar, but always revolved around the politically correct “I’m open to every team” answer.

The more I thought about it or read into my situation after meetings, the more of an idea I had about my future that was well unsolved. In the end, I just decided to stop looking into things, focus on my game, and just let the future take care of itself.

Towards the end of the combine, I played in one game filled with ups and downs, but I was satisfied with the way the week had gone on and off the field. Then came draft day. The day I had been waiting for since the day I signed in August. A day that I would look back on for the rest of my life.

2017 MLS Draft

I still remember everything I did that day

jeremy ebobisse MLS draft

It started with laying out my clothes to make sure I had everything in order, although what could I have done if I was missing something three hours before the draft?

This was followed by frantically rehearsing the talking points for my speech in front of a mirror.

I remember imagining the room filled up with just the players, the teams, and a few families, which already got my heart rate as high as it has been for nonathletic reasons in a long time. From that point forward, it was all smiles as I went downstairs to see the other players.

A lot of us had been playing with and against each other for several years, so it was really special to see the culmination of years of work. As MLS Social Media crew started a Facebook Live feed of the bus ride, we quickly realized that, from then on, every step we made would likely be on camera somewhere. For those of us not sure how many people to expect at the actual event, we found out pretty quickly as we stepped off of the bus to crowds of people outside of the convention center.

If that was the attendance a couple of hours before the draft, then we all knew we were in for a packed house, which is exactly what we got.

First steps into the room and I couldn’t hear a single thing anyone was trying to say to me. All I could hear was the LAFC and LA Galaxy fan groups going back and forth. I was expecting fans, but I definitely didn’t expect that kind of noise level an hour before the draft. I remember thinking to myself “wow, maybe I should have spent more time preparing my speech”.

The room kept filling up the closer we got to Draft time. Our families met us front and center, where we were seated, as we all took in the sights and sounds. As players, we all had our sights on the podium as we imagined what we would look like up there. Having our families there was definitely something incredibly special.

I remember the room getting really silent as introductions occurred, and then it came time for the picks. I tried to stay calm as the teams were on the clock, but I knew that everything was out of my hands and I did everything I cold do to leave a lasting impression with whoever was evaluating me on and off of the field.

I couldn’t really stop my heart rate from soaring! I was starting to get used to that response coming from my body, there really was a lot going on at once.

After several minutes of hearing the first few picks of the Draft:

With the number one pick of the 2017 MLS Superfraft, Minnesota United select Abu Danladi from UCLA

With the number two pick, Atlanta United select Miles Robinson from Syracuse

And watching teams scramble across the floor looking to make trades (NYCFC made a trade with Chicago to select Jonathan Lewis from Akron), I heard my name! A year of limbo was finally over – I was going to be a Timber!

For a moment that I had visualized so much, I had completely forgotten what came next. The moment I heard my name, it’s as if I was floating on top of my body, watching the whole thing unfold. I didn’t feel in control of my body – I was too busy trying to process what just happened.

Finally, I regained control of the situation and proceeded to the stage. After shaking the commissioners hand and stepping up the podium, that feeling came back as I spoke my first words into the microphone. I blanked on my speech and needed to improvise, all while shaking uncontrollably beneath my suit. At that moment, I lost sight of the crowd (aside from my mother and my agents), as I began thanking everyone who had gotten me to this point.

Shaking the Commissioners Hand

Shaking the Commissioners Hand

The speech was over, the part I feared most was behind me, and I had everything to look forward to. From meeting the Timbers coach and GM to shuffling through backstage press, my heart rate finally came down. After 30 minutes or so of press interviews, I was able to find my mother, my agents, and my friends as we shared our stories and emotions from the day. Everything was starting to wind down at the convention center as the players began to imagine our integration within our first professional setting.

It was a beautiful day, filled with all of our special ones, and it really made us all feel as if the sacrifices that we had endured were not in vain. The missed parties, the early nights, the academic sacrifices were all finally vindicated. As we went on to our respective dinners and reflected on the day, we knew that there would be new goals and challenges but we were ready to work and trust the process.

Check Out Jeremy’s Interview With The Timbers Post Draft!: https://youtu.be/yhdGaNepF5M

Next: Preseason and the U20s