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Josh Lambo Update


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It looks like we are still keen on Lambo.

 

Josh Lambo was at a local eyeglass store the other day, getting some adjustments made to his glasses.

 

Now, if only the goalkeeper's career path would come into better focus.

 

Lambo was back in Middleton after returning home from the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in South Korea, where he started the final two games for the U.S. and turned in Man of Match performances in each. His return to the area will be a brief one, as he'll head back to Bradenton, Fla., on Sunday to rejoin the U-17 national team residency program.

 

Up until a few weeks ago, though, the 16-year-old didn't know where he would end up after the World Cup. And he still doesn't know where he's going after he graduates from high school in December — thanks to his accelerated studies in Bradenton.

 

"I have options right now," Lambo said. "I'm just going to let them play out."

Passport progressing

 

It's pretty obvious what Lambo's favorite option would be.

 

His father, Mark, has been in the process of trying to acquire a Greek passport for the past year — Mark Lambo's father was born in a part of Greece that used to be Macedonia, making the family eligible for citizenship. Once Mark receives his Greek passport, Josh then could apply for one, which would make signing with a European club a much easier process.

 

"It's coming along," Josh Lambo said of his father's process. "I'm not sure about the specifics, but it's moving along a lot swifter than it was before."

 

Assuming Josh Lambo gets Greek citizenship, he in all likelihood will sign to play for the academy of Premier League club Everton. Lambo has trained with the Toffees twice, once in Texas in July 2006 and then again in Liverpool in November 2006.

 

"Everton is still my top choice, because I love the environment there, I know everybody there, a lot of people know me there, and I'm comfortable there," he said. "But I'm not sure if any other offers are going to come, and even if they do, I don't know if I'd accept them, because Everton is such a great club.

 

"I'm hoping to be in England in January; that's my plan right now. That's if the passport keeps moving along like it has the last couple weeks."

 

And if it doesn't?

 

"If for some reason something gets held up and I don't get my citizenship in January, I don't know how that would affect my offers coming from overseas," he said. "Everton has been great with me, but I don't know what would happen with that.

 

"I'm pretty sure I'll get (the passport), but if I don't, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I don't know if other clubs would come up and make offers. MLS is also an option, depending on how long it would take get to my citizenship, but they usually want a 3- or 4-year contract. College is still in the question — maybe a semester, if need be."

 

If Lambo does end up in college, he said he would attend the University of Wisconsin, where his older brother Zack is a junior defender-midfielder for the Badgers.

Residency redux

 

For the next semester, Lambo will be back in Bradenton. That wasn't always going to be the case, though.

 

Lambo was born in 1990 — he turns 17 on Nov. 19 — and his class completed their cycle in the Under-17 residency program with the World Cup. He wasn't expecting to be invited back to residency for the fall semester, so he made plans to return to Middleton High School.

 

He was granted a waiver by the WIAA that would have allowed him to play for the Cardinals this fall. After moving to Middleton from Crystal Lake, Ill., Lambo played for the Cardinals as a freshman in 2005, going 10-1-4 with a 0.71 goals-against average and four shutouts before heading off to Bradenton.

 

However, just before the U.S. team left for the World Cup last month, Lambo received a call from Under-17 coach John Hackworth offering him the chance to return to the residency program for the fall semester to finish off his high school diploma. Lambo is one of 10 players born in 1990 who were kept in the program this fall.

 

On one hand, it was a bit of a difficult decision. On the other, though, it really wasn't.

 

"It would've been awesome, just to be a 16-, 17-year old for a few months," said Lambo, who added that he remains friends with many of his Middleton teammates from 2005.

 

"As far as my development, (playing for the Cardinals) probably wouldn't have been the best thing. On the upside, I would have had a lot more games, so that would be more helpful. ... But as a career decision, it wouldn't make sense to come back, with the opportunities I've been given. I can't afford to pass them up."

Solid in South Korea

 

Lambo was passed up by Zac MacMath as the starting keeper for the Under-17 national team over the past year, but made the most of his chance when he got it.

 

MacMath got the nod for the Americans' first two matches in South Korea, losses to Tajikistan (4-3) and Tunisia (3-1). Hackworth gave Lambo the start in the must-win group finale against Belgium, and he not only posted the United States’ first shutout in the tourney since 1999, he also nearly scored off a goal kick in the 2-0 win.

 

"I don't even know what happened," Lambo said of his near-goal, which was tipped over the crossbar by Belgium keeper Jo Coppens. "I just had the ball at my feet, I dropped it down to the ground so I could let my team get up, and no one on Belgium was pressing me, so I just kept moving on up. I just hit it up, I was trying to find (former Madison resident) Ellis McLoughlin on top, he missed it, the defender missed it, the goalie didn't know what was going on, he misjudged it."

 

Lambo said he's never scored from open play — and none of his made penalty kicks have come with the national team — but he did enough in goal, making three saves. He followed that up with a terrific performance against Germany in the round of 16, stopping eight shots before being done in by two nice goals by Richard Sukuta-Pasu in the second half of a 2-1 loss.

 

"I'm not going to knock on our team, but we didn't play our best soccer," Lambo said of the U.S. performance. "I've been trying to take the positives out of it ... I definitely played well individually."

 

Asked why the Americans struggled, he said: "I'm not too sure. We were definitely feeling good going over there. We were training well, we were looking good in training, small-sided games and everything was really sharp. I don't know, maybe it was one of those things where maybe we peaked too early in the summer, when we were over in Germany and Belgium. I honestly don't know the answer."

Different development

 

One reason could be the difference in youth setups for American players and players in the rest of the world.

 

For example, all but one of the players on the German team that beat the U.S. are under contract with clubs in the Bundesliga, Germany's top professional league — and the other one is on the books at Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League. Meanwhile, the American roster featured just one pro player, Abdusalam Ibrahim of Major League Soccer's FC Dallas.

 

"(Residency) definitely prepared us as far as individually, and I know we played a lot of games, but we weren't really in a league," he said. "So sometimes in a game situation and managing games, I think they might be better off, because that's what they do. They play in a league, they play every Saturday. I think that was definitely one of the hardest things for us. We played a ton of internationals — we were the most-experienced international side — but ... except for (CONCACAF World Cup) qualifying, we've never been in games that mattered."

 

To that end, Lambo thinks U.S. Soccer's new Development Academy program is a step in the right direction.

 

The Under-15/16 and Under-17 national teams are among the 64 clubs in the nationwide league, and will play against FC Milwaukee; Chicago Fire PDA, Chicago Magic (Lambo's former club), Chicago Sockers; Scott Gallagher and Metro United from the St. Louis area; and Texas' Solar SC for the Mid-America Conference title and a berth in the national finals. The Under-17 national team will play in the Under-18 division.

 

"Oh yeah, it's definitely going to be good," Lambo said. "It's going to be good for the national team, too, just because we're going to be playing against other guys. Guys maybe that don't get looks in ODP are going to be able to play with their club teams against the national team in a comfortable environment. Because sometimes players in ODP, they don't play well because they're not used to it. It's a foreign environment to them.

 

"Certainly with me, before I was in residency, I always played better with my club team. I never made the top state team when I was in ODP in Illinois. I've never made a regional team, just because sometimes it's more difficult to play in a different environment. But with their clubs, they're going to be able to show their stuff. It's going to be great, I think, for soccer in the country."

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