USMNT / World Cup

US-17 national team: Report on Nike International friendlies

The new crop of under 17’s did not have a great showing during the recent Nike International Friendlies in Phoenix, Arizona. However, all these 15 year olds learned exactly how far away from beating the best in the world they are. Wilmer Cabrera, the US U-17 coach, has given his young lads the motivation and experience they will need to become the best they can be for the 2011 U-17 World Cup. He has set a high bar and hopefully has dealt with any budding ego problems. These kids will know that they must all work together and as hard as possible in every practice and every game on every play if they want to beat top teams.

These American youngsters played Portugal, Brazil, and Holland within 4 days. Almost All 22 players on the roster got playing time. The US lost 2-1 to Portugal, tied Brazil 1-1, and lost to the Netherlands 3-0. Each team had a different formation and a different style, which was excellent as a teaching tool. Portugal sat back defensively and counter-attacked, Brazil pressed over the whole field, and the Netherlands played wide open in a 4-3-3.

Against Portugal the US dominated possession, but poor marking in the box on set pieces and counterattacks led to the 2 Portuguese goals off headers. The US looked very sharp in passing and holding possession, but in the 4-5-1 formation that they used through each game, they never had enough support up top to look very dangerous. Two wingers, Alfred Koroma and Andrew Oliver, used the Portuguese full backs all night long. Irvin Gijon converted a penalty to get one back for the US.

The Brazilians were actually a much tougher test, although the score line was even. The Brazilians pressed through the whole field, and the US struggled to keep possession and string passes together. The first half was dominated by the Brazilians, while the US was able to hold their own and cause problems during the second half. Andrew Souders, a central defender, showed excellent tenacity, timing, and positioning to prevent the Brazilians from scoring especially with the goalkeeper out of the net. He played well in each game. Nicholas Melo, who came on as a substitute playmaker, showed excellent passing skills to put Kellen Gulley through on goal.

Finally, the Netherlands were a handful. Although the US did not look overmatched at first, they lost a defender to a dubious red card early on. After that the Dutch began to dominate. However, these US youngsters did not give up and continued to play pretty well. Of course their passing seemed very off during the game. The Dutch showed excellent finishing skills and the US keeper, Fernando Pina, who in the first two games showed excellent positioning, timing, bravery, and handling, failed to live up to expectations.

With all this in mind, what can we take from it about the future or current state of US Soccer? Well, guessing as to which youngsters will become greats for the full US National Team is pretty ridiculous at this point. However, if I were to try to pick some future great players, then I would choose, Andrew Souders (defense), Alfred Koroma and Andrew Oliver (Forwards), Nicholas Melo and Irvin Gijon (Midfield), and Fernando Pina (Goalkeeper). The reality is that at 15 years old players could develop at very different speeds, so it is very difficult to know, who will emerge later. If you look at past U-17 US National teams, you will notice that only a small fraction of the total roster become big name players abroad or in MLS. For example DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu, Bobby Convey, and Kyle Beckerman I believe were all on the same under 17 team.

As for the state of US soccer, I feel good that Wilmer Cabrera is teaching the U-17s to be the best by playing the best. I like the attacking style of play and the emphasis on trying to keep possession. I am glad that he is not just choosing to counterattack. Even if many of these players don’t go on to be top players, the mentality and style of the team will carry up the line towards the national team and probably into MLS and other US domestic leagues. Other US youth teams might also pick up this philosophy, which in my opinion is much better for player development. At a young age it isn’t really about winning or losing, it is about developing young kids into the best players possible. You do that by focusing your game on personal skills, which means you run at players, keep the ball, and pass it well. You don’t sit back and wait for the other team to make a mistake. Hopefully, the development of US players will continue at the same pace as some of the Brazilian, Dutch, and Portuguese players. Then we really will have a great full men’s national team.

Posted via web from The Philly Soccer Page

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