BRIAN SCIARETTA - Saturday, December 12, 2009
The new class of USA U17 residency players made their debut this past week at the 2009 Nike International Friendlies in Phoenix, Arizona.
This year's series of friendlies saw the United States take on a very difficult schedule with games against Portugal, Brazil, and the Netherlands. While showing glimpses of promise, the young American players largely struggled and finished the tournament with a record of 0-2-1.
The USA played their strongest game in their opener against Portugal. While the USA lost 2-1, their attack was more organized and individual skill showed the most promise. Portugal scored the first two goals of the game on defensive breakdowns but the USA pulled one back when Irvin Gijon was successful from the spot following a Portuguese handball in the box.
The second half of the game against Portugal saw the USA dominate possession and create numerous opportunities. Despite being unable to equal the score, their organization and skill was promising.
The second game of the series saw the USA draw Brazil 1-1. It was largely a tale of two halves. The first saw Brazil overwhelm the USA and create most of the opportunities. The Brazilians were rewarded for their domination when they scored right before the halftime whistle on an impressive and quick counter-attack.
The second half saw the United States regroup and begin to create more opportunities while also limiting the Brazilian attack. In the 75th minute the USA were able to equalize when Nicholas Melo sent a terrific through ball to Kellen Gulley, who was able to convert the opportunity with a solid low shot past the keeper to the far post.
The USA ended the tournament with a terrible performance in a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands. In a game that was played in terrible conditions of heavy winds and rain, the USA were badly outshot 11-2 by the Dutch. Jordy Torrenburg's two second half goals proved to be much more than the USA could handle.
Wilmer Cabrera clearly has a considerable amount of work to do as he moves forward with this new class. A lot of fundamentals are still missing and the team must play more organized soccer. There is some talent with this group but clearly changes will have to be made as new players will surely be added to residency while other players are removed.