[Editor's note: Another look at the USMNT under-17 team]
This evening's game took place only 2 days after the American's 2-1 victory over Turkey. One of my players to watch, Herber Mejia-Flores had an assist and goal in that game. That same day Brazil drew with France 1-1. In this round robin tournament that meant that Brazil and the US each had 4 points going into this game. This was that game that decided it all.
The U-17 team resides in Brandenton, Fl. at the IMG Training Academy. The system used at IMG is similar to the youth academies of Europe, where students receive an education at the local school while intensively practicing soccer. It was founded in 1999, and out of the 300 players who have attended, about 100 have gone professionally into MLS or Europe. Union youth product Zach Pfeffer has spent a semester in residence, as well as Kyle Nakazawa, Amobi Okugo, various other players on the Union and coach John Hackworth.
Notes on the game after the jump.
Right from the start the US went on the attack drawing a corner within the first minute. The kids quickly took a short corner where # 10 Flores was fouled. Two players stood over the ball and Flores ended up taking the free kick. Flores lofted the ball into the box where Shaquell Moore got his head to it and nodded it down. Then #7 Rubio Rubin pounced on the bouncing ball and with his back to the goal flicked it up and over his shoulder and the keeper's shoulder into the net. The US had scored 1 minute and 28 seconds into the match. The US continued to press the attack creating a number of chances. Although they did have some issues with maintaining possession Brazil was just as bad if not worse by forcing passes and making poor decisions. It was also very physical with a number of fouls and crunching tackles in the first ten minutes.
After Brazil made a serious counterattack that got them into the attacking third they maintained possession for a few minutes pressuring the US defense. After a cleared ball by an American defender, #5 Matheus for the Brazilians made a powerful strike connecting from 25 yards out and sending it into the upper ninety. equalizing the game in the 16th minute. Note: Maybe it's just me but I don't really like how Corey Baird plays. He seems very frantic and jittery, I am going to give him the doubt and say its the nerves of the championship game and not his normal play. I will make the qualification though that he is one of the few players who did do a good job of maintaining possession.
Around the 25th minute the game began to settle down. The US continued to push and attack but not with the same energy as early on. Both team's formations began to stretch out but the game continued to be a physical one when Flores was fouled (again) on the right side. His ensuing ball was out to the side by a Brazilian but then headed back into the box by #4 Shaquell Moore. The ball was knocked around at the feet of both sides before #6 Tyler Turner broke free. He turned a ripped a shot into the upper ninety that the goalie could only watch as it flew by him. The game continued to be physical with Brazil receiving another yellow just a few minutes after the goal and the US just minutes after that. The Brazilians played to the end of the half recklessly and frustrated.
Then in the 43 minute the US struck again. After some nice passing and a dangerous run where Flores (again) beat his defender he sent in a low cross. Wesley Wade jumped and flicked in a back heel around the goalie to make it 3-1 before halftime.
The score of the second half ended as it began at 3-1. The game was much more even as Brazil finally snapped out of their shock and started playing to form and ability. Both teams created chances but neither would be potent as the US managed to hang on to their lead and win. This win resulted in the US taking the title home of the tournament which was no small feat. Facing world class teams in France and Brazil, it was no easy task to win this tournament and shows a bright future for this U-17 team that has two years to prepare for the U-17 World Cup.
Players to watch:
Paul Christensen- While he did allow one insane goal he also mad a number of decent saves. I have not seen his shot stopping abilities yet but he has displayed good judgment, leadership, and offensive distribution all of which I see as vital to a good keeper. The one criticism I would have is that while he does a good job of setting up hos defense on set pieces once he defense falls apart (which it did 3 times in the first half) he has trouble getting them reorganized.
Tyler Turner- Turner, the Captain-Center Back was the first player of the tournament two score two goals. Yes, thats correct the U.S.'s CENTERBACK was the first two score two goals. After keeping my eye on him I think he might be a reverse Geoff Cameron, in that he might want to consider a switch from center back to defensive midfielder. He showed composure on the ball, good speed, ball control, and reading of the game. He was all over the pitch breaking up plays and distributing the ball for his teammates. The only reason I can think of him not making the switch is because of a lack of stamina or the coaching staff sees things in him that I don't.
Herber "Junior" Mejia-Flores- Undoubtedly the MOTM you could never miss him when he was on or near the ball especially on offense. The caveat of course being defense. I almost never saw him on defense. That being said while I (as his theoretical coach) would obviously want him to work on his defense the threat he poses on offense more than makes up for his defensive lackings. In all seriousness I know European clubs are looking at him right now by the Union should get him to join the Academy team. Hell' I'll host him at my house if it means he can play for the U.