The United States Soccer Federation firmly believes there is no higher priority, and nothing more important, than protecting the integrity of our game. We are committed to the highest ethical standards and business practices, and we will continue to encourage CONCACAF and FIFA to promote the same values. Out of respect for the ongoing investigation, we will not speculate or comment further on this matter at this time.
As 2015 U.S. Open Cup Cinderella side Harpo’s FC was in Colorado Springs trying to extend an unthinkable run to the Third Round last Wednesday night, USASA side Chula Vista FC looked ready to take the glass slipper.
As the final whistle blew on Harpo’s 2-1 defeat at the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Chula Vista FC was in the midst of a 3-0 shellacking of USL side Arizona United SC. The Second Round win came on the heels of a 2-1 extra time victory over PDL side FC Tucson in First Round play a week before, and anointed the tournament debutantes as the new amateur darlings heading into round three on Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t say we’re surprised with our success,” said Chula Vista FC head coach Hector Diaz. “It’s a little overwhelming that it happened in our first U.S. Open Cup trip but a lot of these guys have had pressure before and been successful under that pressure. I think we rise to the challenge -- there aren’t any egos, they’re trying to take advantage of the opportunity they’ve been afforded and I like that. Hopefully we continue with the same attitude.”
Perhaps what’s most amazing about the team’s run is that the side is made up entirely of players 23 years old and under. Half the team that started the match against the pros at Arizona United were under the age of 21. Even Diaz, a former airman in the Air National Guard, is one of the youngest coaches in the tournament at just 28.
Chula Vista FC celebrates earning a berth in the Third Round of the 2015 U.S. Open Cup after defeating Arizona United on May 20.
The holder of a USSF “B” Coaching License, Diaz began his managerial career at the age of 15, working with his father, Hector, Sr. as coach of his brother Alberto’s youth squad. Keeping the core of the team together over the past 13 years, Hector has taken over the reins, culminating in their first Open Cup qualification earlier this year.
Alberto, a slight but technical former U.S. youth international and 2010 Cal South Player of the Year, shined in the team’s Second Round match against Arizona United, scoring the first and third goals and setting up teammate Angel Pinal for the second in the 3-0 rout.
“I had a big smile when he scored the first goal,” said Alberto’s big brother Hector. “I watched and saw Francisco Ramirez, who started on this team with ‘Berto when they were both six or seven years old, set him up for the goal. They’ve always been the top two players in whatever league they’ve played in and now they’re big things against a pro team in the U.S. Open Cup – it’s incredible.”
The win sets the club up for its biggest match yet, a visit north to reigning USL champions Sacramento Republic who beat Sonoma County Sol 4-2 in Second Round play last week, a team Diaz says he’s followed closely since they began last year.
“It’s hard not to notice the buzz they’ve generated,” he said. “We have a great group of guys and the same night we beat Arizona, our captain Luis Alvarado watched their game against Sonoma Sol and took notes, three hours after our game, our captain had already analyzed our opponent. He said, ‘I did half the job for you, I’m going to give you these notes. They’re real good, real dangerous on the attack. I think we can counterattack them this way, go at them that way.”
“They’re very good offensively,” Diaz continued. “The good thing is our defense I think has been the strongest. Both first halves against Tucson and Arizona were unbelievably difficult. They both pressed us and our defense was able to hold in both cases. In the second half of both games we were more offensive and released a little pressure.”
Chula Vista FC's next challenge comes in the Open Cup Third Round against reigning USL champs Sacramento Republic FC.
With just five amateur teams left in the tournament, Chula Vista FC know that if they can get past Sacramento on Wednesday, they’ll have a good chance at the tournament’s $15,000 prize for the Amateur Division team that advances the furthest.
And while Diaz admits he didn’t think his team would get this far in its first appearance, he’s also sure to point out that, despite two wins, they haven’t reached their goal in the tournament just yet.
“I keep telling the guys that we have nothing to lose and everything to win. They’re responding and starting to believe a little more and as we go the confidence is growing. We always saw the goal as being able to go up against an MLS team. I thought it would take a couple more tries to have a chance at that we’re not at our goal yet, but were hoping to get there on Wednesday.”
The winner of the match will advance to a Fourth Round date away to the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium on June 16.
For several members of the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team, the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup represents another chance. Many have been part of the U.S. Soccer national team programs for various cycles, but only three have ever been part of a youth World Cup, and only two have played in one. Nine others came close and are now getting their opportunity on the world stage.
Jeff Caldwell, Joel Sonora, Conor Donovan, Rubio Rubin, John Requejo and Shaq Moore were all on the 2013 team that was upset by Honduras at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship and missed out of that U-17 World Cup. Bradford Jamieson IV was left off that roster altogether after spending four semesters in Residency.
“Obviously that was a tough moment, not only for me but the rest of the team who experienced that,” said Moore, who was captain of the 2013 U-17 World Cup qualifying team. “I think having another chance – not even here at the World Cup, but at Qualifying in January with this group - was a big hurdle that I crossed to finally qualify for a World Cup.”
It wasn’t easy qualifying this time around, either. After tying the first and losing the second match, the U-20s won the final four matches in Jamaica – all by shutout – in order to qualify for New Zealand. One player who had to sit out was Sonora, who was injured weeks before. Thankful that the group qualified, he’s now looking forward for his chance at redemption.
“It was a big disappointment at the time because we were all expecting to qualify,” said Sonora of the 2013 team. “We didn’t see it as too difficult, and maybe we let our guard down. It was a very hard hit to take because it was the first time a U-17 team didn’t qualify for a World Cup. We were crushed. So we’re excited that we’ve now given ourselves another chance to show what we can do and what this group of players and this team is about in New Zealand.”
Two years earlier, Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola were the youngest members of the 2011 U-17 FIFA World Cup team in Mexico that bowed out in the Round of 16 with a loss to Germany. Acosta played in all four matches and Arriola in three. During that cycle, Marky Delgado did not make the qualifying roster, and while Jordan Allen was on the team that qualified, he was left off the final World Cup squad.
“There was disappointment, but at the time I hadn’t been playing well, so it was kind of expected,” Allen said. “I made sure once that happened, that the next time I had a chance to make a World Cup team I would have been doing everything I could to be in good form and put myself in the right position. So I’m happy that I’ve been able to do that this time.”
Allen and Delgado were also returning from injuries in January and not fit to go to Jamaica. But Allen seemed to be a longer shot. He suffered a knee injury last year that kept him out the picture for months. The Real Salt Lake forward made his first appearance with the U-20s in a camp in Austria in April, and got the call that he made the World Cup team a few weeks later.
“This means a lot,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of work in - being out of close to 10 months with my knee injury. As soon as I got healthy I circled when the World Cup was going to be and I made sure that by that time I was getting close to my best form. I put a lot of work in, and luckily it worked out.”
Arriola doesn’t take the opportunity to play in a second youth World Cup for granted.
“I know it’s unique, and I know I’m very blessed to be able to do this again,” he said. “Obviously when I started the cycle, this was my goal – to have us qualify for the World Cup and to make the team. But you never know what can happen, so I’m thankful to be here and looking to do whatever I can to help us win.”
Zack Steffen is the other player on this roster to have been on a World Cup team. The Freiburg goalkeeper, along with Acosta, returns from the 2013 U-20 World Cup team, although neither played in the tournament.
It’s obviously not easy making it to a World Cup, and it’s with that in mind that this group relishes the experience in New Zealand.
“We’ve had a very sour taste in our mouth,” Moore said. “We’ve just wanted to work hard and give ourselves another shot. We wanted to get rid of that taste and we’re not taking anything for granted. We’re excited to be here now, but we also want to make the most of this opportunity.”
TOULON, France (May 27, 2015) – The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team will participate in the 2015 Toulon Tournament from May 27 to June 7 in six venues in the south of France.
The USA has been drawn into Group A with host France, Netherlands, Costa Rica and Qatar. The U.S. opens against France (May 27, 1 p.m. ET), followed by Netherlands (May 29, 11 a.m. ET), Costa Rica (May 31, 11 a.m. ET), and Qatar (June 2, 12 p.m. ET). The top team from the group will advance to the final, while the second-place finisher will move on to play for third. The advancing pair from Group A will match up with the top two finishers from Group B, which includes China PR, England, Ivory Coast, Mexico and Morocco. The placement matches will be played on June 7.
All of the U.S.’s group-stage tournament games will be broadcast on BeIN SPORTS. Fans can also follow the U.S. games on Twitter @ussoccer.
U.S. U-23 MNT ROSTER BY POSITION:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Unattached; Maple Grove, Minn.), Charlie Horton (Unattached; Cleveland, Ohio), Tyler Miller (Zweibrücken; Woodbury, N.J.)
DEFENDERS (8): Juan Pablo Ocegueda (Alebrijes de Oaxaca; Riverside, Calif.), Boyd Okwuonu (Real Salt Lake; Edmund, Okla.), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids; Boulder, Colo.), William Packwood (Unattached; Concord, Mass.), Jalen Robinson (D.C. United; Catonsville, Md.), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids; Brighton, Colo.), Sam Strong (UC Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara, Calif.), Tyler Turner, (Orlando City SC; West Haven, Conn.)
MIDFIELDERS (4): Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes; Northville, Mich.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Daniel Metzger (New York Red Bulls II; Holmdel, N.J.), Marc Pelosi (Liverpool; Sunnyvale, Calif.)
FORWARDS (5): Julian Green (Bayern Munich; Tampa, Fla.); Alonso Hernandez (C.F. Monterrey; El Paso, Tex.), Jerome Kiesewetter (Stuttgart; Berlin, Germany), Alfred Koroma Shams (Unattached; Southlake Carol, Texas), Jordan Morris (Stanford; Mercer Island, Wash.)
- A total of 17 players gathered in the countryside outside of Toulon on May 24. San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Fatai Alashe and goalkeeper Cody Cropper arrived on May 25, while Orlando City SC defender Tyler Turner arrived shortly before tournament kickoff May 27.
- Eight players from this roster were a part of the U-20 MNT that competed in the 2013 Toulon Tournament: Cropper, Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Shane O’Neill, Benji Joya, Dillon Serna, Alonso Hernandez, Alfred Koroma Shams, and Jordan Morris.
- Eleven players from this roster were a part of the group that most recently defeated Mexico 3-0 in Carson.Cropper made seven saves to earn the shutout in that game, while Morris scored a goal, and Serna and O’Neill both recorded assists.
- Five players were a part of the USA’s 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup team: Cropper, Hernandez, Joya, Ocegueda and O’Neill.
- Ocegueda, Hernandez, and Joya are the most experienced players at the U-23 level, each having earned five caps.
- Six players on this roster come from MLS, four from European clubs, three are from Mexico-based clubs, one plays in the USL, three are unattached and two compete at the collegiate level.
- Cropper, Green, Morris, O’Neill and Serna have all been part of a U.S. MNT senior camp this year.
- Morris is the leading goalscorer on this roster. In two matches in 2015, he has scored two goals, and overall in his four-game career with the U-23’s he has scored three times.
- Morris made his first start and scored his first international goal with the senior MNT during the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 2-0 win against Mexico on April 15.
- Julian Green, Marc Pelosi, Jalen Robinson and Turner are the only four players making their first appearance on a U-23 roster.
- Green played in the U.S. MNT’s Round of 16 match against Belgium in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and scored a goal, becoming the youngest player to score in a World Cup game since 2006.
EYES ON RIO: The Toulon Tournament serves as a part of the U-23s’ continued preparation for the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship, where the team will seek to earn a berth in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. hopes to return to the Olympics for the first time since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where it posted a 1-1-1 record but could not advance past the group stage. The USA’s best showing in the Olympics came during the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, when the team advanced past Japan in the quarterfinals and finished fourth in the event. The 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying championship will be played in the United States from Oct.1-13.
MOVING ON FROM TOULON: Over the years the Toulon Tournament has proven to be a springboard for success for a host of young players, as some of the biggest names in world soccer having made a name for themselves at le lieu où naissent les étoiles, the place where stars are born. Over the years, the Toulon Tournament has proven to be a springboard for success for a host of young players, as some of the biggest names in world soccer having made a name for themselves at le lieu où naissent les étoiles, the place where stars are born. Luminaries like Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer, Javier Mascherano, and James Rodriguez have their names recorded in the record books here, along with others close to home. In 1997, Josh Wolff earned honors as the tournament’s top goal scorer alongside France’s Thierry Henry and Colombia’s Gustavo Victoria. Wolff went on to play in a pair of World Cups for the United States, assisting on the game-winning goal against Mexico in the Round of 16 in Korea. The French legend Henry also earned Player of the Tournament honors that year, going to on to be France’s all-time leading goalscorer and a legendary figure at Arsenal and Barcelona before heading state side to play for New York Red Bulls from 2010-2014.
USA VS. FRANCE (May 27, 1 p.m. ET; Stade Léo Lagrange; Toulon, France)
- The U-23 MNT has not competed against France since Olympic soccer was designated as an Under-23 competition (1992).
- Eight players on this roster were a part of the U.S. U-20 team that faced off with France in the 2013 Toulon Tournament: Cropper, Ocegueda, O’Neill, Joya, Serna, Hernandez, Koroma Shams, and Morris. France, which was playing with a roster of U-23 players, won that matchup 4-1.
- Five players were part of the USA’s 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup team: Cropper, Alonso Hernandez, Benji Joya, Juan Pablo Ocegueda and O’Neill. That team tied France in 1-1 in group play. France went on to win the World Cup that year.
- Benji Joya was the lone goalscorer for the U.S. in the 2013 matchup with France
- France and the U.S. have been grouped together in four Toulon Tournaments. The U.S. is 0-0-4 in those matches.
“Soccer hotbed” may not be the first thought that comes to your mind when someone says Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Yet NPSL side Chattanooga FC is helping the city known for a song about a train, the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, and birthplace of the “moonpie” become a substantial soccer hub in the southeastern United States.
Having begun play in 2009, the club has been one of the most consistent sides in the NPSL, going to the league’s championship match in 2010, 2012 and 2014 while appearing in its fourth U.S. Open Cup this year. Playing its home games at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium, CFC’s success on the field has also spurred interest in the stands. The club averaged 3,600 fans per game last season and also holds the NPSL’s attendance record, drawing 8,878 for a playoff match with Sacramento Gold in 2014.
“When my partners and I started this thing seven years ago, the intention was to make Chattanooga a focal point for all things soccer,” said General Manager Sean McDaniel. “The word ‘grassroots’ is spot on and we did it in steps. First it was to get our local community behind us -- that included having a great relationship with our stadium and youth organizations. It built into a regional following -- within our NPSL conference, in the past seven years, we’ve certainly had success on the field and we’ve worked hard not to just promote soccer in the city, but the city itself. We wanted to make Chattanooga a destination point for people all over the country. Soccer was the catalyst and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results.”
In turn, the atmosphere that the club’s supporters, aptly named “The Chattahooligans,” provide at Finley Stadium helps give Chattanooga FC a leg up on attracting top collegiate talent to fill out its roster each year.
Goalkeeper Gregory Hartley made two penalty saves before converting the winning kick in the team’s First Round shootout victory over Ocala Stampede.
Photo Credit: Madonna Kemp
“We’ve been able to show these guys what type of city, environment and fan base they’ll be playing in front of,” McDaniel continued. “For all of them, they’re playing at some type of collegiate level or have just ended their collegiate career and have never played for a fan base or a following like this one in their life. When they get here and experience the tremendous support we have, it does get easier to recruit the type of talent we get.
“Honestly, we still have to fight amongst other teams -- there are some tremendous organizations across the country that are fighting for the same top quality guys. We try to put our best face in front of them as we can – that’s the crowd support and the environment in the city. It’s becoming easier and easier to sell every year.”
Some of the players that Chattanooga has attracted include goalkeeper Gregory Hartley, who made two penalty saves before converting the winning kick in the team’s First Round shootout victory over Ocala Stampede. Forward Chris Ocheing set up Luke Winter’s late equalizer to send that match to extra time, and last Wednesday Ochieng did it again with a late tying goal against the Wilmington Hammerheads to send the match to extra time and the eventual shootout win.
Though it goes down in the books as a draw, the penalty kick victory marked the second year in a row Chattanooga dispatched the professional USL side in the Second Round of the Open Cup. The win sets up a match against another familiar opponent as the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks will return to Finley Stadium for Wednesday’s third-round encounter.
Though not traditionally known for its Open Cup exploits, the Second Division side from Atlanta made easy work of Chattanooga in that match, casting them out of the 2014 tournament with a 5-0 drubbing.
While the Fourth Division outfit remains realistic about their chances against a fully professional Silverbacks side, McDaniel says the team is better prepared for the match than they were last year and hopes that the expected 4,000-plus supporters in Finley Stadium will help the effort.
“The difference between last year and this year is it was the first real run for everybody and first time we’ve gone that deep,” he said. “This year, it’s a businesslike mentality from the players and the coaching staff. It’s very exciting, very honoring, but very practical to us as well as far as what job needs to be done. The biggest change is that last year we were just happy to be there. This year, we just feel this sense that we deserve to be here and let’s play like we deserve to be here. I expect the Silverbacks will be very strong like last year but mentally and emotionally this will be more business.”
Photo Credit: Tracey Pattarozzi Stiegler
The winner of the match would advance to a Fourth Round date away to the New York Red Bulls on June 16. If it’s Chattanooga that is victorious, it would set up a historic week for soccer in the city as the club will also host the Hank Steinbrecher Cup on Friday and Saturday at Finley Stadium.
Despite finishing as NPSL runners-up in 2014, Chattanooga FC gained entry to the tournament, which is named for the U.S. Soccer Federation’s former Secretary General, after the champion New York Red Bulls U-23 side moved to the PDL this season. The tournament brings the reigning PDL champion Michigan Bucks, USASA Open champion Maryland Bays and Amateur champion New York Greek American SC together to determine the nation’s Amateur National Champion.
With success in the U.S. Open Cup and events like the Steinbrecher Cup helping Chattanooga continue to make waves in the national soccer conversation, the thought of higher aspirations for the club is something that is under careful evaluation according to McDaniel.
“I think we’d be short sighted if we were content with where we are right now. We’re very happy with the NPSL and the support we get within our community. We also know we want to continue growing the sport and whether that’s jumping up a level or just being hosts to great hosts to big events like the Steinbrecher Cup here in Chattanooga, it’s ‘on the white board’ as they say. Right now we get through the season with what we’re doing and at the end of the year we sit down as a board if we want to go to the next step. We’re always looking to grow and make this thing better.”