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Haji Wright

U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team

U-17 MNT Plays 2014 Nike International Friendlies takes a look back at the U-17 MNT's run through the 2014 Nike International Friendlies, culminated by a chance to win the title in the pivotal final game against Brazil.

U-17 MNT Finishes Runner-Up to Brazil at Nike International Friendlies

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Florida (Dec. 2, 2014) – The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team fell to Brazil 4-1 in the final game of the 2014 Nike International Friendlies in front of packed house at the Premier Sports Campus.

Brazil (2-0-1) finished the tournament with seven points, earning the 2014 Nike Friendlies crown and was followed by the USA (2-1-0; 6 points), England (1-1-1; 4 points) and Australia (0-0-3; 0 points).

Forward Andrey and midfielder Evander each scored a brace for Brazil in the win. Evander also added an assist. Christian Pulisic had the USA’s lone goal off of a Haji Wright assist. Pulisic was the USA’s leading scorer in the tournament with three goals.

In addition to claiming the 2014 Nike International Friendlies title, Brazil swept the individual awards. Evander (Golden Boot), Matheus Pereira (MVP) and Bruno (Golden Glove) were all recognized for their performances throughout the three-day tournament.

A fast-paced offensive attack dictated much of the game, and from the start Brazil made sure to set the tone often. The verde amarela exploded out of the locker room with powerful shots from distance and pressured the U.S. defense.

Within the first four minutes of the game, forward Andrey and midfielders Matheus Pereira and Evander had all taken a shot toward U.S. goalkeeper Kevin Silva, but every attempt went awry as it was either wide, high or saved, thus keeping the USA very much in the game.

In the 10th minute, forward Leandro found himself running toward the goal with only U.S. defender Daniel Barbir by his side. He was able to outrun Barbir with a nice move to the right side but his attempt toward the near post ended up hitting the post instead and went out of bounds.

One of the USA’s strongest chances early in the first half came on the 11th minute when Pulisic outplayed three defenders on the left band and proceeded to send a pass to the middle for midfielder Luca de la Torre. De la Torre took the shot but sent it wide and was unable to make it happen for the USA.

Evander continued to push the USA backwards into its own side of the field as he ran through players and resumed shooting the ball. Finally, a nifty left-legged pass from Lincoln who came to the front after receiving the ball on the midfield found Evander who then took the ball into the box trough the right side and sent it to the far post for the 1-0 Brazilian lead. The goal was the third of the tournament for Evander, who was responsible for nine of Brazil’s 26 shots in the match.

Wasting no time and regrouping fast, the USA started to shift its attention from defense and was able to put together a couple of plays that culminated in a play that tied the score to one apiece.

Haji Wright drove through a few Brazilian defenders on the left band and with some creative footwork was able to get past them and send a perfect ball to the middle where Pulisic awaited to kick it in. Brazil’s goalkeeper Bruno had left his spot, which allowed Pulisic to send the ball right to the middle cleanly and even up the scoreboard.

With both teams on the board, the pace appeared more uniform as each played some strong defense and drove forward. Despite the 1-1 score at the 29th minute, however, the shot differential was visible, as Brazil has outshot the USA 12-3 up to that point.

Brazil’s attack never slowed down, but in the 37th minute the USA tried to take advantage of a sleepy defense and midfielder Alejandro Zendejas knocked a strong shot toward the goal. However, he was not able to curl it on time and it went just wide.

A foul called on Zendejas on the 41st minute set up a Brazil free kick, which led to the second score of the game. The U.S. set up a four-man wall on the left side right outside the box and had two Brazilian men right behind them, looking to clear the ball in case it went their way. Nonetheless, Evander’s free kick sailed over both barriers and straight toward the far post where it found the back of the net with an incredible shot to put Brazil up 2-1 with his second score of the match.

Coming out of the locker rooms for the second half, the teams turned down the fast pace a notch and calmly seemed to control the ball until about the 60th minute. Yet on the 62nd minute, Evander again created problems for the U.S. defense and this time sent a ball to Andrey on the right side. Andrey took the shot and was able to score on a deflection off of U.S.  defender Tyler Adams’ leg to give Brazil the 3-1 lead.

The U.S. quickly responded on the 63rd minute and a near perfect header by Wright down the middle went just wide, as the USA continue to trail Brazil by two goals. Despite a resilient fight, there was not much the USA could do to stop the Brazilian attack.

In the 70th minute, Andrey took a ball from 35 yards out into about 18 yards and sent a textbook shot onto the left corner of the goal. The goal was his second of the night and fourth for Brazil to give them the 4-1 victory.

Next, the U.S. U-17 MNT will shift its focus toward preparation for the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship taking place from Feb. 27-March 14 in Honduras as the team hopes to qualify for the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile.

- Nike Internationals Friendlies Match Report -

Match: U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team vs. Brazil U-17 Men’s National Team
Date: Dec. 2, 2014
Competition: 2014 Nike International Friendlies
Venue: Premier Sports Campus; Lakewood Ranch, Florida
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
Attendance: 1,500
Weather: 68 degrees, partly cloudy

Scoring Summary:    1 2 F
USA                            1 0 1
BRA                            2 2 4

BRA – Evander (Lincoln)                              14th minute
USA – Christian Pulisic (Haji Wright)           22
BRA – Evander                                              42
BRA – Andrey (Evander)                              62
BRA – Andrey                                               70

USA: 1-Kevin Silva; 19-Tyler Adams, 4-Alexis Velela (15-Tanner Dieterich, 81), 14-Daniel Barbir, 3-John Nelson; 6-Eric Calvillo (capt.) (17-McKinze Gaines, 64), 8-Luca de la Torre, 10-Christian Pulisic, 11-Josh Perez (2-Matthew Olosunde, 52); 7-Haji Wright (18-Pierre Da Silva, 81), 9-Alejandro Zendejas
Subs Not Used: 5-Hugo Arellano, 12-William Pulisic, 13-Logan Panchot, 16-Thomas McCabe, 20-Keegan Kelly
Head coach: Richie Williams

BRA: 1-Bruno (capt.) (12-Carlinhos, 90); 2-Kleber, 14-Thiago, 4-Leo, 6-Caique (13-Alan, 84); 7-Andrey (18-Jean, 90), 15-Renan, 17-Lincoln, 8-Matheus Pereira (5-Matheus Fernandes, 85), 19-Evander, 10-Leandro (11-Ramon, 60)
Subs Not Used: 3-Ronaldo, 9-Eronildo, 16-Mauro Junior, 20-Loran   
Head coach: Caio Zanardi

Stats Summary: USA / BRA
Shots: 9 / 26
Shots on Goal: 1 / 6
Saves: 2 / 0
Corner Kicks: 2 / 5
Fouls: 7 / 14
Offside: 0 / 0

Misconduct Summary:

Referee: Caleb Mendez (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Kathryn Nesbitt (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: TJ Zablocki (USA)
Fourth Official: Chipalo Street (USA)

U-17 MNT vs. Australia: Highlights – Nov. 30, 2014

The U.S. U-17 MNT overcame an early Australian goal with a goal in each half to post a 2-1 win on match day 2 of the 2014 Nike International Friendlies.

U-17 MNT Rallies Past Australia, Moves into First Place at Nike Friendlies

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Florida (Nov. 30, 2014) – The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team defeated the Australia Under-17 Men’s National Team 2-1 in the nightcap of the second day of the  2014 Nike International Friendlies at the Premier Sports Campus.

Goals by forward McKinze Gaines in the 15th minute and midfielder Luca de la Torre in the 69th minute lifted the USA past the Joeys after an early goal from Australian captain Joe Caletti had given Australia the 1-0 lead.

It was Gaines’ fifth goal of the year and his U-17 tenure, and de la Torre scored his first U-17 goal.

With the victory, the USA is in a strong position to repeat as Nike International Friendlies champion. The U.S. is 2-0-0 (6 points) and needs a win or a draw against Brazil (1-0-1, 4 points) on Tuesday, Dec. 2, to clinch the tournament title. Tuesday’s game kicks off at 6 p.m. ET and will be live on

The U.S. U17 MNT began Sunday’s game slightly off balance as Australia went on the attack early with a shot in the second minute that was just tipped by U.S. goalkeeper William Pulisic. On the following play, Australia’s corner kick was batted away by Pulisic, but Caletti ran onto the deflected ball just outside the box and slotted it into the right side of the net for the 1-0 lead.

After a couple of missed shots to the far post by both teams, the USA regrouped and began creating some opportunities. The best one came on the 15th minute when forward Pierre Da Silva played the ball into the penalty box area through the left side and sent a cross to a perfectly placed Gaines, who kicked it right into the middle back of the net, tying the score at one apiece.

“I didn’t need to do much,” Gaines said of converting the goal. “Pierre did a lot of the work; it was a great cross. He just found me right in front of the goal and I just had to tap it in.”

In the second half, the USA threatened early after making three subs to open the second half. In the 50th minute, a free kick by Da Silva hit forward Haji Wright in the knee on what would have otherwise been an open lane toward the goal.

Australia responded with a couple of good opportunities, especially a free kick shot on the 60th minute, but the USA was the one that converted when it mattered.

In the 69th minute, Australia turned the ball over in its half and the USA took advantage. Wright dropped the ball off for de la Torre, who fired right-footed from nearly 25 yards out and into the upper left corner for the 2-1 lead and ultimately the game-winner.

The USA had one more big opportunity in the closing minutes of the game to add to its tally. During an 86th-minute free kick from midfielder Christian Pulisic, de la Torre received the ball and tried to kick it into the net, however Australia’s goalkeeper Brandon Osipov punched it out. U.S. defender Daniel Barbir got the rebound and tried to head it home, but the shot hit the crossbar. After hitting the woodwork, Osipov jumped up and grabbed it before allowing any potential rebound.

The 2014 Nike International Friendlies conclude on Tuesday, Dec. 2, with Australia taking on England at 3 p.m. ET and the USA facing Brazil for the tournament title at 6 p.m. ET. Both games will be streamed live on

- Nike International Friendlies Match Report -


Match: U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team vs. Australia U-17 Men’s National Team
Date: Nov. 30, 2014
Competition: 2014 Nike International Friendlies
Venue: Premier Sports Campus; Lakewood Ranch, Florida
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
Attendance: 1,400
Weather: 68 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary:    1 2 F
USA                            1 1 2
AUS                            1 0 1

AUS – Joe Caletti                                           3rd minute

USA – McKinze Gaines (Pierre Da Silva)      15th

USA – Luca de la Torre (Haji Wright)           69th

USA: 12-William Pulisic; 5-Hugo Arellano (14-Daniel Barbir, 46), 6-Eric Calvillo (capt.) (9-Alejandro Zendejas, 46), 11-Josh Perez (7-Haji Wright, 46), 13-Logan Panchot, 15-Tanner Dieterich, 16-Thomas McCabe, 17-McKinze Gaines (8-Luca de la Torre, 60), 18-Pierre Da Silva, 19-Tyler Adams, 20-Keegan Kelly (10-Christian Pulisic, 59)

Subs Not Used: 1-Kevin Silva; 2-Matthew Olosunde, 3-John Nelson, 4-Alexis Velela

Head Coach: Richie Williams

AUS: 12-Brandon Osipov; 2-Malcolm Ward, 5-Zac Speth, 6-Joe Caletti (capt.) (17-Nicholas Panetta, 50), 7-Daniel Maskin (22-Cameron Joice, 50), 8-Daniel Arzani (10-Jamie Dimitroff, 76), 9-Panos Armenakas (24-Marc Tokich, 70), 11-Peter Kekeris (15-Jackson Bandiera, 76), 16-Danny Kim (14-Solomon Monahan-Vaiika, 70), 20-Perry Fotakopoulos, 23-Kosta Petratos

Subs Not Used: 13-Christian Verbi, 18-James Delianov

Head Coach: Tony Vidmar

Stats Summary: USA / AUS
Shots: 10 / 8
Shots on Goal: 5 / 4
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 0
Fouls: 16 / 16
Offside: 2 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
AUS – Danny Kim (caution)                          39th minute

Referee: Chipalo Street (USA)

Assistant Referee 1: Chris Hutchison (USA)

Assistant Referee 2: Kathryn Nesbitt (USA)

Fourth Official: Caleb Mendez (USA)



U-17 MNT’s Freedom up Front Poses Versatile Threat

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team has experienced a successful 2014, compiling a 17-6-7 overall record and establishing itself as a strong force heading into the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in February that would qualify the team for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile in September.

A large factor in the strength of the team lies in its offense. In a span of 30 games this year, the U-17s have racked up 58 goals, with 15 different players scoring at least once. Forward Haji Wright leads the team with 18 goals in 20 matches played, while midfielder Christian Pulisic sits closely behind with 16 goals in 19 appearances.

Wright and Pulisic get much of the spotlight; however the USA offensive attack is successful because of the diversity it plays around with when it comes to lineups and positioning, as well as the liberty that U.S. U17 MNT head coach Richie Williams allows his players to have when they step on the field.

“We let them have a little bit of freedom,” commented Williams on the players moving from one spot to another up front. “We just want to make sure that they all earn a certain position but they can interchange positions at any time.

“Sometimes you see Haji wide or up front as a nine, and sometimes Christian will come a little bit deep, or also sometimes running behind the back four. As long as there is a balance with the top four positions, that they are not all on the same side of the field or all in the middle of the field, that we have some width, we encourage them to interchange positions and to look where the open areas are and the open spaces and I think it adds to our attack.”

For Pulisic and his teammates, having the green light to go ahead and create their own offensive attacks has proved to be a positive move that has in turn helped them find the back of the net much more often.

Wright has recorded four hat tricks this year and more recently, Pulisic scored a brace against England on Nov.28 to lead the USA to a 3-1 victory during the opening game of the 2014 Nike International Friendlies.

“We definitely have our freedom more up in the front four,” said Pulisic. “We have freedom up there. Richie likes to tell us that we can switch around, switch positions, and we’re all good at all positions up front.”