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Photo Gallery: U-17 MNT Celebrates Claiming World Cup Berth

Photos from the U.S. U-17 MNT's dramatic playoff win against Jamaica, 5-4 on penalty kicks, to claim a berth at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile this October. 

Quote Sheet: U-17 MNT Ecstatic about Punching World Cup Ticket

2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship Quote Sheet
USA 0, JAM 0; USA wins penalty shootout 5-4
March 15, 2015

U-17 MNT head coach RICHIE WILLIAMS

On qualifying for the World Cup after the penalty kick shootout:
"My thoughts are, ‘We qualified for the World Cup.’ That’s what we came here to do. I thought it was a great tournament. I thought we did very well, and I’m extremely proud of our players. They work extremely hard, they’re a good team. We had a couple setbacks, but they didn’t give up. I thought they played extremely well this evening. Obviously we couldn’t get the goal, but they did a great job in the penalty shootout and we’re going to Chile.”

On if it would have been a disaster had the U.S. not qualified for the World Cup:
"It wouldn’t be a disaster. But our goal was to qualify, so we had faith that we were going to qualify. People do not understand how difficult it is. Again, we were close in the Honduras game, and then the last Jamaica game and then this game reached our goal and got into the tournament, the World Cup. Again I’m extremely proud of the team, extremely proud of the whole group – our staff, everybody that has worked incredibly hard over the year-and-a-half with this group of players. We accomplished what we set out to do, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup. We’re just extremely happy.”

On what Jamaica was able to do to hold the USA scoreless for two matches:
“I think in the first game, in the first half we created six clear chances. We just didn’t take our chances. Probably, overall in the game, we had eight to 10 chances and were not able to finalize. And then, when they got their penalty, they sat back and made it very difficult on us. So the first game, we had chances but we couldn’t score. And in the second game, I thought we created chances also. I thought they sat back and tried to catch us on the counter attack. They have some big, athletic defenders and their goalkeeper who made it difficult. Overall they have a good team that fights hard and works extremely hard. They should be very proud of that. They kept us off the scoreboard tonight, but again, we were able to win on the penalties.”

On what it means to get the U.S. team back to the World Cup after an absence last time around:
“We’re extremely excited. Unfortunately, Honduras beat us last time around, and this time we’re able to go. That was our goal, to qualify for the World Cup. Now we go with all intentions to go and try to win the World Cup.”

On the character of the players and how good it feels to see them so happy:
“I love these guys. They’re great players, they’re great people. We’ve worked together now for a year-and-a-half. I’ve coached some of them even when they were at the U-14s and U-15s and I’ve seen them grow as players and as individuals. They’re not just great players, they’re great people also. They work extremely hard and are talented, and they’ve been very, very successful. We want to continue that over the next six months or so until the World Cup. My message to them is that one day we’ll be seeing them on the U-20s and our senior team, and that they have great careers ahead of them.”

U-17 MNT forward JOSH PEREZ

On qualifying for the World Cup:
"It feels great, it’s so exciting. I think we’ve earned this opportunity to go to Chile, and I think we’ll do really, really well in the World Cup. I think we deserved this spot in the World Cup.”

On the game in general and the team’s mindset:
“From the very first minute, we were very confident, feeling that we were going to win the game. Unfortunately, the goals didn’t come; we were just unlucky. But, we got it to PKs and we knew to trust ourselves and have confidence in all of us. We executed and were able to win and qualify for the World Cup.”

U-17 MNT defender JOHN NELSON

On the team’s emotions after qualifying for the World Cup:
“It’s a great feeling; I still can’t believe what we did. Working for these 18 months up to this moment – we did it and we’re going to the World Cup!”

On the difficulties of the match:
“We had a game plan going into the game to try and get the first goal, but that didn’t happen. We were unfortunately not able to score a goal, but we grinded it out and won in PKs.”

On what the last 18 months have been like:
“Our families have made all these sacrifices; everyone has made sacrifices by being away from home. We finally got to be in this moment, and we did it. It just feels great.”

U-17 MNT defender DANNY BARBIR

On qualifying for the World Cup:
“This team has been working so hard for the last year-and-a-half, and honestly I think we deserve it. We’ve done so much, from all the trips and camps, we prepared so good for this tournament. We got the result, we’re going to the World Cup.”

On how it was decided that he was taking a penalty kick:
“I told Richie, ‘I’m going third.’ I was so confident in myself; we were all confident in each other. But, I was a forward my whole life, and I was feeling good and confident. It was an unbelievable feeling to be able to help my team out with that goal.”

U-17 MNT forward JOE GALLARDO

On accomplishing the team’s goal in the tournament:
“We’re just really happy that we were able to qualify for the World Cup.  So thankful to God, and so happy that we worked as a team, and in the end, it all paid off.”

On his thoughts about the game:
“It was unfortunate that we couldn’t get a goal in the game, but we were working really hard and never gave up. Thankfully we won in PKs.”

On overcoming the injury and coming back to be part of the team that qualified for the World Cup:
“It’s honestly the best feeling in my life, honestly the best moment.”

U-17 MNT midfielder ALEJANDRO ZENDEJAS

On his thoughts about the game:
“It was a really good game. Jamaica is a really good team, and they made it difficult on us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a goal, but we didn’t stop fighting until the end, so I was happy with our team. And then, we were able to win on PK’s; now we’re going to the World Cup!” 

On the decision about who would take penalty kicks and taking his shot:
“Richie asked us who was confident, and so we raised our hands, and I was one of them. I put the ball down and it took a while to get it settled. When (the referee) blew his whistle, the ball moved. So I stopped and once I saw it wasn’t moving, I shot it. I was kind of off balance but fortunately it went in.”

On how he can maintain his high level of endurance:
“I get it from my brother; he’s the one who pushes me. He’s always been like that, and every time he’d work out he’d always push me to the max.”

U-17 MNT midfielder ERIC CALVILLO

On accomplishing the goal of qualifying for the World Cup:
“We knew we had a great team, a very talented team. Most of us have been together for a long time, so that chemistry really helped. We’ve been preparing for this day – to qualify – for a long time. We wanted to feel this feeling that we’re feeling right now, which is the best feeling in our lives so far. This is what we wanted. This is why we did what we did so that we could qualify for the World Cup.”

U-17 MNT midfielder TYLER ADAMS

On the team’s mentality throughout the match:
“I think we all knew it was going to be a close game after losing to them 1-0 last week. We knew what they were going to do, so we had to adapt our style of play. I think we had the right mentality of just attacking and keeping the ball in their half. The goals didn’t come tonight, but we came to penalties and we had confidence in all of our players and in Will (Pulisic). I think that [belief] had a big impact on how we came out with the win.”

On qualifying for the World Cup:
“There’s no better feeling. I think we became more than friends – we’ve been a family for the past year-and-a-half. We worked so hard for this, all the preparation, and the huge process that everyone’s put into this is unbelievable. I think what we can all take away from this is that we had one job when we came down here, and that was to qualify, and that’s what we did.”

On switching from left back in the last match to holding midfield tonight:
“Richie (Williams) has confidence in me to put me wherever is needed. It gives me a chance to be a versatile player and make an impact, and I’m confident in wherever I play because I practice in the positions a lot.”

U-17 MNT defender ALEXIS VELELA 

On the team’s mindset throughout the match:
“We were just waiting for that goal to come. We did everything from the back to the front to try to get a goal, but it just wouldn’t come. And then going to PKs, we were confident that each one of us was going to do good because we’re good players and we believe in each other.”

On what was going through his mind as he stepped up to take the sixth and final penalty kick:
“There was a lot going through my mind. I was walking up and was like, 'I gotta make this PK.' I wanted to forget about everything and just focus on the PK, and score. And I did. It was such a good feeling."

“And then we got together and we were just confident that Will was going to come up with a big save. When the Jamaican player hit it wide, we just went running up to Will and celebrating because we had made it.”

U-17 MNT Qualify for 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup with Penalty Kick Defeat of Jamaica

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (March 15, 2015) – The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team is headed to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup after beating Jamaica 5-4 in a penalty-kick shootout in the final 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship playoff match at Estadio Francisco Morazán. The game was decided by penalty kicks after the end of a goalless regulation period against the Caribbean nation.

Throughout the match, the U.S. dominated possession and largely dictated the run of play. Despite being the more aggressive team, the USA was unable to find the back of the net through 90 minutes, as Jamaica escaped a handful of dangerous U.S. chances.

Per the tournament regulations, no extra time period was held and the match moved immediately to penalty kicks, where the U.S. had to overcome seeing its first shot taker, Christian Pulisic, denied by Jamaica goalkeeper Jahmali Waite. The next five penalty takers: Joe Gallardo, Danny Barbir, Alejandro Zendejas, John Nelson and Alexis Velela scored for the USA, which took a lead into the sixth round of the shootout thanks to Jamaica’s second shooter Jahwani Hinds sailing his shot over the bar. With all the pressure on Jamaica after Velela gave the USA a 5-4 lead in the first sudden death round of the shootout, Alex Marshall sent his shot wide left of the goal and the USA claimed the all-important victory.

In the day’s other semifinal – a rematch of Group B contestants Canada and Costa Rica – the Ticos seized CONCACAF’s third berth to the U-17 World Cup with a 3-0 win, flipping the group stage result between the two teams when Canada won 3-2 in dramatic fashion late in the match. Later on Sunday, Mexico and tournament host Honduras, both of whom secured the confederation’s two automatic World Cup berths by virtue of winning their respective groups, meet to crown the champion of the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship.

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
JAM – Jahmali Waite, 37th minute: The U.S. regained the upper hand at the 30-minute mark after Jamaica had gained a slight foothold in the match. A free kick by Christian Pulisic created a scramble in front of the Jamaica goal as three separate USA chances were blocked. U.S. forward Haji Wright sent the ball across the goalmouth from the by-line with Waite making a diving punch to knock it away. However, the loose ball fell to U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams whose goal-bound shot was blocked by a Jamaica defender. The USA’s Josh Perez seized on the rebound, but also saw his shot blocked as Jamaica had 10 players packed in its own penalty area. 

JAM – Jahmali Waite, 74th minute: The U.S. continued to dominate the run of play and possession in the second half and was able to carve out a pair of chances on goal through Josh Perez. A long-range drive from Perez was corralled by Waite midway through the half. Moments later, the Jamaica goalkeeper found himself in no-man’s land faced with a one-v-one against the U.S. winger. Despite the goal left wide open, Perez was unable to chip Waite, who backpedaled quickly after cutting off his charge, and was able to pluck Perez’s shot from the air.

JAM – Jahmali Waite, (Penalty Shootout): Christian Pulisic stepped as the first kick-taker for the USA in the shootout. The attacking midfielder sent a shot toward the left hand side of the goal, but Waite got down quickly to push the shot away and give Jamaica an early edge in the shootout.

Next on the Schedule:
The U-17 MNT begins preparation for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile. Much of the team will return to Residency at the IMG Sports complex in Bradenton, Florida, while the remaining players will return to their club teams.
Broadcast information: None.
Social: Twitter (@ussoccer_ynt; @ussoccer_esp)

Additional Notes:

  • The U-17 MNT is 6-2-2 in international play this year.
  • The USA moved to 3-2-2 all-time against Jamaica in this tournament’s history.
  • With the win, the USA qualifies the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the first time since 2011, and its 15th World Cup overall at this age level.
  • Head coach Richie Williams sent out his starting lineup in a 4-3-3 formation, anchored by goalkeeper Will Pulisic and a defensive line of Matthew Olosunde at right back, John Nelson at left back and center backs Alexis Velela and Danny Barbir. W. Pulisic and Olosunde have started in every qualifying match, while Barbir started his second game after Hugo Arellano was suspended for the match due to caution accumulation.
  • The midfield trio featured Tyler Adams pushed up into a defensive midfield roll after playing at left back for the majority of the USA’s last game against Jamaica. Alejandro Zendejas was slotted alongside Adams, while Christian Pulisic continued in his normal attacking role.
  • Zendejas donned the captain’s armband, becoming the third player for the U.S. to do so in the tournament. Hugo Arellano served as captain in four matches, while Eric Calvillo was named captain for the USA’s game against Guatemala.
  • Up front, Joe Gallardo returned to the starting XI as the team’s center forward while Haji Wright continued on the left wing and Josh Perez on the right. All three players earned their fifth starts in six qualifying games.
  • With just under 10 minutes remaining, midfielder Luca de la Torre entered the match for Josh Perez. It was de la Torre’s sixth appearance at the tournament and the first time he came off the bench for the U.S. since its opening match against Cuba.

- U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team vs. Jamaica U-17 Men’s National Team
Date: March 15, 2015
Competition: 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship; Playoff
Venue: Estadio Francisco Morazan
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (5 p.m. Local)
Attendance: TBA
Weather: 84 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary:   1          2          F          PKs
USA                            0          0          0          5
JAM                           0          0          0          4

Penalty Summary:
USA – Christian Pulisic (saved), Joe Gallardo (goal), Danny Barbir (goal), Alejandro Zendejas (goal), John Nelson (goal), Alexis Velela (goal)
JAM – Nicholas Nelson (goal), Jahwani Hinds (missed), Jahlanie Hammond (goal), Shandel Senior (goal), Ajeanie Talbott (goal), Alex Marshall (missed)

Lineups:
USA: 1-Will Pulisic, 2-Matthew Olosunde, 4-Alexis Velela, 15-Danny Barbir, 3-John Nelson; 18-Tyler Adams, Alejandro Zendejas (Capt.), 10-Christian Pulisic, 7-Haji Wright, 9-Joe Gallardo, 11-Josh Perez (8-Luca de la Torre, 81)
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Kevin Silva, 6-Eric Calvillo, 13-McKinze Gaines, 14-Tanner Dieterich, 16-Tommy McCabe, 17-Pierre Da Silva, 19-Brandon Vazquez
Head coach: Richie Williams

JAM: 13-Jahmali Waite, 2-Javian Brown, 4-Shandel Senior (Capt.), 5-Jahwani Hinds, 6-Fabian Grant, 7-Peter Vassell (3-Donovan Dawkins, 59), 8-Tajea Brown (16-Jahlanie Hammond, 88), 9-Nicholas Nelson, 11-Zaire Bartley (10-Alex Marshall, 46), 17-Ajeanie Talbott, 19-Nathaniel Adamolekun
Substitutions Not Used: 1-Akeem Chambers, 12-Antoniel Mullings, 14-Hakim Williams, 15-Deshane Beckford, 18-Chris-Andrew Dixon, 20-Demar James
 
Head coach: Andrew Edwards

Stats Summary: USA / JAM
Shots: 17 / 4
Shots on Goal: 8 / 1
Saves: 1 / 8
Corner Kicks: 9 / 1
Fouls: 10 / 9
Offside: 1 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Haji Wright (caution)   70th minute
USA – Alexis Velela (caution)            83
JAM – Tajea Brown (caution) 88

Officials:
Referee: Oscar Moncada (HON)
Assistant Referee 1: Omar Leiva (HON)
Assistant Referee 2: Marco Diaz (GUA)
Fourth Official: Mario Escobar (GUA)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Alejandro Zendejas

Highlights: U-17 MNT Outlast Jamaica in PKs to Claim World Cup Berth

The U-17 MNT qualified for the World Cup with a dramatic shootout victory against Jamaica.

Quote Sheet: U-17 MNT Takes a Point from Honduras in Hostile Environment

2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship Quote Sheet
USA 2, HON 2
March 8, 2015

U-17 MNT head coach RICHIE WILLIAMS

On the tie with Honduras:
"Obviously it was a very tough match, I think, for both teams. Both teams are very good teams, competed at a very high level. It was an entertaining match. At the end of the day we both came away with a draw, one point each. We’re happy with a draw. It still keeps us in first place in the group, and we move forward. Like we said from the beginning, it’s one game at a time. We’ll play a very good Jamaica team on Wednesday, hopefully get a positive result and move on.”

On if he expected a draw against Honduras:
"A draw against Honduras is a good result. It’s not easy to come into Honduras and play an international match and get a positive result. All you have to watch is from the senior team down – it’s not an easy place to play and Honduras is a good team. Obviously we were trying to win the game, but also know that one point – a draw – is also a good result.”

On difficulties that Honduras presented compared to previous opponents:
“Well, you’re in a stadium with I don’t know how many thousands of Honduran fans screaming and yelling. We knew in the second half Honduras was going to put a lot of pressure on us. They played a lot of long balls and they made the game difficult for us just by playing long balls. Again, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. You can’t control the game all the time, especially playing an international match on the road. And again I thought our guys did really well. We went down 1-0, to come back 2-1. We knew at the end of the game Honduras was going to put us under pressure. They got a goal and it ended up in a tie.”

On what he took away from his team, and what he took away from Honduras:
“I’m very proud of our team. I thought they did a great job - being down a goal, and coming back 2-1. They battled, played very hard, and left everything out on the field. And again, the score line read 2-2, so I think that means it was an even game. That’s the way we look at it. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and it came out 2-2 so both teams take a point.”

On if playing in front of the largest crowd of the tournament affected his team:
“No. We’ve played in front of crowds, we’ve played all over the world in international tournaments and we have had experiences like that. It was a lot of emotion for Honduras. I think the crowd obviously pushed Honduras, gave them a lot of energy. So that obviously makes it more difficult on us to deal with Honduras. It was a great crowd. They were loud, they were into the game and they had a lot of energy. I thought it was an even game.”

On how he visualizes the last matchday for the group:
“We’re going to play Jamaica and we’re going to try to win the game. That’s what we envision the United States is going to do. We’re going to play a very good Jamaica team. It should be a competitive match and our goal is to go out and get a positive result.”

 On if Jamaica can cause the U.S. problems in the final group match:
“It’s soccer, so anybody can beat anybody on a given day. All the teams are competitive. We’re playing a very good Jamaica team, and yes Jamaica can still win the group. And Honduras can win the group. But we’re still in first place in the group so we can win the group also. That’s our focus, to win the group.”

U.S. U-17 MNT defender ALEXIS VELELA

On his takeaway from the match:
"I think we did a great job coming back from 1-0 to [be] winning 2-1, and then trying to keep that result. It was obviously disappointing that we couldn’t get the win, but now we have a chance against Jamaica to get to the World Cup.”

On the effort tonight:
“Throughout every game, we’ve put in all we’ve got. Every starting 11 we’ve put out there has given it their best. Today, I felt we did the same thing but, we just didn’t get the result we wanted.”

On the crowd:
“It was crazy, so many people out there. But we’ve been so used to playing teams like that, in their home with their crowd. I feel like we did a pretty good job.”

U.S. U-17 MNT defender JOHN NELSON

On going down early and being able to come back to take the lead:
“We know we have to stay positive, even if they go up 1-0. We did good to get the 2-1 lead, but they got a goal at the end to tie us. But it was a good result, I thought.” 

On playing in front of a large crowd:
"I haven’t played in front of a crowd like that. It was probably the loudest crowd I’ve heard in my life, the toughest crowd. We didn’t let it get to us, we just stayed focused. I don’t think it affected us.”

On being at the top of the group heading to the final group game against Jamaica:
“We just have to beat Jamaica and we’re through to the World Cup. We have to come out strong. We can’t take them lightly. If we win we have our ticket to the World Cup.”

Under-17s: Nelson opened his U-17 MNT tenure with two games and an assist in 2013. Then in 2014, Nelson earned 12 starts in 14 appearances, logging 977 minutes and recording an assist. In the USA’s preparation matches for the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, Nelson made two starts and posted an assist for a third straight year. … Under-15s: Nelson was a member of the U-15 Boys’ National Team in 2012 and 2013.
Nelson has played for the Development Academy’s Internationals, representing the U-15/16 team during the 2013-14 season.
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