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.
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)
- 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 -
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)
Weather: 84 degrees, clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F PKs
USA 0 0 0 5
JAM 0 0 0 4
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)
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
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
USA – Haji Wright (caution) 70th minute
USA – Alexis Velela (caution) 83
JAM – Tajea Brown (caution) 88
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
At first glance U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team midfielder Christian Pulisic is your average 16 year-old American.
He’s 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds, likes videos games and movies, and is going through the challenges of high school.
But, there are few other kids his age who have trained with youth programs at such world-renowned clubs as Barcelona, Chelsea, Porto, Villareal, or PSV Eindhoven. Or who have trained with Germany stars Mats Hummels and Marco Reus at Borussia Dortmund. Or who have had a six-second highlight clip of an elastic nutmeg reach nearly a half million views.
“I’m no different than any other average kid,” Pulisic said sheepishly. “I’m often just laying on my bed watching Netflix. I love hanging out with my friends, but I also like being alone. I’m a family guy. I’ll do anything to spend time with my family. I love playing FIFA, of course. And I love playing NHL right now.”
But on the field, Pulisic is anything but average.
With a father who played professional indoor soccer in the United States, Christian developed a love for soccer at an early age. And through his dad’s connections, Christian was exposed to soccer in other countries starting in third grade – setting the table for where he is now.
As a youngster playing soccer for Michigan Rush and then at U.S. Soccer Development Academy side PA Classics near his hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania, Christian would often go on week-long training stints with the youth programs of well known teams across Europe.
“I just loved the game so much and my dad would tell me about these opportunities, and I wanted to take everything that I could,” he remembers. “I was really young at the time. It was just to get that great experience, so I’d go in and train with youth teams all over the world and see how they do it.”
While he watched soccer on TV, he didn’t play the sport thinking of a becoming a professional. For him, it was just for fun.
“I just loved to play,” he said with a shrug. “I loved to travel and experience new things around the world. I knew about the big clubs that I was going to, but I didn’t really think of it and I was so young I knew I’d have plenty of time.”
But that next phase of his soccer career began to take shape when National Team scouts saw him playing for PA Classics U-16. He was invited to an 80-person U.S. Under-14 camp.
Christian Pulisic celebrates scoring against England at the 2014 Nike International Friendlies tournament in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
“From my first National Team cycle, they’ve started me at the ten spot,” he said. “Obviously we had bigger, faster wingers than me, so I think that’s were I kind of converted. They saw that I was a technical player and what I could do in the middle. Ever since then I’ve just loved it and continued to play there.”
Now a little older, and with his country’s crest on his shirt, Christian also began thinking of what else could be achieved.
“I had always loved watching the National Team. I remember watching World Cups and cheering for them, because it was my country,” said Pulisic, who looked up to Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, like so many youth soccer players in the USA. “And when I first realized there was an under-14 program for the National Team, I thought how amazing it would be to be there and represent my country and do what I loved to do.”
He’s never lost the eye for the international game that his dad helped develop in him from a young age. “Wayne Rooney has always been one of my favorite players - I just think his competitiveness really shows when he plays. And, I know that it’s kind of random, but Luis Figo was one of my favorite players when I was younger,” he said of the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year from Portugal. “I loved watching him when he was at Real Madrid. My dad, to this day, still calls me Figo.”
In 2013, Christian joined the U.S. U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida. His aim was to be part of the team that would try to qualify for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup. But along the way, his path took a slight turn.
Unbeknownst to him at the time, scouts from German Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund had watched the U.S. defeat Brazil, 4-1, in the final of the 2013 Nike Friendlies, where Christian took home the Most Valuable Player honors.
The next month, in January 2014, Dortmund sent scouts to the Aegean Cup tournament in Turkey. The U.S. U-17s defeated France and Norway and drew with Scotland before defeating the host nation to claim the championship.
“It seems they really liked me there, and that’s where it started getting real big,” he said of Dortmund’s interest. “They wanted to get me in for a trial.”
It didn’t take long from there.
“After the first year of residency ended, I went to Germany to see what it was like, and that’s when I pretty much knew that was what I wanted,” he said. “It was just too good of an opportunity.”
Christian and his father moved to Germany in July 2014. While he awaited his Croatian citizenship documents, facilitated through his Croatian grandfather, to make him eligible to play Bundesliga youth matches, Christian trained with Dortmund’s U-17 and U-19 teams and played in whatever friendlies he was able to.
And three weeks after he arrived, Christian began school in Germany.
“When I first went over there my dad talked to me about starting a Rosetta Stone to try to learn the language a bit,” he said. “But I said, ‘if I’m doing this, I’m jumping right in.’
“When I showed up to the school, the other kids on my team had to tell the teachers, ‘He doesn’t speak German’,” Christian said, laughing. “It was really tough at first, but after time you pick it up and it gets easier.”
In the meantime, he also stayed closely connected to the U.S. U-17s, joining the team for tournaments in Mexico, Panama and Chile, as well as the annual Nike Friendlies in December in Florida. In all he appeared in 27 international matches and scored 18 goals in 2014.
Christian Pulisic at the 2014 Nike International Friendlies.
Now eligible to play Bundesliga youth matches with Dortmund’s U-17 team, Christian was invited to train with the professional side in February.
“All the coaches at Dortmund communicate to each other,” he said. “It’s pretty incredible how the first team coach and staff know about all the youth players. The coaches recommend players when another coach has a need for that day. It was my turn to go.”
Dortmund’s U-17 team normally has Tuesdays off. And on this particular day, it just happened that the first team was training, needing a player in order to be able to train 11v11.
“My coach Hannes Wolf called me and said, ‘Tuesday you have a great opportunity,’ and that it was up to me,” Christian said of how he found out. “I said, of course, I would love to do that. I met him there and he took me over to the first team’s fields.”
For the previous few months, Christian and his teammates would watch the senior team practice over the small fence that separate the U-17s fields from the field used by the professional side. Now he was on the other side of that fence.
“My coach told me before, ‘You can’t be going in there like a fan. You have to go in there and look at these guys and act like you’re one of them’,” Pulisic said. “That’s what I tried to do. Obviously in my head, I was like ‘Wow, that’s Marco Reus.’ But, you just have to do your own thing and that’s how they’ll respect you.”
The day began with a routine warm-up passing drill, and then 11v11 from one 18 to the other. Christian was asked to play in the midfield on the second team, often encountering starting midfielder Nuri Şahin or newcomer Kevin Kampl.
“When I first got called in I was thinking, ‘These guys are pros, am I good enough to play with them?’” When you go there, obviously you can see how good and how talented they all are. Then you realize, ‘Ok, I’ve really worked at this. I can hang with these guys.’”
“Obviously, physically I’m behind – I have to get there. But, you can see that they’re really talented soccer players that I was able to play with them.”
While he fit in and received positive reviews from manager Jurgen Klopp, he recalls one particular play above all others.
“I remember when (Mats) Hummels was kind of dribbling out of the back,” Christian said, with a quiet laugh. “He kind of took a touch by me and I tried to put my shoulder in there, but I was lightly pushed aside – I didn’t really affect his run much.”
By the end of the day, Christian was still himself. Having enjoyed the opportunity, but grounded and comfortable knowing that he was on the right path.
“With one training you can’t look at it like you’re that close to going to the first team again,” he said. “It’s not even close – I have to earn so much more. It was cool to get that experience, but I’m just going to keep moving forward with my team. I just want to try to earn a starting spot every week by earning it in training.”
Still only 16 years old, he now does have dreams he hopes to accomplish as a soccer player.
“Obviously my goal – I want to play on the senior National Team,” he said. “I think every kid would. But, I’m just doing my best for this (U-17 MNT) team now.
“It would be really cool to qualify for the World Cup. That’s what we’ve aimed for and everyone has made sacrifices. We want to continue the U.S. success and we look at this as our team. We want to do the best we can.”
Pulisic is a product of PA Classics, though his tenure in recent years was minimal because of his involvement with the U-17 Residency Program. In February of 2015, Pulisic officially joined German Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, where he immediately had the opportunity to train with the first team under manager Jurgen Klopp.
Date of Birth
Sep 18, 1998
Borussia Dortmund (Germany)