U.S. Under-17 MNT Kicks Off Fall Semester of U.S. Soccer's Full-Time Residency Program
Aug 24, 2004
The fall semester begins the second year of a two-year cycle as the U.S. will train for a little over eight months in preparation for CONCACAF qualifying in Costa Rica from April 12-16, 2005. The U-17s will attempt to continue its streak of being the only nation to qualify for each FIFA Under-17 World Championship, a total of 10, one every two years since 1985.
“Our qualifying tournament is not too far away and now is the time we need to begin working hard as we will have a difficult trip to Costa Rica next spring,” said Ellinger. “The main objective is to once again qualify for the World Championship and in the past five years we have seen how the residency program has given our players an excellent opportunity to accomplish that goal. In Bradenton, the players enjoy an environment where they can prosper as individual players and gel as a team, crucial elements that have allowed for a positive move forward for our Under-17 program."
Started in 1999, the U.S. Soccer full-time residency program has become an important piece of the overall player development picture. Over the past five years, the Federation has been able to double the number of players enrolled in the program as it continues to increase its investment in player development and provide greater opportunities for young players, expanding to 40 players last fall.
The 40 U.S. players attend classes at nearby Edison Academy and then return to the IMG campus in the afternoon to train daily under the guidance of U.S. Under-17 head coach John Ellinger, and assistant coaches John Hackworth, Peter Mellor and Keith Fulk.
With 40 players in residency, the program is able to field two full teams that train together during the week, and get the chance to compete against college and club teams on the weekends. "Increasing the size of the full-time residency program from 20 to 40 players since its inception is a crucial step as the program continues to evolve and be more competitive," said Ellinger. "We've seen over the years how the program has helped produce talented players, some of which have gone on to Major League Soccer and even played for the U.S. in the World Cup.”
Sixteen of the 40 players are beginning their first semester in the full-time program, while 24 are returning for their second or third semester, including Eric Avila, the oldest player in residency as he was born on Nov. 24, 1987. The rest of the players were born in the following two years, with 27 born in 1988 and 12 in 1989.
This group of U-17s have steadily improved since coming together in September 2003, compiling a 24-16-8 record while outscoring their opponents 85-56. After a lackluster showing in April in their first international tournament – the Montaigu Tournament in Montaigu, France – where they finished eighth, the Under-17s came away with back-to-back second place finishes. Less than a month later at the Ballymena International Tournament in Northern Ireland, the U.S. won their group before falling in the final to Switzerland in penalty kicks. In early August, the U.S. traveled to Peru for the Copa Telefonica Tournament, where they defeated Peru and tied Ecuador to finish behind tournament winner Colombia.
Returning to lead the U.S. attack for the U-17s are three players – Quavas Kirk, Preston Zimmerman and Ryan Soroka. Kirk leads the team in overall goals scored with nine (three international), while Zimmerman, who joined the residency program just this April, has compiled an impressive strike rate with six goals (five international) in 16 games. Soroka, who’s swift playmaking skills make him a nuisance for opposing defenses, leads the team with five assists, while adding three goals.
On defense, the U.S. is bolstered by a backline of Michael Balogun, Richard Edgar, Eric Lichaj and Ofori Sarkodie, that has played over 20 games together over their first year in residency. Along with first-choice ‘keeper Michael Rueckner, the Under-17s have held their opponents to just over a goal a game, giving up just 29 goals in 28 games.
Over 20 players that have gone through residency have moved on to Major League Soccer or to clubs overseas in England, Holland, France and Germany. In just the past year, five residency players from the last two-year cycle moved on to the professional ranks, with Freddy Adu, Eddie Gaven, Danny Szetela and Michael Bradley heading to MLS, while Jonathan Spector made waves in his first year with Manchester United, winning the club’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award (given to the best academy player) last season and starting with the first team during their three-game tour in the United States this summer.
A few players have used the residency program as a springboard to the U.S. Men’s National Team, including Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey and, just recently, Gaven, who came on in relief in a friendly against Poland. Donovan and Beasley, both members of the first team to take part in the residency program, eventually pushed their way onto the 2002 FIFA World Cup squad, making meaningful contributions as the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals.
“The residency program gives our elite players the opportunity to train in a professional environment and to develop in a way they would not otherwise be able to develop,” said U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bruce Arena. “I think that increasing the size of the program is extremely important, as it allows us to look at more players over a wider range of ages.”
In its first year of existence, the U.S. Soccer residency program enrolled 20 of the elite players in the country to train together in Bradenton and produced instant success as the Under-17s qualified for the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in New Zealand in November. On the world stage, the American teenagers rose to the occasion, winning their group and advancing to the semifinals before being ousted in a penalty shootout. The fourth-place finish tied for the best showing by a U.S. Youth National Team in a major international competition. Also, U.S. stars Donovan and Beasley were awarded the Gold and Silver Balls, respectively, as the top two players in the entire tournament.
Two years later, the U.S. struggled when they were placed in what ended up being drawn into the “Group of Death” with Japan, France and Nigeria, the latter two ending up in the championship match. The U.S. fell in all three games, despite giving eventual champions France one of their best tests of the tournament scoring three times in a 5-3 loss.
In August of 2003, the U.S. put together another impressive run at the U-17 World Championship. With four goals, including a hat-trick in their opening match against South Korea, the 14-year-old Adu led the U-17s to victories in their first two games in Finland by a combined score of 8-2, which catapulted them into the quarterfinals and a fifth place finish.
U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team
Residency - Fall 2004
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Birthdate Hometown Club
Ababio, Eddie F 5’11” 156 01/01/88 Tampa, Fla. HC United
Alston, Kevin M 5’7” 137 05/05/88 Silver Spring, Md. Potomac Cougars
Altidore, Josmer F 5’10” 150 11/06/89 Boca Raton, Fla. Boca Juniors
Ampaipitakwong, Anthony M 5’7” 130 06/14/88 Carrollton, Texas Dallas Inter
Arguez, Bryan M/D 6’0” 155 01/13/89 Miami, Fla. Boca Juniors
Armstong, Matt M 5’6” 150 09/30/88 Phoenix, Ariz. Sereno Golden Eagles
Arvizu, David F 5’8” 130 04/19/88 Santa Ana, Calif. Pateadores
Avila, Eric M/F 5’6” 120 11/24/87 Encinitas, Calif. Nomads
Balogun, Michael D 5’8” 150 06/05/88 Houston, Texas Houstonians
Besagno, Nikolas M/F 6’1” 175 11/15/88 Maple Valley, Wash. FC United
Borja, Carlos D 5’10” 165 01/18/88 Anaheim, Calif. Cruz Azul
Collier, Jonathan D 5’11” 145 06/21/89 Fayetteville, Ga. Concorde Fire SC
Cortez, Victor D 5’6” 155 01/01/89 San Pablo, Calif. Bay Oaks Fury
Dal Pra, Michael M 5’8” 140 06/22/88 Bronxville, N.Y. New Rochelle Raiders
Edgar, Richard D 5’8” 150 02/22/88 Mechanicsville, Md. Potomac Cougars
Farfan, Gabriel M 5’10” 140 06/23/88 San Diego, Calif. Nomads
Farfan, Michael M 5’9” 135 06/23/88 San Diego, Calif. Nomads
Giallombardo, Andrew F 5’8” 145 03/15/89 Manalapan, N.J. B.O.M. Metrostars
Hall, Jeremy D 5’9” 150 09/11/88 Tampa, Fla. HC United
Igwe, Amaechi M 6’0” 165 05/20/88 Belmont, Calif.
Kirk, Quavas F 6’1” 165 04/13/88 Aurora, Ill. Chicago Magic
Lichaj, Eric D 5’10” 140 11/17/88 Downer’s Grove, Ill. Chicago Magic
Mariscal, Ernesto D 5’9” 150 06/26/88 Garden Grove, Calif. ISC Strikers
Marosevic, Perica F 5’9” 155 05/05/89 Rockford, Ill. Rockford Raptors
Nakazawa, Kyle M 5’6” 120 03/16/88 Palos Verdes Est., Calif.
Newton, Evan GK 6’0” 165 04/01/88 Virginia Beach, Va. Beach FC Hurricanes
Nunez, Cesar F 5’6” 145 01/06/89 Gurnee, Ill. Sockers
Perk, Brian GK 5’10” 165 07/21/89 Santa Margarita, Calif. Pateadores
Rickards, Patrick D 5’9’’ 145 05/28/88 Sacramento, Calif. San Juan SC
Rueckner, Bryant GK 6’0” 155 01/20/88 Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. PSG (Calif.)
Sarkodie, Ofori D 5’9” 170 06/18/88 Huber Heights, Ohio Ambassador SC
Smith, Joel D 6’0” 165 02/20/88 Irvine, Calif. ISC Strikers
Soroka, Ryan M 5’6” 135 03/05/88 Langhorne, Pa. FC Delco
Sorrentino, Joseph F 5’6” 158 07/17/89 Trenton, N.J. Jersey Shore Boca Stephens, Michael F 5’5 140 04/03/89 Woodridge, Ill. Sockers
Wagner, Blake M 5’9” 140 01/29/88 Tampa, Fla. Blackwatch Saints
Walker, Matthew GK 5’10” 160 04/04/89 Grand Blanc, Mich. Vardar III
Wallace, Anthony D 5’10” 145 01/26/89 St. Petersburg, Fla. Brandon FC
Yates, Drew M 6’0” 160 05/14/88 Pasadena, Md. Casa Mia Bays
Zimmerman, Preston F 5’11” 170 11/21/88 Pasco, Wash. Crossfire Premier
U-17 MNT Staff
Head Coach: John Ellinger Bradenton, Fla.
Assistant/Goalkeeper Coach: Peter Mellor Longboat Key, Fla.
Assistant Coach: John Hackworth Bradenton, Fla.
Assistant Coach: Keith Fulk Bradenton, Fla.
Team Manager: Alex Miranda Bradenton, Fla.
Team Manager: Tom Norton Bradenton, Fla.
Trainer: Jacob Joachim St. Petersburg, Fla.
Trainer: Michael White St. Petersburg, Fla.
Press Officer: Neil Buethe Chicago, Ill.