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U17 MNT Prepped for 2009 Nike International Friendlies in Phoenix

FIRST FRIENDLIES: The new cycle of players for the U.S. U-17 MNT, those born on or after Jan. 1, 1994, will be playing its first three international games at this level in Phoenix. All 22 players are age eligible for the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup. The previous cycle of the U-17 MNT, players born in 1992, concluded with the 2009 FIFA World Cup in Nigeria. The team has been in Phoenix since Monday morning, preparing for its first match against Portugal on Friday, Dec. 4. The U.S. has a 4-3-3 record at the past Nike International Friendlies, which includes matches against Brazil, Russia and Australia.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS TEAMWORK: Even before making the move to Bradenton, many of the U.S. players have trained together with the U-14 National Development Program and/or the U-15 Boys’ National Team. No fewer than eight players traveled together with the U-15 BNT during its most recent trip, to Moenchengladbach, Germany, in May of this year, and 13 were part of the team’s last domestic camp in New Jersey in June, just months before entering Residency. The six players who aren’t currently part of U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program – FIRST NAMES – Tarik Beckles, Ive Burnett, Mikhail Doholis, Kendall McIntosh, Nicolas Melo and Tarik Salkicic – were part of an October mini-camp that saw them earn a place on the Nike International Friendlies roster. All are eligible to join Residency in the Spring Semester and age-eligible for the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup

KOROMA CARRIES ON: Forward Alfred Koroma is the only player on the roster who has been part of the Residency Program for longer than one semester. Koroma went to Bradenton at the beginning of the Spring Semester 2008, and has been training under Cabrera and his staff ever since.

ACADEMY FILTERING IN PLAYERS: Half of the U.S. roster will be representing their country while their hometown clubs are in attendance as part of the Development Academy, with 11 players each representing a participating club. Players in bold below are those who made the transition from Development Academy to the U-17 Men’s National Team over the past six months.

U.S. Roster By Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Kendall McIntosh (Mustang Academy; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Fernando Pina (Houston Dynamo; Houston, Texas)
DEFENDERS (7): Ive Burnett (Central Jackson; Brandon, Miss.), Andrew Chang (Sockers FC; Highland Park, Ill.), Jerome Cristobal (Derby County Wolves; Sterling Heights, Mich.), Marc Pelosi (De Anza Force; Sunnyvale, Calif.), Tarik Salkicic (Strictly Soccer; Pinellas Park, Fla.), Nathan Smith (Cal Odyssey; Clovis, Calif.), Andrew Souders (Columbus Crew Academy; Amherst, Ohio)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Atsou Ayah (Fusion FC Tampa; Tampa, Fla.), Tarek Beckles (BW Gottschee; Brooklyn, N.Y.), Holden Fender (North Atlanta SA; Marietta, Ga.), Irvin Gijon (Players Club; Las Vegas, Nev.), Eric Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy; Corona, Calif.), Nicholas Melo (Florida Rush; Kissimmee, Fla.), Oscar Ortega (Aztecs Premier; San Ysidro, Calif.), Sebastian Velasquez (Arsenal FC; Los Angeles, Calif.)
FORWARDS (5): Mikhail Doholis (Eastside United; Vancouver, Wash.), Kellen Gulley (MS Chicago Fire Juniors; Clinton, Miss.), Alfred Koroma (Solar Red; Southlake, Texas); Andrew Oliver (Westside United; Indianapolis, Ind.), Mario Rodriguez (Central Aztecs; North Hollywood, Calif.)

A BIT ABOUT RESIDENCY: All but six of the 22 roster players are currently training full time with the U-17 Men’s National Team in Bradenton, Fla. The U.S. players live on campus at the IMG Academies and train in the morning under the guidance of Wilmer Cabrera and assistant coaches Paul Caffrey, Gerson Echeverry, Paul Grafer and Keith Fulk. In the afternoon, the players attend classes at nearby Bradenton Preparatory Academy. While in the full-time residency program, the U.S. not only trains daily under Cabrera, but also has access to the IMG Academies’ spacious facilities. The team regularly uses the state-of-the-art strength-training facilities, as well as some of the nation’s best sports psychologists. The facilities include top-of-the-line soccer equipment, three Bermuda grass fields, an indoor dome with artificial turf, two swimming pools, newly renovated student housing and dining facilities.

RESIDENCY HISTORY: The first full-time U.S. Soccer Residency Program began on Jan. 17, 1999, when U.S. Soccer collected the top 20 of the country’s elite youth players to train year-round at IMG Academy. In its first year of existence, the U.S. Soccer Residency Program produced instant success as the Under-17s qualified for the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in New Zealand in November of 1999. 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. With the early success, the full-time Residency Program doubled in the number of players from 20 to 40, adding 10 additional players in both the fall semester of 2002 and 2003 as U.S. Soccer was to increase the number of players enrolled in the program to provide greater opportunities for young players and increase its investment in player development.

RESIDENCY ALUMNI: Since its inception, nearly 250 players have been through the full-time Residency Program, and more than 80 of those players have moved on to Major League Soccer, or the professional leagues in Europe. Sixteen players have also registered at least one cap with the full MNT: Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Bobby Convey, Eddie Johnson, Justin Mapp, Oguchi Onyewu, Santino Quaranta, Chad Marshall, Eddie Gaven, Jonathan Spector, Heath Pearce and Robbie Rogers.

MEET THE COACH: Wilmer Cabrera was appointed as head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team on Oct. 25, 2007, joining the team from BW Gottschee in New York. He also served as the spokesperson for MLS Futbolito and Verano MLS, two programs aimed at grassroots development of soccer in the United States. The former Colombian international is a veteran of two FIFA World Cups, being named to the roster in 1990 and playing in three matches in France in 1998, while missing out on the 1994 tournament with a knee injury. He earned 48 caps as a defender over nine years with the national team. He also represented Colombia at two FIFA U-20 World Cups (1985 in the Soviet Union and 1987 in Chile). After being selected to the roster at just 17 years old, Cabrera started all three games for Colombia two years later.

A MODEL YOUTH PROGRAM: The new crop of young talent has a high standard to live up to. The U.S. is the only team that has qualified for all 13 FIFA U-17 in the tournament’s history. Brazil, the USA’s opponent on Dec. 5, has the second-most tournament appearances with 12. The most recent U-17 World Cup concluded last month in Nigeria, with Switzerland winning the championship in surprise fashion. The United States advanced to the Round of 16 in Nigeria by virtue of two wins against Malawi and United Arab Emirates. In the knock out game, Cabrera’s side fell to Italy. The 2009 event marked the fourth-consecutive time that the U.S. U-17s had advanced out of the group stage

A LOOK AT PORTUGAL: Portugal’s U-17s are led by former Portugal midfielder Emilio Peixe, who was part of the country’s Golden Generation along with Luis Figo, Rui Costa and others. Peixe won the Golden Ball at the 1991 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and had a long professional career with Sporting CP, FC Porto and other clubs. He had 12 caps with the full national team and played in the U.S. at the 1996 Atlanta Games when Portugal finished fourth. He leads a talented young squad of players born in 1994, including eight that play with Sporting – famed for their youth development – and five from Benfica.

Portugal Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Rafael Alves (SC Braga), Bruno Varela (Benfica)
DEFENDERS (6): Rui Bento (Sporting), Fabio Cardoso (Benfica), Tiago Duque (Sporting), Nuno Malheiro (Sporting), Tiago Lima Pereira (Padroense), Bruno Silva (Padroense)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Rui Filipe Cardoso (Padroense), Carlos Chaby (Sporting), Luis Cortez (Sporting), Gulherme Matos (Benfica), João Teixeira (Benfica)
FORWARDS (5): Helder Costa (Benfica), Alexandre Guedes (Sporting), Frederic Maciel (Padroense), Carlos Mané (Sporting), Iuri Medeiros (Sporting)

PORTUGAL SERIES HISTORY: Since the U.S. Soccer Residency Program began in 1999, the U.S. has faced Portugal four times. The U.S. has a 2-1-1 advantage in the series. The last meeting came at the 2006 Nike National Team Friendlies at Ronaldo Field on the Nike Campus in Beaverton, Ore., with the U.S. walking away with a 4-2 win. All of the other three meetings were on neutral ground, twice in England (2005 & 2006) and once in France (2002).

PORTUGAL AT THE U-17 WORLD CUP: Portugal has qualified for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 1989, 1995 and 2001. The best performance came in 1989 when the squad beat Bahrain in the third-place match.

A LOOK AT BRAZIL: The majority of the Brazil players coming to Phoenix were members of the Brazil Under-15 team that recently concluded the CONMNEBOL Under-15 Championship in Bolivia. Led by head coach Leandro Simpson, Brazil finished in second place at the event. Lucas Piazon scored twice in a 2-1 victory against Uruguay in the team’s final game of that tournament, which included a final stage group of Paraguay, Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay. In the final group stage, Brazil tied Paraguay 2-2 and Ecuador 1-1. In eight matches, Lucas Piazon scored 10 goals including a hat trick against 10th-place finishers, Venezuela.

Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Charles (Cruzeiro E.C.), Guido (Vitória S.A.)
DEFENDERS (7): Glênio (Internacional), Jonatas (Vasco da Gama), Josué (Vitória S.A.), Lucas (São Paulo F.C.), Luis Gustavo (Palmeiras), Victor (S.C.Corinthians), Wallace (Fluminense F.C.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Adryan (Flamengo), Dedé (Botafogo), Dodô (Atl. Mineiro), Guilherme (Vasco da Gama), Marlon Bica (Internacional), Mattheus (Flamengo)
FORWARDS (3): Gilmar (Fluminense F.C.), Leandro (S.C.Corinthians), Lucas Piazon (São Paulo F.C.)

BRAZIL SERIES HISTORY: Since the U.S. Soccer Residency Program began in 1999, the U.S. has faced Brazil at the Under-17 level 10 times and the U.S. has posted a 2-6-2 record in those matches. In 2003, the sides met in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Finland, with Brazil handing the U.S. a 3-0 defeat in the quarterfinals. The teams also met in the 1989 and 1997 FIFA Under-17 World Cups. In 1989, an Imad Baba goal gave the U.S. a 1-0 win in the opening group match in Aberdeen, Scotland, and eight years later Brazil bested the U.S. 3-0 in Alexandria, Egypt.

BRAZIL AT THE FRIENDLIES: The 2009 Nike International Friendlies are the fifth consecutive trip for the Brazil U-17 team to the U.S. in the first week of December. In what has become an annual trip, Brazil has sent a team to face the U.S. in a Nike-sponsored each year since 2006. Brazil came to the U.S. for the 2003 Nike Friendlies, and returned in 2006 and 2007 to that event. Starting in 2008, the Nike Friendlies were replaced by the Nike International Friendlies at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase. In 2006, Brazil also took part in the 2006 Nike National Team Friendlies held in Beaverton, Ore. In all, Brazil has played the U.S. seven times in the U.S. since 2003, and holds the series lead against the U.S. at 4-2-1. The lone U.S. win came in 2007 when Stefan Jerome and Carlos Martinez score in a 2-0 victory while Earl Edwards made 10 saves in the shutout win. All three went on to participate in the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup two years later.

BRAZIL AT THE U-17 WORLD CUP: Brazil has qualified for 12 FIFA Under-17 World Cups, second only to the U.S. teams 13 tournament appearances. Brazil has a 36-13-9 record, and holds U-17 World Cup records with the most matches (58) and wins. Brazil has scored 127 goals at the U-17 World Cup, 41 more than the next highest scorer Ghana. Brazil has three U-17 world titles, winning in 1997, 1999 and 2003. They lost in the final in 1995 and 2005.

NETHERLANDS SERIES HISTORY: Since the U.S. Soccer Residency Program began in 1999, the U.S. has faced the Netherlands just once in the quarterfinals of the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup. The Netherlands won that match 2-0 on two goals by current Ajax midfielder Jeffrey Sarpong. Future professionals on the field for the U.S. in that match include Jozy Altidore, Omar Gonzalez, Kevin Alston, Jeremy Hall and Blake Wagner.

NETHERLANDS AT THE U-17 WORLD CUP: The Netherlands has qualified for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup twice, qualifying for two of the last three events in 2005 and 2009. In 2005, their run to a third-place finished included a quarterfinal defeat of the U.S. In Nigeria last summer, the Netherlands topped Gambia 2-1, but fell to Colombia and Iran while being eliminated during the group stage.