Q & A with U-17 WNT Head Coach Albertin Montoya
U.S. Under-17 Women’s National Team head coach Albertin Montoya caught up with ussoccer.com to discuss the team’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup draw:
ussoccer.com: What are your thoughts on your three Group B opponents, starting with your first game on Sept. 22 against France?
Montoya: “I think France has one of the top teams in the world right now. I was fortunate enough that I was able to watch them play in the European Championships and they were very impressive. They had a great showing against Switzerland and then in the finals they played Germany and ended up losing to Germany in PKs. I personally thought France was a little bit stronger in that game. They are very strong all over the field. They have a No. 10 in their attacking midfield, which may be one of the best players I have seen in the women’s game at this age level. She’s very impressive and runs the show. So we’re going to have to pay a lot of attention to her. They’re dynamic up top and they’ve got certain players who can get in behind the defense. They’ve got a one-vs.-one artist in their No. 7 out wide, and their back line is just solid. It’s a very impressive team and we’re going to have our hands full. But we’ve been preparing very well and looking forward to having a great game against one of the top teams in the tournament.”
ussoccer.com: Do you like the fact that you’re going to have to jump in and play a really tough team right away?
Montoya: “I was just thinking about that. We don’t necessarily have a choice, but sometimes that is very good going into a tournament. You don’t really have time to ease into it. Sometimes when you do have that time and that luxury, you don’t start off strong. We don’t have that choice. We’re going to go out there and we’re going to face one of the best teams in the world. We feel that we can play with anyone right now. It’s going to be a great test for the girls. I think they’re ready for it and I know we will be, so we’re looking forward to it. If we get a win in that first game it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the tournament. We’re looking forward to that challenge.”
ussoccer.com: How about Gambia. You’ll get to do some scouting when you’re in Azerbaijan, but what’s the mind-set when you’ll be facing a team that you
know very little about already?
Montoya: “You’re right, we know very little about them. Actually, we don’t know anything about them right now. In the next couple of months we’re going to try to do everything we can to try to get some information on them, but most of the scouting will come in their first game in the World Cup against Korea, so we’re really going to have to wait until that to see what they have to prepare for them. We just don’t know anything about them at this point in time.”
ussoccer.com: Korea DPR, your other opponent in Group B, has a history of success in FIFA women’s youth tournaments. Tell me what you know about them.
Montoya: “Another team that I was fortunate enough to watch play several times in the Asian qualifiers, I also put them up there as one of the favorites. I think we have three of the top five teams in the World Cup in our group with us, France and Korea. Korea is gifted technically just like France, but I think even more so. They’re very organized. They’re somewhat predictable in their game, but they’re so good with everything they do, which makes it very difficult to play against them. In the Asian qualifiers, them and Japan were the two best teams and Japan was fortunate to get a late goal against them. Korea presented problems for them because of their athleticism and their technique and the way they move the ball around. It’s going to be another good test for us. We’ve been preparing well with some of these last camps. This last camp we faced a boys team that we tried to mimic the game that Korea plays. We asked the boys to knock it around and they did. They keep the ball down and they’re very quick. I think it was a very good test for us against that, and we’re going to have to continue training against teams of that sort because Korea and France definitely enjoy keeping the ball on the ground, but are dangerous in so many ways. This Korean team is special, and again another good challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”
ussoccer.com: It’s been a couple of months since the team last played together. How much are you looking forward to get the group back together to
continue World Cup preparations?
Montoya: “I’m definitely looking forward to it. I think that’s one of the difficult jobs as a national team is you only have the players together for a week every month or month and a half. We had a camp after qualifying, which went really well for us. Having an opportunity to go to Croatia and Slovenia here in a couple of weeks is going to help us come together and fine-tune a few things we need to work on. We feel very good with where we’re at right now and the confidence we’ve been playing and just again finalizing a few details and making sure that we’re firing on all cylinders once the World Cup comes around.”
ussoccer.com: You have a couple of camps between now and when you head to Azerbaijan. What do you hope to accomplish between now and in September?
Montoya: “In our last camp and what I’d like to get out of this Croatia and Slovenia trip is making sure that we control the tempo of the game as much as possible. I think our possession game has been decent, but I think it can be much better. In this last camp we had in San Diego was the start of it. I think we probably played the best soccer we have played as a team. It was exciting to see. Going into qualifying our No. 1 goal was to make sure we were organized and make sure we were solid defensively and we showed that by not allowing a goal. Now, going into World Cup, it’s putting everything together, making sure our attack is as potent as it can be and we know our back line is going to be solid. It’s fine-tuning everything that takes place in the attacking third. We’re excited about this trip to Croatia and Slovenia because we’re going to continue working on that.”
ussoccer.com: The team had a lot of success at the CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship. What’s it going to take for the team to maintain or even build
on that confidence heading into Azerbaijan?
Montoya: “Similar to the way we’ve been preparing, a lot of it has to do with the way this team has come together. I’ve said it since I started with this group – it’s a great group of girls. They care about each other, they respect each other and they want what’s best for each other and that really comes into play when we’re playing out there on the field. This is a very talented group, but talent doesn’t win you a World Cup. It’s a quality team that does as Spain just proved (in the UEFA European Championship). It’s not necessarily just the players; it’s working as a team and believing in a cause. This group has shown to do that time and time again. That’s what it’s going to take. Obviously, we have the talent out there and it’s making sure the players understand their roles and having them execute it. I know they will because all the time and energy they’ve put into it.”
ussoccer.com: You mentioned how talented this team is and one player who really showed off her talent in Guatemala City was Summer Green. She had such
an impressive performance there in the Championship. Besides her ability to finish her chances, what are the overall strengths of your team’s attack?
Montoya: “It has to be with the team unity. It’s not only our forwards, but it’s our back line and our midfielders. We play as a unit. Our backs get forward so they’re a threat coming in from behind. We have midfielders that can penetrate on the dribble and can also penetrate with runs in behind the defense. We’re looking to be dangerous from all parts of the field, not just with our forwards. When you have forwards finishing, that just adds the finishing touch to it. With the combination of the midfielders, outside backs getting forward and the dangerous forwards we do have, we’re a very difficult team to play against because it’s not just one player. Fortunately for us, Summer Green got really hot and was finishing her touches, but we have so many talented attackers in a World Cup it could be quite a few different looks. You can’t just contain one player. We can count on a lot of different players to be dangerous in the attacking third.”
ussoccer.com: Talk about the process of putting this team together and then seeing them have so much success so far.
Montoya: “It has been rewarding. I’m happy for the players. They deserve everything they’ve achieved. They put the time and energy into it. It’s a difficult task when you have a national team where there are players who are stars with their club teams. These are players who probably see every minute of every game in their club team and when they come to the national team it’s a little bit different. You have superstars who are on the bench and having to come in and make a difference or sometimes they don’t play at all. The way this group has handled that and the way they’ve been supportive of each other has made a difference on and off the field and that’s going to help us be successful. I’m so proud and delighted to be working with these young ladies and I do believe they are going to have a very successful World Cup.”