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U.S. U-17 Men's National Team Gets Ready to Face Spain in Opening Match of 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup


IT’S FINALLY HERE: After more than two years of preparation in U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program, the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team is set to kick off its campaign at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Wilmer Cabrera’s squad will open against Spain on Monday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET) from Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano, Nigeria. The U.S. is part of Group E at the event, and will continue through the first phase against Malawi on Thursday, Oct. 29, at 4 p.m. (11 a.m. ET) and against United Arab Emirates on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 4 p.m. (10 a.m. ET). All three of those games will be televised live on ESPNU and Galavision, and fans can also follow on ussocer.com’s MatchTracker and at twitter.com/ussoccer.

U.S. U-17 World Cup Schedule
Date      Opponent              Time                      TV                          Venue
Oct. 26    Spain                       2 p.m. ET               ESPNU/Galavision     Sani Abacha Stadium; Kano, Nigeria
Oct. 29    Malawi                    11 a.m. ET               ESPNU/Galavision     Sani Abacha Stadium; Kano, Nigeria
Nov. 1     UAE                        10 a.m. ET              ESPNU/Galavision     Gateway International; Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria

A LOOK AT THE 21: Cabrera’s 21-player roster features players who represent 13 different states and 19 different clubs, including nine U.S. Soccer Development Academy clubs. Eight players have scored at least one goal for the U.S. over the course of 12 international games in 2009, and five – Luis Gil, Stefan Jerome, Perry Kitchen, Carlos Martinez and Jack McInerney –  have registered more than 25 international appearances at the U-17 level. The roster blends 17 players born in 1992 and four born in 1993. 

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Keith Cardona (NY Red Bulls Academy; Glen Rock, N.J.), 1-Earl Edwards (Nomads SC; San Diego, Calif.), 12-Spencer Richey (Crossfire Premier; Seattle, Wash.)
DEFENDERS (6): 6-Zachary Herold (West Pines United FC, Port St. Lucie, Fla.), 4-Perry Kitchen (Chicago Magic; Indianapolis, Ind.), 20-Boyd Okwuonu (Celtic Green; Edmond, Okla.), 3-Tyler Polak (CSA Legacy; Lincoln, Neb.), 2-Jared Watts (North Meck SC; Statesville, N.C.), 15-Eriq Zavaleta (FC Pride; Westfield, Ind.)
MIDFIELDERS (6):  5-Marlon Duran (Latino Americana; Ducanville, Texas), 10-Luis Gil (Pateadores; Garden Grove, Calif.), 14-Carlos Martinez (Wilmington Jr.; San Pedro, Calif), 17-William Packwood (Birmingham City, Concord, Mass.), 11-Nick Palodichuk (Washington Premier; Battleground, Wash.), 8-Alex Shinsky (Super Nova FC; York, Pa.)
FORWARDS (6): 16-Juan Agudelo (NY Red Bulls Academy; Barnegat, N.J.), 19-Victor Chavez (Real So Cal; Fontana, Calif), 18-Andrew Craven (First Coast Kickers; St. Simons Island, Ga.), 7-Stefan Jerome (West Pines United FC; Davie, Fla.), 9-Jack McInerney (Cobb SC; Alpharetta, Ga.), 13-Dominick Sarle (BW Gottschee; Huntington, N.Y.) 

QUICK HITS:

  • The U.S. team departed the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., on Tuesday, Oct. 20, and arrived in Kano, Nigeria, the night of Oct. 21.
  • The first three games for the Americans will all be played on an artificial surfaces, with two matches at Sani Abachi Stadium in Kano and one at Gateway International Stadium in Ijebu-Ode.
  • Kano has also hosted the U.S. team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which was held in Nigeria in 1999.
  • The U.S. and Spain played once already in 2009, with the Europeans taking a 2-1 win via a last second goal on Feb. 18 in Spain.
  • Forward Jack McInerney scored one of his team-high nine goals this year in that game.
  • In all, the American team has scored 33 goals in 16 international matches in 2009.
  • The loss to Spain was one of only three for the U.S. on the year, the others coming against Argentina (5-1) on March 25 and Uruguay (3-1) on March 27.
  • Since then, the Americans have won seven straight international games.
  • Ten players on the U.S. roster have been in Residency since the Fall Semester of 2007:  Andrew Craven, Marlon Duran, Earl Edwards, Zachary Herold, Stefan Jerome, Perry Kitchen, Carlos Martinez, McInerney, Tyler Polak and Jared Watts.
  • Only one player, midfielder William Packwood, is not a full time member of U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla. Packwood is based in England and plays in the Birmingham City academy.
  • The U.S. defense has posted seven shutouts this year, including two against fellow World Cup participant Gambia in the two most recent friendlies in September.
  • The matches against Gambia were part of the team’s most recent training camp at the home of Chelsea FC in England.
  • Jerome and Victor Chavez both scored a brace in the team’s 5-0 win against Gambia on Sept. 30, the team’s most recent international.
  • The U.S. also traveled to face the Kansas City Wizards and Crystal Palace Baltimore in recent weeks as part of final preparations for Nigeria.
  • The 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 24, as host Nigeria will play in the official opening match against Germany and Honduras matches up against Argentina in an extremely difficult Group A.
  • Group B also starts on Saturday, with Brazil and Mexico squaring off against Japan and Switzerland, respectively.
  • The United States, along with the rest of Group E and Group F, will be one of the last teams to open their respective campaigns on Monday, Oct. 26.
  • The United States and Spain have faced each other at least once in the final stages of FIFA’s five major competitions – the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the FIFA Confederations Cup and the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament. They have already crossed paths once in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, back in 2003, when goals from Jurado and Cesc Fabregas helped Spain secure a 2-0 victory.
  • The United States’ opening matches in the last three editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup have yielded 19 goals. In 2003, the U.S. out gunned Korea Republic 6-1, while two years later they overcame Korea DPR 3-2. Most recently in 2007, however, they were humbled 4-3 by Tajikistan.
  • Spain are on an unbeaten seven match run at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. After losing the 2003 final 1-0 to Brazil and missing out on the 2005 edition, two years ago the Iberians notched four wins and three draws including the final, which they ultimately lost on penalties to Nigeria. 

HOW WE GOT HERE: The U.S. roster includes 15 players who were part of the team that successfully qualified for Nigeria, winning Group A of the 2009 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in April. Cabrera’s team opened with a 5-0 win against Cuba, clinched qualification with a 4-2 win against Canada and took the top place in the group by earning a 3-0 win against Honduras. The semifinals and finals of the tournament were canceled due to concern over the H1N1 virus. That team continued the USA’s record of being the only country to have qualified for every FIFA U-17 World Cup since the tournament’s inception in 1985 by winning all three games in Tijuana while scoring 12 goals and allowing only two. Now the Americans are in Nigeria with the goal of advancing past the group phase for the seventh time in the event.  

Date           Opponent              Result       U.S. Goalscorer(s)                                 Venue                                    
April 21     Cuba                      5-0 W       Jerome, McInerney (2), Lletget, Gil       Estadio Caliente; Tijuana, Mexico      
April 23     Canada                   4-2 W       McInerney (2), Lletget, Gyau                Estadio Caliente; Tijuana, Mexico
April 25     Honduras                3-0 W       Palodichuk (2), McInerney                    Estadio Caliente; Tijuana, Mexico

GETTING SETTLED IN KANO: One of the biggest cities in Nigeria with more than seven million people, Kano is nestled in the northwest corner of Nigeria and is the namesake of the state in which it is located. The state of Kano is the only Muslim state in the country and the people speak Hausa, an Islamic language, as well as English. All four teams from Group E begin their journey here, about 350 kilometers from the Niger border.

SANI ABACHA STADIUM: Sani Abacha Stadium, located in the city of Kano, has hosted some of Nigeria’s biggest soccer matches on the biggest stages. Refurbished for the 1999 FIFA U-20 World Cup hosted in Nigeria, the stadium hosted the 2000 African Cup of Nations that was co-hosted by Ghana and Nigeria. It has also staged Olympic qualifiers and FIFA World Cup qualifiers leading into Germany 2006. The home of Kano Pillars FC, the grounds have also hosted African Champions League action this season, before Kano Pillars was knocked out at the semifinal stage.

BORROWING THE GROUNDS: Local club team Kano Pillars FC have graciously offered FIFA their training and match fields for the U-17 World Cup, and in return, have had a facelift that includes brand new flood lights and a new artificial surface for both venues. Kano boasts one of the top teams, not only in Nigeria, but in all of Africa and was recently knocked out of the African Champions League by fellow Nigerian club Heartland. Kano Pillars are one of the most popular clubs in a soccer-mad country, drawing impressive crowds and garnering a lot of national attention. All this in just 19 years, as the club was founded as recently as 1990. As game day approaches, the four teams in Group E will train on the training and game fields used by Kano Pillars, which the U.S. will be borrowing for the duration of the tournament. In fact, the Kano club was granted a request to move one of the semifinal legs from Oct. 17 to Oct. 10 in order to make sure everything would be ship shape for the U-17 World Cup in Sani Abachi Stadium.

STARING AT SPAIN: Monday’s match against Spain marks the first what will hopefully be a long journey at the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the United States, but it certainly won’t be an easy task. The eight-time European champions at the U-17 level have also finished second on three occasions at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, including the most recent edition in 2007 in South Korea, under the guidance of Juan Santiesteban, who stepped down from his head coaching position after 20 years and a final European title in 2008. Though they didn’t lose a game in the 2009 continental tournament, Spain’s three straight scoreless draws against Italy, France and Switzerland were enough for a third-place finish and one of six berths to Nigeria from Europe. Head coach Gines Melendez, who took over for Santiesteban last year, has named 21 players who are part of Spain’s most renowned academies, including eight from Real Madrid and Barcelona. Despite somewhat disappointing results in their qualifying campaign, Spain is included among the favorites in Nigeria.

Spain U-17 Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Edgar (Espanyol), 13-Julen Celaya (Real Sociedad), 21-Yeray (Mallorca)
DEFENDERS (6): 2-Albert Blazquez (Espanyol), 3-Jon Aurtenetxe (Athletic Bilbao), 4-Sergi Gomez (Barcelona), 5-Marc Muniesa (Barcelona), 14-Jordi Amat (Espanyol), 20-Albert Dalmau (Barcelona)
MIDFIELDERS (8): 6-Koke (Atletico Madrid), 8-Eduardo Ramos (Malaga), 11-Adria Carmona (Barcelona), 15-Javier Espinosa (Barcelona), 16-Kamal (Real Madrid), 17-Pablo Sarabia (Real Madrid), 18-Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), 19-Kevin (Zaragoza)
FORWARDS (4): 7-Iker Muniain (Atletic Bilbao), 9-Borja (Atletico Madrid), 10-Isco (Valencia), 12-Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid)

YOU MAY REMEMBER…: The last time the senior teams of the USA and Spain met was in the semifinal of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. Spain entered that match carrying a 35-game unbeaten streak and the world’s No. 1 ranking, but the United States were determined to make history. Goals from Jozy Altidore, who played in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru, and Clint Dempsey lifted the Americans to a 2-0 victory and a place in the Confederations Cup final in one of the greatest victories in the team’s history.

HEROLD-ED: U.S. U-17 MNT defender Zach Herold has grown up a lot during more than two years in U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program, but has taken on a larger role for the team in recent months. Now, with nine starts and 11 international appearances in 2009, the Florida native looks ahead to his opportunity to play in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which kicks off in just a few days.

TWEETING ALONG: Follow the U-17 MNT in short form as they journey through Nigeria by keeping up to date on our official Twitter page at twitter.com/ussoccer.

BLOGFRICA: If you want to keep up with the team in longer form, including exclusive stories, interviews, photos and more, make sure to follow the YNT Blog. Click here to join the team along its journey through Kano, Ijebu-Ode and beyond at the FIFA U-17 WC.

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