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Richie Williams Names 20-Player Roster For U-17 MNT Camp

CHICAGO (May 2, 2015) – U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Richie Williams has named a 20-player roster for the team’s first domestic training camp of 2015 in East Hanover, New Jersey.

The camp will run from May 2-11, and the team will hold practice at New York Red Bulls’ practice facility. This will mark the first time the team gathers in a full time capacity since it competed at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Honduras earlier this year.

The team finished CONCACAF qualifying with a 3-1-2 record to secure a spot in the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, following a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory over Jamaica on March 15. The 2015 U-17 World Cup will be held from Oct. 17-Nov. 8 in Chile.

The U.S. has qualified for 15 FIFA U-16 or U-17 World Championships. The 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup was the only occurrence wherein the USA did not qualify for the tournament. The USA’s best performance was a fourth-place finish at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand.

U.S. U-17 MNT Roster by Position: Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): William Pulisic (Richmond United; Mechanicsville, Va.), Kevin Silva (Players Development Academy; Bethlehem, Pa.)
DEFENDERS (7): Hugo Arellano (LA Galaxy Academy; Norwalk, Calif.), Matt Constant (Dallas Texans; Carrollton, Tex.), Tanner Dieterich (Real Salt Lake Academy; Nashville, Tenn.), John Nelson (Internationals; Medina, Ohio), Logan Panchot (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; St. Louis Mo.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union Academy; Media, Pa.), Alexis Velela (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls II; Wappinger Falls, N.Y.), George Braima (Columbus Crew Academy; Columbus, Ohio), Eric Calvillo (Real So Cal; Palmdale, Calif.), Terrell Lowe (Portland Timbers Academy; Hillsboro, Ore.), Matthew Olosunde (New York Red Bulls Academy; Trenton, N.J.), Alejandro Zendejas (FC Dallas; El Paso, Tex.)
FORWARDS (5): Pierre da Silva (Orlando City SC Academy; Port Chester, N.Y.), Mckinze Gaines (Lonestar SC; Austin, Tex.), Josh Perez (Unattached; La Habra, Calif.), Brandon Vazquez (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Haji Wright (New York Cosmos; Los Angeles, Calif.)

Roster Notes:

  • In addition to the matches during CONCACAF qualifying, the U-17s have played four international matches in 2015. The U.S. split a two-game set against Panama on Feb. 2 and 4, then showcased a strong offensive display with a 5-2 victory against Bermuda on Friday, Feb. 20, followed by a 4-0 win in a rematch two days later.
  • Fifteen players from this roster were a part of the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship roster
  • Josh Perez scored four goals and tallied an assist for the U.S. in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship.
  • Goalkeeper William Pulisic started in all six games of that tournament.
  • Perez has scored six goals in 2015, the most of any U-17 MNT player. He also boasts a roster-leading three assists on the year
  • Haji Wright is the most experienced player of the group having earned 34-career caps with the U-17 Men’s National Team
  • Wright was the leading goal scorer for the U-17s last year with 18 goals in 22 matches and was a nominee for the 2014 U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year award.
  • Much of this U-17 MNT roster played a big role in the USA’s 17-7-3 international campaign in 2014. Matt Constant, Terrell Lowe, Auston Trusty and Brandon Vazquez joined the team in 2015
  • Fourteen players from this roster were a part of the team that earned a runner-up finish in the 2014 Nike Friendlies.
  • Nineteen of the 20 players have ties to the Development Academy

Photo Gallery: U-17 MNT Celebrates Claiming World Cup Berth

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. 

Quote Sheet: U-17 MNT Ecstatic about Punching World Cup Ticket

2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship Quote Sheet
USA 0, JAM 0; USA wins penalty shootout 5-4
March 15, 2015

U-17 MNT head coach RICHIE WILLIAMS

On qualifying for the World Cup after the penalty kick shootout:
"My thoughts are, ‘We qualified for the World Cup.’ That’s what we came here to do. I thought it was a great tournament. I thought we did very well, and I’m extremely proud of our players. They work extremely hard, they’re a good team. We had a couple setbacks, but they didn’t give up. I thought they played extremely well this evening. Obviously we couldn’t get the goal, but they did a great job in the penalty shootout and we’re going to Chile.”

On if it would have been a disaster had the U.S. not qualified for the World Cup:
"It wouldn’t be a disaster. But our goal was to qualify, so we had faith that we were going to qualify. People do not understand how difficult it is. Again, we were close in the Honduras game, and then the last Jamaica game and then this game reached our goal and got into the tournament, the World Cup. Again I’m extremely proud of the team, extremely proud of the whole group – our staff, everybody that has worked incredibly hard over the year-and-a-half with this group of players. We accomplished what we set out to do, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup. We’re just extremely happy.”

On what Jamaica was able to do to hold the USA scoreless for two matches:
“I think in the first game, in the first half we created six clear chances. We just didn’t take our chances. Probably, overall in the game, we had eight to 10 chances and were not able to finalize. And then, when they got their penalty, they sat back and made it very difficult on us. So the first game, we had chances but we couldn’t score. And in the second game, I thought we created chances also. I thought they sat back and tried to catch us on the counter attack. They have some big, athletic defenders and their goalkeeper who made it difficult. Overall they have a good team that fights hard and works extremely hard. They should be very proud of that. They kept us off the scoreboard tonight, but again, we were able to win on the penalties.”

On what it means to get the U.S. team back to the World Cup after an absence last time around:
“We’re extremely excited. Unfortunately, Honduras beat us last time around, and this time we’re able to go. That was our goal, to qualify for the World Cup. Now we go with all intentions to go and try to win the World Cup.”

On the character of the players and how good it feels to see them so happy:
“I love these guys. They’re great players, they’re great people. We’ve worked together now for a year-and-a-half. I’ve coached some of them even when they were at the U-14s and U-15s and I’ve seen them grow as players and as individuals. They’re not just great players, they’re great people also. They work extremely hard and are talented, and they’ve been very, very successful. We want to continue that over the next six months or so until the World Cup. My message to them is that one day we’ll be seeing them on the U-20s and our senior team, and that they have great careers ahead of them.”

U-17 MNT forward JOSH PEREZ

On qualifying for the World Cup:
"It feels great, it’s so exciting. I think we’ve earned this opportunity to go to Chile, and I think we’ll do really, really well in the World Cup. I think we deserved this spot in the World Cup.”

On the game in general and the team’s mindset:
“From the very first minute, we were very confident, feeling that we were going to win the game. Unfortunately, the goals didn’t come; we were just unlucky. But, we got it to PKs and we knew to trust ourselves and have confidence in all of us. We executed and were able to win and qualify for the World Cup.”

U-17 MNT defender JOHN NELSON

On the team’s emotions after qualifying for the World Cup:
“It’s a great feeling; I still can’t believe what we did. Working for these 18 months up to this moment – we did it and we’re going to the World Cup!”

On the difficulties of the match:
“We had a game plan going into the game to try and get the first goal, but that didn’t happen. We were unfortunately not able to score a goal, but we grinded it out and won in PKs.”

On what the last 18 months have been like:
“Our families have made all these sacrifices; everyone has made sacrifices by being away from home. We finally got to be in this moment, and we did it. It just feels great.”

U-17 MNT defender DANNY BARBIR

On qualifying for the World Cup:
“This team has been working so hard for the last year-and-a-half, and honestly I think we deserve it. We’ve done so much, from all the trips and camps, we prepared so good for this tournament. We got the result, we’re going to the World Cup.”

On how it was decided that he was taking a penalty kick:
“I told Richie, ‘I’m going third.’ I was so confident in myself; we were all confident in each other. But, I was a forward my whole life, and I was feeling good and confident. It was an unbelievable feeling to be able to help my team out with that goal.”

U-17 MNT forward JOE GALLARDO

On accomplishing the team’s goal in the tournament:
“We’re just really happy that we were able to qualify for the World Cup.  So thankful to God, and so happy that we worked as a team, and in the end, it all paid off.”

On his thoughts about the game:
“It was unfortunate that we couldn’t get a goal in the game, but we were working really hard and never gave up. Thankfully we won in PKs.”

On overcoming the injury and coming back to be part of the team that qualified for the World Cup:
“It’s honestly the best feeling in my life, honestly the best moment.”

U-17 MNT midfielder ALEJANDRO ZENDEJAS

On his thoughts about the game:
“It was a really good game. Jamaica is a really good team, and they made it difficult on us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a goal, but we didn’t stop fighting until the end, so I was happy with our team. And then, we were able to win on PK’s; now we’re going to the World Cup!” 

On the decision about who would take penalty kicks and taking his shot:
“Richie asked us who was confident, and so we raised our hands, and I was one of them. I put the ball down and it took a while to get it settled. When (the referee) blew his whistle, the ball moved. So I stopped and once I saw it wasn’t moving, I shot it. I was kind of off balance but fortunately it went in.”

On how he can maintain his high level of endurance:
“I get it from my brother; he’s the one who pushes me. He’s always been like that, and every time he’d work out he’d always push me to the max.”

U-17 MNT midfielder ERIC CALVILLO

On accomplishing the goal of qualifying for the World Cup:
“We knew we had a great team, a very talented team. Most of us have been together for a long time, so that chemistry really helped. We’ve been preparing for this day – to qualify – for a long time. We wanted to feel this feeling that we’re feeling right now, which is the best feeling in our lives so far. This is what we wanted. This is why we did what we did so that we could qualify for the World Cup.”

U-17 MNT midfielder TYLER ADAMS

On the team’s mentality throughout the match:
“I think we all knew it was going to be a close game after losing to them 1-0 last week. We knew what they were going to do, so we had to adapt our style of play. I think we had the right mentality of just attacking and keeping the ball in their half. The goals didn’t come tonight, but we came to penalties and we had confidence in all of our players and in Will (Pulisic). I think that [belief] had a big impact on how we came out with the win.”

On qualifying for the World Cup:
“There’s no better feeling. I think we became more than friends – we’ve been a family for the past year-and-a-half. We worked so hard for this, all the preparation, and the huge process that everyone’s put into this is unbelievable. I think what we can all take away from this is that we had one job when we came down here, and that was to qualify, and that’s what we did.”

On switching from left back in the last match to holding midfield tonight:
“Richie (Williams) has confidence in me to put me wherever is needed. It gives me a chance to be a versatile player and make an impact, and I’m confident in wherever I play because I practice in the positions a lot.”

U-17 MNT defender ALEXIS VELELA 

On the team’s mindset throughout the match:
“We were just waiting for that goal to come. We did everything from the back to the front to try to get a goal, but it just wouldn’t come. And then going to PKs, we were confident that each one of us was going to do good because we’re good players and we believe in each other.”

On what was going through his mind as he stepped up to take the sixth and final penalty kick:
“There was a lot going through my mind. I was walking up and was like, 'I gotta make this PK.' I wanted to forget about everything and just focus on the PK, and score. And I did. It was such a good feeling."

“And then we got together and we were just confident that Will was going to come up with a big save. When the Jamaican player hit it wide, we just went running up to Will and celebrating because we had made it.”

U-17 MNT Qualify for 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup with Penalty Kick Defeat of Jamaica

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)

Additional Notes:

  • 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 -

Match: 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)
Attendance: TBA
Weather: 84 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary:   1          2          F          PKs
USA                            0          0          0          5
JAM                           0          0          0          4

Penalty Summary:
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)

Lineups:
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

JAM: 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

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Haji Wright (caution)   70th minute
USA – Alexis Velela (caution)            83
JAM – Tajea Brown (caution) 88

Officials:
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

Highlights: U-17 MNT Outlast Jamaica in PKs to Claim World Cup Berth

The U-17 MNT qualified for the World Cup with a dramatic shootout victory against Jamaica.

World Cup Berth at Stake in U-17 MNT-Jamaica Rematch

The U-17 MNT prepares for the final game in the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship against Jamaica for a spot at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

U-17 MNT's Christian Pulisic Living His Soccer Dream

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.”

Luca de la Torre Making his Way at Fulham

ussoccer.com speaks to Luca de La Torre about signing with Fulham and his development as a player at the London club.

U-17 MNT Handed Rematch with Jamaica for Spot in 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup

CHICAGO (March 12, 2015) – The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team will play Jamaica in a playoff match on Sunday, March 15, at 7 p.m. ET at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship for a chance to earn a berth to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup. The match will be broadcast on FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports Go and Univision Deportes. Fans can also follow on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt using #USAvJAM.

Following the completion of group stage play, the four teams that finished second and third in their respective groups were reseeded and will now need a playoff win to secure the last two CONCACAF spots in the U-17 World Cup.

The four teams advancing to the playoffs are Canada (3-1-1; 10 points, plus-4 goal differential), Costa Rica (3-1-1; 10 points, plus-8), Jamaica (3-1-1; 10 points, plus-4) and the United States (3-1-1; 10 points, plus-9). Because all four teams finished with the same amount of points and not all of them faced each other, the first playoff tiebreaker used for reseeding was goal differential in all group matches. Because two teams were tied on goal differential, the No. 3 and 4 seeds were determined based on total goals scored in the tournament.

Playoff Stage Reseeding
1. USA
2. Costa Rica
3. Canada
4. Jamaica

By virtue of winning their groups, Group A winner Honduras and Group B winner Mexico secured automatic berths to the FIFA U-17 World Cup and will play each other in the title match of the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship on Sunday, March 15, at 10 p.m. ET. As the No. 1 seed, the USA will play Jamaica, the No. 4 seed, setting up a rematch between the two countries following the USA’s 1-0 loss on March 11. No. 2 seed Costa Rica and No. 3 seed Canada will play for the other World Cup spot in the earlier playoff game at 4 p.m. ET.

Quote Sheet: U-17 MNT Regroup, Look Toward Sunday's World Cup Qualifying Play-In Game

2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship Quote Sheet
USA 0, JAM 1
March 11, 2015

U-17 MNT head coach RICHIE WILLIAMS

On the loss to Jamaica:
"We’re obviously very disappointed to lose the match in the way that we lost it, to lose any match. As we said, every team is competitive. With the amount of chances that we had, and didn’t score, and then to give up the one goal, we’re disappointed.”

On if the U.S. became unsettled after Jamaica scored:
"Yes, probably, because they figured they needed a goal. Maybe going forward too quickly and trying to get a goal right away when we had time left, so, possibly. We still had some chances and we just didn’t get it done.”

On the team not having the same possession as previous games, and if the physical nature of Jamaica affected the USA:
“I thought we had plenty of possession in the first half, and we had chances. That’s when you need to score, and we didn’t do that. In terms of the physicality, I think we were able to create opportunities and didn’t take the opportunities. The physicality part, if we take our chances early then we win the game.”

On how to regroup the team for the match on Sunday against a difficult opponent:
“They have another opportunity. With the format the way it is, we have a game on Sunday, and it’s for everything to go to the World Cup. So you better be motivated. We’ll regroup. We have three days until the game to get everyone back to full fitness. We’ll approach the game like we would any game and get out there and work to get the win.”

On the team starting the tournament strong but, coming up short the last two matches:
“I thought the game against Honduras was a positive result. Playing Honduras in Honduras and you’re able to get a draw, that’s very positive, and I thought we played well. And I thought we played well in the first half today against Jamaica. It’s just, again, you need to take your chances. You have to take responsibility in the final third and score, and we didn’t do that. For the large majority of the tournament we’ve played well. And today, no excuse, we just didn’t get the job done.”

On failing to get the direct berth to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup and now needing to win Sunday’s play-in match:
“Of course we wanted the first spot. That was our plan all along. And that was our approach, to win the group. Unfortunately that was not the case. Like I said, we have the opportunity due to the format of the tournament to have one more game and we’ll approach it in a way to go out and win the game.”

U.S. U-17 MNT defender MATTHEW OLOSUNDE

On what the team can take away from the match:
"One thing for sure we can take away is that the chances we get in a game, we can’t take them for granted. We need to capitalize on our opportunities.”

On having another chance to qualify for the World Cup on Sunday:
“We’re going to try to take these three days that we have to get mentally prepared and physically as well, to try to recover as much as possible and, come out flying for our next game.”

On what the players said to each other after the loss:
“Just to keep our heads up, don’t look down, and look towards our next game. We have to leave this game behind us.”

U.S. U-17 MNT defender TYLER ADAMS

On the team’s mindset after a disappointing result:
“We tell each other to keep our heads up. We’ve gone through mental conditioning and, that taught us a lot. We’ll take the experience but, we have to forget about the game and move on so we can focus on our next game.”

On how the team will prepare for whomever the opponent is on Sunday:
“The next three days are all about recovery. We have great trainers that will get everyone ready. We have to stay positive. We came to this tournament for one reason and that’s to make it to the World Cup, and we still have a chance to do that on Sunday.”

Photo Gallery: U-17 MNT Celebrates Claiming World Cup Berth

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. 

U-17 MNT's Christian Pulisic Living His Soccer Dream

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.”

Rejuvenated Gallardo Returns to Scoring Form for U-17 MNT

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team forward Joe Gallardo is back to doing what he loves – playing with his teammates and scoring goals. Lots of goals.

Nearly six months after breaking his leg during a match against China PR in Mexico City, the San Diego native scored a hat trick in the USA’s 5-0 win against Cuba to kick off the World Cup Qualifying Tournament in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

For Gallardo, it was only his second start against an international opponent since Aug. 2, 2014, the Opening Day of the Copa Mexico.

But to explain his importance to the team, let’s go back a few years.

Born in San Diego to Mexican parents, Joe began playing soccer at age 6 on his older brother’s team.

“I had a pretty strong kick since I was little – I liked to kick the ball far down the field,” Gallardo said. “I started as a defender because I liked to kick it far – take goal kicks or free kicks from the back. And I guess when I was 7, my coach noticed that I had a really good shot, so he put me up to attacking mid.”

After once scoring 10 goals for his City Height’s club team game, Gallardo joined U.S. Development Academy side Nomads. He was brought in to a U.S. Under-14 camp in Carson, California, and then another in Chula Vista. At first playing out wide, the coaches then moved him to the center forward position, where he would score four goals in four games.

As for the larger public, they got their first look at Gallardo at the 2013 Nike Friendlies in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, where on Dec. 11 the 15-year-old scored three goals in a 5-1 win against England.

“The 2013 Nike Friendlies was my favorite camp,” Gallardo said. “It was a really big tournament because we were going to play England, Portugal and Brazil – some of the top teams in the world.”

Gallardo didn’t start the first match against Portugal, though he did come in off the bench. In the second game, he let loose on England.

“Starting from the beginning of the cycle, even before the Nike Friendlies, we knew Joe was a talented player, a talented No. 9 for us that could score goals,” said U.S. U-17 MNT head coach Richie Williams. “He’s got a real No. 9 mentality. He’s active, he’s good with both feet, he runs in behind, he can play with his back to the goal, and he’s brave in the box.”

The U.S. would go on to win the tournament, defeating Brazil 4-1 in the final, and Gallardo would finish his first full year with the 98s with five goals and three assists in four matches.

“It was one of the happiest moments of my life,” he said. “I never thought I could make it that far.”

By that time, Gallardo had already moved to Mexico to join Monterrey FC’s academy. But he still joined the U-17s for matches, and he began 2014 with four goals and three assists in the team’s first seven matches.

Then came the injury.

The U.S. was defeating China PR 2-0 on the opening day of the Copa Mexico when Luca de la Torre sprung Gallardo toward the China goal. Gallardo’s touch was heavy, but he kept going. So did the goalkeeper. After the collision, Gallardo didn’t think he had broken his leg, but the doctors showed him the X-rays.

“When it happened, in my head I wondered why it happened,” Gallardo said. “But honestly, it made me stronger. I think I’m stronger mentally, and I got back to the pitch and I’m playing again.”

Rather then return to his club, Gallardo joined the U.S. Residency Program in the fall of 2014 so he could recover under the guidance of the U.S. staff.

“I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him. He had to get an operation, and had a big set-up,” Williams said. “It was important for us to keep him in Florida with us in Residency with the medical staff that we have to monitor him day in and day out. I think they did a great job getting him back to full fitness, and then obviously he had a really good mentality in terms of having the determination to be ready for qualifying.”

Being in Residency also allowed him to stay connected to his teammates.

“We talked everyday – off the field and friendly stuff,” said teammate and forward Haji Wright. “And as soon as he was able to start walking, he was trying to kick a ball. Even sitting down.”

“The doctor told me it would be four months before I could get back out,” Gallardo said. “But at three months, I started touching the ball again.”

After playing 20 minutes in a scrimmage with the 2000 class in early January of this year, Gallardo knew he was on target to be ready for the CONCACAF U-17 Championship.

“At first I was scared that it wasn’t going to feel the same, that I wasn’t going to play like I used to,” he said. “But I did everything the doctors told me to do and everything came out fine.”

On Feb. 2, Gallardo made his first appearance with his ’98 class, coming in off the bench for the final 20 minutes of a 2-0 friendly win against Panama at IMG Academy. He assisted on Josh Perez’s goal to clinch the game.

“I remember his first game back and he was clearly upset because he said to me he didn’t play very well,” Williams said. “And I was just happy that he was able to play 15 minutes and run around. I didn’t care how well he played. He’s a young man and obviously wanted to do very well. It was just a start for him and each day he’s gotten considerably sharper.”

On Feb. 20 – one week before the U-17 Championship opener – Gallardo started in a friendly against Bermuda and scored on a free kick in a 5-2 win.

“I was just excited to be on the pitch,” he said. “I just wanted to be around the ball as much as I could. I guess I had a little bit of fear of getting hit, but it was all mental. And I had gotten mentally stronger each day.”

Two days later, he was named to the 20-man roster for the CONCACAF Championship.

“His approach has been great and his mentality has been excellent,” Williams said. “He’s increased his minutes, his fitness got to a full 90 minutes, so we felt comfortable having him in there. He fits in well with the group, and they enjoy having him out on the field.”

“Joe’s looked better than ever,” Wright said. “He’s more fit, he’s able to move, he can shoot with both feet now – his left foot has gotten so much better.”

Gallardo has four goals so far at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship.

“I want to show myself that I’m still the same as before I got injured,” Gallardo said. “And I want to help the team do well in this tournament. The goal of the team is to qualify for the World Cup, and to prove to the world that we’re one of the best countries in the world and that we can compete at any level.”

Photo Gallery: Wild Draw for U-17 MNT vs. Honduras

Photos from the U-17 MNT's 2-2 draw with Honduras at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. The USA leads Group A by two points over Honduras with one game left to play. The U.S. faces Jamaica on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET and the match will air on FOX Sports 2. A win for the USA would qualify the team for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile this October and also earn the U.S. a spot in the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship match, which will be held on March 15 at 10 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on FOX Sports 2. 

Photo Gallery: U-17 MNT Off to Flying Start at 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship

Photos from the U-17 MNT's 5-0 win against Cuba in its opening Group A game at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, which is being held in Honduras. The U.S. next plays Trinidad & Tobago on Monday at 6 p.m. ET. The match will be broadcast on FOX Sports 2 and Univision Deportes. Fans will also be able to follow all the action on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt and @ussoccer_esp

Quote Sheet: Richie Williams Discusses Roster for U-17 Qualifying

2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship
Roster Quote Sheet
Feb. 24, 2015

U-17 MNT head coach RICHIE WILLIAMS
On the 20-man roster that was chosen for the CONCACAF U-17 Championship:
“We’re very happy with the 20-man roster that we named, and we think it’s a strong and deep roster. Obviously there were difficult decisions that needed to be made because we have a very good group, and we have a lot of players that have been here for a year and a half to two years that have really worked hard and developed. That made it difficult in terms of choosing that 20-man roster. It’s not easy when you have to tell players that they haven’t made it. But again, we feel this is a strong roster and it’s a group that’s ready to go and compete and win a championship.”

On the strengths of the team:
“We think we’re a solid team from the defense to the midfield to the attack. I think a lot of the headlines that we’ve gotten is for our ability to score goals and get forward. We have some talented players in the attack. But you’re not able to be successful and win and compete if you don’t have a good defense also. We have guys that have the ability to create opportunities and to score goals, but we also have a very good midfield that we feel is a good passing midfield and is active, aggressive. We feel we have a good defense and goalkeepers. Overall, I think it’s a well-rounded squad, and a squad that’s ready to go.”

On the current cycle in the lead-up to this tournament:
“The great thing that we have here with our cycle is that we have a Residency Program, so we’re able to bring in players on a full-time basis where we can train them every day, with matches on the weekend. And on top of that, we still have our trips that we go to domestically and internationally. Most of the players that are on this 20-man roster – other than two or three – have been here at Residency full-time. We feel that we’ve been able to develop them and train them at a high level.”

On how the team prepared for such a big tournament:
“Throughout the year and a half, two years, we were able to travel around the world to go to different competitions and play in different tournaments, even our own tournament here with the Nike Friendlies over the last couple years. So we feel that they’re prepared. They’ve had opportunities to play teams from all over the world in some very good international games. They’ve gained valuable experience. We’ve been in games where we’ve been up, winning games, where we’ve been losing, where it’s been a draw and they’ve had to find a way to get results. The part that I like about this team is that we’re able to play a good brand of soccer, be proactive, attack, defense also, and get results playing soccer the right way. It’s a competitive group, and again, they care about playing well but also winning.”

On the format of this year’s tournament compared to the previous one:
“I think it’s a better format. The last format was basically playing two games and having a third game that you just had a one-off game – and whoever won that, went. We obviously weren’t successful against Honduras (in 2013). Our goal is to take a one-game-at-a-time approach and play every game like it’s our last game and hopefully get positive results in group play. Our goal is to win the group and then compete in the final game to play for the CONCACAF Championship.”

On if the U-17s can take anything from the U-20 team’s experience in qualifying:
“I think so, yes. You look at the U-20s, the first game they played against Guatemala and it was a game where they pretty much dominated, had the opportunities, [but] were only able to get one goal. And then Guatemala scores that amazing goal in the 90th-plus minute. So it’s a good learning experience that if you have the opportunity to score a couple more goals, even if the other team does get a goal like that, you still can come away with the three points. And the game against Panama, a very good opponent, I thought the U.S. also played well in that game. It kind of went either way, and it was a one-goal difference, and that makes all the difference in the world in terms of winning the group then having to play in the one-off game in the sixth game. Our guys watched the games and they saw that, again, with qualifying it’s very competitive. And when you have opportunities, you have to take your opportunities; you have to be solid defensively; and you can’t take any team for granted. Again, you approach it one game at a time. I think it was a great experience for them to be able to watch the U-20s.”

On the team’s expectations and goals:
“It’s always for us to go out, play well. When you’re with a young age group like this throughout this two-year cycle, it’s not always just about winning – it’s about development also. But as they get toward the end of the cycle, competition is part of development. And now the results matter, where you have to get good results in order to qualify for the World Cup. Our goal is to go out and play well, compete and get good results, win our group and play for the championship of CONCACAF and then move on to the World Cup.”

U-17s Hope Depth, International Success Translate in Qualifying

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team is coming off a 2014 campaign that had many highs and also a couple key learning moments as the group forges ahead for 2015.

The U-17s enter an important stretch that starts with the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in late February and early March, opening Group A play against Cuba on Feb. 27. Head coach Richie Williams feels there is a solid base heading into the qualifying stage, with the hopes of advancing to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile.

“Over the past year and a half to two years, we’ve definitely been making sure we have a team that has some depth,” Williams said from the team’s January camp in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. “We feel confident in our pool, and we approach tournaments by giving them the opportunities, start in games and gain international experience. When we form our 20-player roster, we know we can rely on having a confident group of players, with anybody we put on the field.”

The U-17s recently named their Residency Program roster for the spring semester. A large contingent is returning to Bradenton, Florida, with 24 of the 28 players being a part of this group this past fall.

“This is an important semester for us and an important year for this cycle,” Williams said. “With World Cup qualifying at the beginning of March, it will be important for us to continue training well and performing well. We also need to find a balance with this group and some of the players who are not with us on a regular basis to form a 20-man roster that will head to qualifying to compete and get results.”

The U-17s had a 17-7-3 international performance in 2014, including a 13-game unbeaten streak to open the year. Williams’ group wrapped up its international schedule with the Nike International Friendlies in late November and early December. The USA opened with victories against England and Australia, but the defending champion fell short of retaining its crown with a loss to Brazil in the finale on Dec. 2.

“The first two games went very well against England and Australia, and the Brazil game just didn’t go the way that we wanted it to,” Williams said. “Certain parts of the game we played well and other parts we made mistakes. We didn’t have a consistent enough performance to compete with Brazil that day. In the past, we have had games against them where we’ve competed well, winning the previous Nike Friendlies against them. But it was a good learning experience. When you compete in an international game, you have to show up for 90 minutes, and it is a constant reminder when we go into qualifying.”

The U-20 MNT is coming off a third-place performance at the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, and for some players who were part of the U-17 group that fell short in 2013 qualifying, it served as a good stepping stone to accomplish this task at the older age group two years later. Among this group, former U-17 captain Shaquell Moore was named to the all-tournament team.

“That is the goal of our youth national teams, to see the U-17s advance to the U-18s, U-20s and senior team,” Williams said. “It was great to see Shaq Moore, John Requejo, Conor Donovan, Tyler Turner, Junior Flores, Bradford Jamieson who wasn’t at U-17 qualifying but was a part of Residency, to be a part of this U-20 qualifying group. I’m happy for them. They worked extremely hard and they deserved it.”

Academy Select Game Catapulted Gaines’ Rise to U-17 MNT

The goal of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy to provide the education and support in an everyday environment to develop world-class players. From an international standpoint, one player who has made some significant strides over the past year is forward McKinze Gaines.

Gaines performed admirably at the 2013 Academy Select Game, and the 2014 version kicks off Monday, Dec. 1, at 5 p.m. ET. It is a primetime event on the third day of the Development Academy Winter Showcase at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

The game serves as a platform for Academy players who have been hand-picked by U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors and Youth National Team staff to show their skills and get the opportunity to get noticed by a scouting network in a competitive environment with the chance to perhaps be called into the Youth National Team system.

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team member Gaines understands the magnitude and the huge opportunity that this game represents.

One year ago, Gaines was playing in the Academy Select Game himself. Barely a few months after, he was called into the U-17 National Team and is now tied with teammate Haji Wright for the most appearances for the team in 2014.

“It was amazing,” Gaines said of being back in Florida with the U-17 MNT. “It just can show how much things can change in one year. Last year I had a really good game, and to be here was amazing; it was a great feeling.”

Gaines’ transition to being a vital participant of the U-17 MNT has showed the value of belonging and going through the Academy system, and the huge impact it can make toward sporting the Red, White and Blue.

In addition to his team-leading 21 caps this year, Gaines has also scored five goals, the latest coming during a 2-1 win against Australia on Nov. 30 at the 2014 Nike International Friendlies on the same field where merely one year ago Gaines was gaining the attention of Youth National Team coaches and Technical Advisors.

Gaines’ performance has been a terrific addition to an already successful offensive attack by the U.S. U-17s that includes 60 goals in 31 matches. Also, the forward has earned several minutes of play up front alongside team-leading scorer Haji Wright, a fact that does not go unnoticed by him.

“There is a lot of competition for spots and it makes you be at your best at all times,” Gaines said of earning playing time. “It’s awesome to score goals be able to see results like that. Anytime you can come in and play a good role in a team victory, it’s really rewarding and nice.”

Gaines and the U.S. U-17 MNT will close out the 2014 Nike Friendlies on Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. against Brazil for the tournament title. The game will be a rematch of last year’s thrilling finale, which the USA claimed with a 4-1 victory.  

“Last year we beat them, but they’ve got the upper hand in the past two results,” Gaines said. “We just need to come out here in our house, beat them and win the tournament.”

McKinze Gaines and Matthew Real

U-17 MNT’s Freedom up Front Poses Versatile Threat

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team has experienced a successful 2014, compiling a 17-6-7 overall record and establishing itself as a strong force heading into the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in February that would qualify the team for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile in September.

A large factor in the strength of the team lies in its offense. In a span of 30 games this year, the U-17s have racked up 58 goals, with 15 different players scoring at least once. Forward Haji Wright leads the team with 18 goals in 20 matches played, while midfielder Christian Pulisic sits closely behind with 16 goals in 19 appearances.

Wright and Pulisic get much of the spotlight; however the USA offensive attack is successful because of the diversity it plays around with when it comes to lineups and positioning, as well as the liberty that U.S. U17 MNT head coach Richie Williams allows his players to have when they step on the field.

“We let them have a little bit of freedom,” commented Williams on the players moving from one spot to another up front. “We just want to make sure that they all earn a certain position but they can interchange positions at any time.

“Sometimes you see Haji wide or up front as a nine, and sometimes Christian will come a little bit deep, or also sometimes running behind the back four. As long as there is a balance with the top four positions, that they are not all on the same side of the field or all in the middle of the field, that we have some width, we encourage them to interchange positions and to look where the open areas are and the open spaces and I think it adds to our attack.”

For Pulisic and his teammates, having the green light to go ahead and create their own offensive attacks has proved to be a positive move that has in turn helped them find the back of the net much more often.

Wright has recorded four hat tricks this year and more recently, Pulisic scored a brace against England on Nov.28 to lead the USA to a 3-1 victory during the opening game of the 2014 Nike International Friendlies.

“We definitely have our freedom more up in the front four,” said Pulisic. “We have freedom up there. Richie likes to tell us that we can switch around, switch positions, and we’re all good at all positions up front.”


Wright Stuff: U-17 Forward and Young AOTY Nominee Enjoying Strong Year

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team member Haji Wright has had what can only be described as a dominant year.

The U.S. forward is the leading scorer for the team in 2014, tallying 18 goals in 20 international matches and adding five assists. He has become a disruptive force for the USA up front, creating constant opportunities and attacking the net. For his entire U-17 MNT tenure, the former LA Galaxy Academy striker has accumulated a robust 24 goals in 24 matches, racking up 20 of his 24 caps this year alone.

Wright has had three hat tricks this year, including a four-goal game against Montenegro. He has also featured for the U.S. U-18 MNT in 2014, winning a championship title at the 21st International Tournament of Vaclav Jezek in the Czech Republic in mid-August.

With all of his accomplishments this year, the former member of the U-17 Residency Program is one of five nominees for this year’s prestigious U.S. Soccer Male Young Athlete of the Year award.

“This whole year has been kind of like a dream for me,” said Wright. “I feel like I’ve accomplished many of the things I wanted to accomplish, but of course there’s always room for getting better. I think I now can continue to help this team by not only scoring goals but creating danger for the opposition.”

Opposing defenses have dialed in on Wright as they try to shut the forward down, and this in part has opened chances for other U.S. teammates to find spaces and creating scoring chances.

“It’s become a definite for me,” Wright said of being aware that defensive game plans are singling him out. “I think when the opposition focuses on me, then it creates opportunities for my teammates, and that’s a good thing for us. It helps the team and every player on the field.”

Wright is back in action this weekend as the U.S. U-17 MNT is currently participating in the 2014 Nike International Friendlies in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

The USA opened up the tournament on Friday, Nov. 28, with a 3-1 victory over England. A powerful American defense, guided by a strong outing from goalkeeper Kevin Silva provided a strong backbone for the win. However, Wright’s presence also demonstrated to be a factor as it allowed players such as Josh Perez, Alejandro Zendejas and Christian Pulisic to come up with crafty plays and find the back of the net for the offensive spell.

“It’s really important for us to win the first game of this tournament,” Wright said. “We want to win the whole thing again and I think we came out and just wanted this more than England did, so we went out and got it.”

The Nike International Friendlies is the last tournament the U.S. U-17 MNT will be participating in before the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship kicks off in February. That tournament will qualify the top four teams to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile.

“It’s really important that we do well in this tournament so we can get some results,” Wright said. “This will prepare us for qualifiers, and then hopefully for the World Cup.”

Richie Williams Names 20-Player Roster For U-17 MNT Camp

CHICAGO (May 2, 2015) – U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Richie Williams has named a 20-player roster for the team’s first domestic training camp of 2015 in East Hanover, New Jersey.

The camp will run from May 2-11, and the team will hold practice at New York Red Bulls’ practice facility. This will mark the first time the team gathers in a full time capacity since it competed at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Honduras earlier this year.

The team finished CONCACAF qualifying with a 3-1-2 record to secure a spot in the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, following a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory over Jamaica on March 15. The 2015 U-17 World Cup will be held from Oct. 17-Nov. 8 in Chile.

The U.S. has qualified for 15 FIFA U-16 or U-17 World Championships. The 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup was the only occurrence wherein the USA did not qualify for the tournament. The USA’s best performance was a fourth-place finish at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand.

U.S. U-17 MNT Roster by Position: Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): William Pulisic (Richmond United; Mechanicsville, Va.), Kevin Silva (Players Development Academy; Bethlehem, Pa.)
DEFENDERS (7): Hugo Arellano (LA Galaxy Academy; Norwalk, Calif.), Matt Constant (Dallas Texans; Carrollton, Tex.), Tanner Dieterich (Real Salt Lake Academy; Nashville, Tenn.), John Nelson (Internationals; Medina, Ohio), Logan Panchot (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; St. Louis Mo.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union Academy; Media, Pa.), Alexis Velela (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls II; Wappinger Falls, N.Y.), George Braima (Columbus Crew Academy; Columbus, Ohio), Eric Calvillo (Real So Cal; Palmdale, Calif.), Terrell Lowe (Portland Timbers Academy; Hillsboro, Ore.), Matthew Olosunde (New York Red Bulls Academy; Trenton, N.J.), Alejandro Zendejas (FC Dallas; El Paso, Tex.)
FORWARDS (5): Pierre da Silva (Orlando City SC Academy; Port Chester, N.Y.), Mckinze Gaines (Lonestar SC; Austin, Tex.), Josh Perez (Unattached; La Habra, Calif.), Brandon Vazquez (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Haji Wright (New York Cosmos; Los Angeles, Calif.)

Roster Notes:

  • In addition to the matches during CONCACAF qualifying, the U-17s have played four international matches in 2015. The U.S. split a two-game set against Panama on Feb. 2 and 4, then showcased a strong offensive display with a 5-2 victory against Bermuda on Friday, Feb. 20, followed by a 4-0 win in a rematch two days later.
  • Fifteen players from this roster were a part of the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship roster
  • Josh Perez scored four goals and tallied an assist for the U.S. in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship.
  • Goalkeeper William Pulisic started in all six games of that tournament.
  • Perez has scored six goals in 2015, the most of any U-17 MNT player. He also boasts a roster-leading three assists on the year
  • Haji Wright is the most experienced player of the group having earned 34-career caps with the U-17 Men’s National Team
  • Wright was the leading goal scorer for the U-17s last year with 18 goals in 22 matches and was a nominee for the 2014 U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year award.
  • Much of this U-17 MNT roster played a big role in the USA’s 17-7-3 international campaign in 2014. Matt Constant, Terrell Lowe, Auston Trusty and Brandon Vazquez joined the team in 2015
  • Fourteen players from this roster were a part of the team that earned a runner-up finish in the 2014 Nike Friendlies.
  • Nineteen of the 20 players have ties to the Development Academy

Quote Sheet: U-17 MNT Ecstatic about Punching World Cup Ticket

2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship Quote Sheet
USA 0, JAM 0; USA wins penalty shootout 5-4
March 15, 2015

U-17 MNT head coach RICHIE WILLIAMS

On qualifying for the World Cup after the penalty kick shootout:
"My thoughts are, ‘We qualified for the World Cup.’ That’s what we came here to do. I thought it was a great tournament. I thought we did very well, and I’m extremely proud of our players. They work extremely hard, they’re a good team. We had a couple setbacks, but they didn’t give up. I thought they played extremely well this evening. Obviously we couldn’t get the goal, but they did a great job in the penalty shootout and we’re going to Chile.”

On if it would have been a disaster had the U.S. not qualified for the World Cup:
"It wouldn’t be a disaster. But our goal was to qualify, so we had faith that we were going to qualify. People do not understand how difficult it is. Again, we were close in the Honduras game, and then the last Jamaica game and then this game reached our goal and got into the tournament, the World Cup. Again I’m extremely proud of the team, extremely proud of the whole group – our staff, everybody that has worked incredibly hard over the year-and-a-half with this group of players. We accomplished what we set out to do, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup. We’re just extremely happy.”

On what Jamaica was able to do to hold the USA scoreless for two matches:
“I think in the first game, in the first half we created six clear chances. We just didn’t take our chances. Probably, overall in the game, we had eight to 10 chances and were not able to finalize. And then, when they got their penalty, they sat back and made it very difficult on us. So the first game, we had chances but we couldn’t score. And in the second game, I thought we created chances also. I thought they sat back and tried to catch us on the counter attack. They have some big, athletic defenders and their goalkeeper who made it difficult. Overall they have a good team that fights hard and works extremely hard. They should be very proud of that. They kept us off the scoreboard tonight, but again, we were able to win on the penalties.”

On what it means to get the U.S. team back to the World Cup after an absence last time around:
“We’re extremely excited. Unfortunately, Honduras beat us last time around, and this time we’re able to go. That was our goal, to qualify for the World Cup. Now we go with all intentions to go and try to win the World Cup.”

On the character of the players and how good it feels to see them so happy:
“I love these guys. They’re great players, they’re great people. We’ve worked together now for a year-and-a-half. I’ve coached some of them even when they were at the U-14s and U-15s and I’ve seen them grow as players and as individuals. They’re not just great players, they’re great people also. They work extremely hard and are talented, and they’ve been very, very successful. We want to continue that over the next six months or so until the World Cup. My message to them is that one day we’ll be seeing them on the U-20s and our senior team, and that they have great careers ahead of them.”

U-17 MNT forward JOSH PEREZ

On qualifying for the World Cup:
"It feels great, it’s so exciting. I think we’ve earned this opportunity to go to Chile, and I think we’ll do really, really well in the World Cup. I think we deserved this spot in the World Cup.”

On the game in general and the team’s mindset:
“From the very first minute, we were very confident, feeling that we were going to win the game. Unfortunately, the goals didn’t come; we were just unlucky. But, we got it to PKs and we knew to trust ourselves and have confidence in all of us. We executed and were able to win and qualify for the World Cup.”

U-17 MNT defender JOHN NELSON

On the team’s emotions after qualifying for the World Cup:
“It’s a great feeling; I still can’t believe what we did. Working for these 18 months up to this moment – we did it and we’re going to the World Cup!”

On the difficulties of the match:
“We had a game plan going into the game to try and get the first goal, but that didn’t happen. We were unfortunately not able to score a goal, but we grinded it out and won in PKs.”

On what the last 18 months have been like:
“Our families have made all these sacrifices; everyone has made sacrifices by being away from home. We finally got to be in this moment, and we did it. It just feels great.”

U-17 MNT defender DANNY BARBIR

On qualifying for the World Cup:
“This team has been working so hard for the last year-and-a-half, and honestly I think we deserve it. We’ve done so much, from all the trips and camps, we prepared so good for this tournament. We got the result, we’re going to the World Cup.”

On how it was decided that he was taking a penalty kick:
“I told Richie, ‘I’m going third.’ I was so confident in myself; we were all confident in each other. But, I was a forward my whole life, and I was feeling good and confident. It was an unbelievable feeling to be able to help my team out with that goal.”

U-17 MNT forward JOE GALLARDO

On accomplishing the team’s goal in the tournament:
“We’re just really happy that we were able to qualify for the World Cup.  So thankful to God, and so happy that we worked as a team, and in the end, it all paid off.”

On his thoughts about the game:
“It was unfortunate that we couldn’t get a goal in the game, but we were working really hard and never gave up. Thankfully we won in PKs.”

On overcoming the injury and coming back to be part of the team that qualified for the World Cup:
“It’s honestly the best feeling in my life, honestly the best moment.”

U-17 MNT midfielder ALEJANDRO ZENDEJAS

On his thoughts about the game:
“It was a really good game. Jamaica is a really good team, and they made it difficult on us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a goal, but we didn’t stop fighting until the end, so I was happy with our team. And then, we were able to win on PK’s; now we’re going to the World Cup!” 

On the decision about who would take penalty kicks and taking his shot:
“Richie asked us who was confident, and so we raised our hands, and I was one of them. I put the ball down and it took a while to get it settled. When (the referee) blew his whistle, the ball moved. So I stopped and once I saw it wasn’t moving, I shot it. I was kind of off balance but fortunately it went in.”

On how he can maintain his high level of endurance:
“I get it from my brother; he’s the one who pushes me. He’s always been like that, and every time he’d work out he’d always push me to the max.”

U-17 MNT midfielder ERIC CALVILLO

On accomplishing the goal of qualifying for the World Cup:
“We knew we had a great team, a very talented team. Most of us have been together for a long time, so that chemistry really helped. We’ve been preparing for this day – to qualify – for a long time. We wanted to feel this feeling that we’re feeling right now, which is the best feeling in our lives so far. This is what we wanted. This is why we did what we did so that we could qualify for the World Cup.”

U-17 MNT midfielder TYLER ADAMS

On the team’s mentality throughout the match:
“I think we all knew it was going to be a close game after losing to them 1-0 last week. We knew what they were going to do, so we had to adapt our style of play. I think we had the right mentality of just attacking and keeping the ball in their half. The goals didn’t come tonight, but we came to penalties and we had confidence in all of our players and in Will (Pulisic). I think that [belief] had a big impact on how we came out with the win.”

On qualifying for the World Cup:
“There’s no better feeling. I think we became more than friends – we’ve been a family for the past year-and-a-half. We worked so hard for this, all the preparation, and the huge process that everyone’s put into this is unbelievable. I think what we can all take away from this is that we had one job when we came down here, and that was to qualify, and that’s what we did.”

On switching from left back in the last match to holding midfield tonight:
“Richie (Williams) has confidence in me to put me wherever is needed. It gives me a chance to be a versatile player and make an impact, and I’m confident in wherever I play because I practice in the positions a lot.”

U-17 MNT defender ALEXIS VELELA 

On the team’s mindset throughout the match:
“We were just waiting for that goal to come. We did everything from the back to the front to try to get a goal, but it just wouldn’t come. And then going to PKs, we were confident that each one of us was going to do good because we’re good players and we believe in each other.”

On what was going through his mind as he stepped up to take the sixth and final penalty kick:
“There was a lot going through my mind. I was walking up and was like, 'I gotta make this PK.' I wanted to forget about everything and just focus on the PK, and score. And I did. It was such a good feeling."

“And then we got together and we were just confident that Will was going to come up with a big save. When the Jamaican player hit it wide, we just went running up to Will and celebrating because we had made it.”

U-17 MNT Qualify for 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup with Penalty Kick Defeat of Jamaica

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)

Additional Notes:

  • 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 -

Match: 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)
Attendance: TBA
Weather: 84 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary:   1          2          F          PKs
USA                            0          0          0          5
JAM                           0          0          0          4

Penalty Summary:
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)

Lineups:
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

JAM: 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

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Haji Wright (caution)   70th minute
USA – Alexis Velela (caution)            83
JAM – Tajea Brown (caution) 88

Officials:
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

U-17 MNT Handed Rematch with Jamaica for Spot in 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup

CHICAGO (March 12, 2015) – The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team will play Jamaica in a playoff match on Sunday, March 15, at 7 p.m. ET at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship for a chance to earn a berth to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup. The match will be broadcast on FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports Go and Univision Deportes. Fans can also follow on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt using #USAvJAM.

Following the completion of group stage play, the four teams that finished second and third in their respective groups were reseeded and will now need a playoff win to secure the last two CONCACAF spots in the U-17 World Cup.

The four teams advancing to the playoffs are Canada (3-1-1; 10 points, plus-4 goal differential), Costa Rica (3-1-1; 10 points, plus-8), Jamaica (3-1-1; 10 points, plus-4) and the United States (3-1-1; 10 points, plus-9). Because all four teams finished with the same amount of points and not all of them faced each other, the first playoff tiebreaker used for reseeding was goal differential in all group matches. Because two teams were tied on goal differential, the No. 3 and 4 seeds were determined based on total goals scored in the tournament.

Playoff Stage Reseeding
1. USA
2. Costa Rica
3. Canada
4. Jamaica

By virtue of winning their groups, Group A winner Honduras and Group B winner Mexico secured automatic berths to the FIFA U-17 World Cup and will play each other in the title match of the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship on Sunday, March 15, at 10 p.m. ET. As the No. 1 seed, the USA will play Jamaica, the No. 4 seed, setting up a rematch between the two countries following the USA’s 1-0 loss on March 11. No. 2 seed Costa Rica and No. 3 seed Canada will play for the other World Cup spot in the earlier playoff game at 4 p.m. ET.

Quote Sheet: U-17 MNT Regroup, Look Toward Sunday's World Cup Qualifying Play-In Game

2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship Quote Sheet
USA 0, JAM 1
March 11, 2015

U-17 MNT head coach RICHIE WILLIAMS

On the loss to Jamaica:
"We’re obviously very disappointed to lose the match in the way that we lost it, to lose any match. As we said, every team is competitive. With the amount of chances that we had, and didn’t score, and then to give up the one goal, we’re disappointed.”

On if the U.S. became unsettled after Jamaica scored:
"Yes, probably, because they figured they needed a goal. Maybe going forward too quickly and trying to get a goal right away when we had time left, so, possibly. We still had some chances and we just didn’t get it done.”

On the team not having the same possession as previous games, and if the physical nature of Jamaica affected the USA:
“I thought we had plenty of possession in the first half, and we had chances. That’s when you need to score, and we didn’t do that. In terms of the physicality, I think we were able to create opportunities and didn’t take the opportunities. The physicality part, if we take our chances early then we win the game.”

On how to regroup the team for the match on Sunday against a difficult opponent:
“They have another opportunity. With the format the way it is, we have a game on Sunday, and it’s for everything to go to the World Cup. So you better be motivated. We’ll regroup. We have three days until the game to get everyone back to full fitness. We’ll approach the game like we would any game and get out there and work to get the win.”

On the team starting the tournament strong but, coming up short the last two matches:
“I thought the game against Honduras was a positive result. Playing Honduras in Honduras and you’re able to get a draw, that’s very positive, and I thought we played well. And I thought we played well in the first half today against Jamaica. It’s just, again, you need to take your chances. You have to take responsibility in the final third and score, and we didn’t do that. For the large majority of the tournament we’ve played well. And today, no excuse, we just didn’t get the job done.”

On failing to get the direct berth to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup and now needing to win Sunday’s play-in match:
“Of course we wanted the first spot. That was our plan all along. And that was our approach, to win the group. Unfortunately that was not the case. Like I said, we have the opportunity due to the format of the tournament to have one more game and we’ll approach it in a way to go out and win the game.”

U.S. U-17 MNT defender MATTHEW OLOSUNDE

On what the team can take away from the match:
"One thing for sure we can take away is that the chances we get in a game, we can’t take them for granted. We need to capitalize on our opportunities.”

On having another chance to qualify for the World Cup on Sunday:
“We’re going to try to take these three days that we have to get mentally prepared and physically as well, to try to recover as much as possible and, come out flying for our next game.”

On what the players said to each other after the loss:
“Just to keep our heads up, don’t look down, and look towards our next game. We have to leave this game behind us.”

U.S. U-17 MNT defender TYLER ADAMS

On the team’s mindset after a disappointing result:
“We tell each other to keep our heads up. We’ve gone through mental conditioning and, that taught us a lot. We’ll take the experience but, we have to forget about the game and move on so we can focus on our next game.”

On how the team will prepare for whomever the opponent is on Sunday:
“The next three days are all about recovery. We have great trainers that will get everyone ready. We have to stay positive. We came to this tournament for one reason and that’s to make it to the World Cup, and we still have a chance to do that on Sunday.”

U-17 MNT Falls 1-0 to Jamaica, Must Win Sunday Playoff Game to Qualify for FIFA U-17 World Cup

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (March 11, 2015) – The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team will need to go through a playoff match to earn a berth to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup after Jamaica defeated the USA 1-0 at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship.

Nicholas Nelson’s 57th-minute penalty kick was the difference maker in a tight match. Jamaica and the USA are level with 3-1-1 records and 10 points, but Jamaica takes the first-place lead based on the head-to-head tiebreaker. 

Honduras (2-0-2, 8 points) and Guatemala (1-2-1, 4 points) play later Wednesday night to cap off Group A play. Honduras would move ahead of both Jamaica and the USA if it defeats Guatemala. The Group A and Group B winners of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship earn automatic berths to the FIFA U-17 World Cup. 

Two other CONCACAF teams will advance to the World Cup by virtue of playoff wins. The USA will play either at 4 or 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 15, based on the seeding of the second- and third-place teams for each group. 

Earlier Wednesday, Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago played to a 2-2 draw in Group A action in a matchup of two teams that already had been eliminated from playoff contention. Cuba moved to 0-1-4 (4 points) and Trinidad & Tobago finished 1-4-0 (1 point). 

In Group B, the field includes first-place Mexico (3-0-1, 10 points), second-place Canada (3-0-1, 10 points) and third-place Costa Rica (3-1-0, 9 points). All three teams have advanced to at least the playoff stage of the tournament and resume group play Thursday. 

Goal Scoring Rundown:
JAM – Nicholas Nelson (penalty), 57th minute: Jamaica’s Donovan Dawkins crossed from the right side and USA center back Hugo Arellano was called for a handball in the box as the ball struck his left arm. Arellano, with his second yellow card in the tournament, is suspended for the USA’s final match. Donovan Dawkins took the subsequent penalty kick, slotting a right-footed, rolling shot toward the right of the frame. USA goalkeeper Will Pulisic had anticipated the shot going the opposite direction. USA 0, JAM 1 (FINAL) 

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
JAM – Jahmali White, 4th minute: Shortly after a Jamaica set piece chance, the USA went on the attack when Christian Pulisic provided an outlet pass to Josh Perez on the right. Perez crossed perfectly with his left foot to lead Alejandro Zendejas. White came off of his line to make a save with his legs. 

JAM – Jahmali White, 7th minute: Midfielder Eric Calvillo made a surprising run onto the ball from about 40 yards out and struck it well with a shot headed toward the left of the frame. White did enough to get a glove on the ball as the shot also ricocheted off of the left post. 

JAM – Ajeanie Talbott, 25th minute: Christian Pulisic’s through ball opened a strong scoring opportunity for Alejandro Zendejas behind the Jamaica defense. As Zendejas aggressively rushed toward the six-yard box with a shot from the right side, Talbott’s help defense bailed his team out as he deflected it away at the last second.

USA – Will Pulisic, 33rd minute: Shortly after Jamaica goalkeeper Jahmali White’s long boot toward the right side, Deshane Beckford ripped a shot from the far right of the box toward the far left post. Pulisic stretched to his right for a big save in the game’s best scoring chance to that point. 

JAM – Jahmali White, 42nd minute: The goalkeeping continued to be the focal point in the first half when Jamaica’s defense made an errant outlet pass. USA forward Josh Perez stepped up well for the interception and dribbled up the right side. He cut the corner to the end line, where he dished to Alejandro Zendejas. Zendejas shot left-footed, aiming for the left of the frame, and White parried the ball enough to send the shot wide left for a U.S. corner kick. 

JAM – Ajeanie Talbott, 52nd minute: For the second time in the match, Talbott’s recovery defense proved vital. The USA’s Haji Wright started an attack, dishing to Christian Pulisic in the middle who then led Alejandro Zendejas with a well-placed pass straight up the field. Zendejas headed in toward the left of the box and Talbott slid in to tackle the ball away for a USA throw-in. 

Next on the Schedule:
The U-17 MNT will prepare for a playoff match at either 4 or 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 15, at Estadio Francisco Morazán in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Broadcast information: FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports GO, Univision Deportes
Social: Twitter (@ussoccer_ynt; @ussoccer_esp

Additional Notes:

  • The U-17 MNT is 6-2-1 in international play this year.
  • The USA moved to 3-2-1 all-time against Jamaica in this tournament’s history.
  • Head coach Richie Williams’ starting lineup included a 4-3-3 formation, anchored by goalkeeper Will Pulisic and a defensive line of Matthew Olosunde at right back, Tyler Adams at left back and center backs Hugo Arellano and Alexis Velela. Pulisic and Olosunde have started in every qualifying match, while Arellano earned his fourth tournament start and Adams his second. Arellano wore the captain’s armband.
  • The midfield trio featured Luca de la Torre, Eric Calvillo and the return of Christian Pulisic in an attacking role. Pulisic was injured during the USA’s win against Guatemala on March 5 and was an available bench option against Honduras but did not see the pitch.
  • Up front, Alejandro Zendejas played in the middle, Haji Wright on the left and Josh Perez on the right. All three players earned their fourth starts in five qualifying games.
  • In a three-minute span, the USA made its first two subs midway through the second half, both focused on the attack when the team was down a goal. In the 69th minute, the USA made its first sub as Joe Gallardo replaced Wright. Then in the 72nd minute, McKinze Gaines entered for Perez.
  • The U.S. made its final sub in the 76th minute with Brandon Vazquez joining the attack to replace Velela.
  • Arellano, who was called for the handball in the box that led to Jamaica’s lone goal, picked up his second yellow card in the tournament and is suspended for Sunday’s playoff match.
  • The USA was shut out for the second time this year and the first time at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. The only other occasion was a 2-0 loss to Panama on Feb. 4 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. 

-U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Match Report- 

Match: U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team vs. Jamaica U-17 Men’s National Team
Date: March 11, 2015
Competition: 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship; Group A
Venue: Estadio Francisco Morazan
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (5 p.m. Local)
Attendance: 1,288
Weather: 84 degrees, clear 

Scoring Summary:   1          2          F
USA                            0          0          0
JAM                            0          1          1 

JAM – Nicholas Nelson (Penalty kick)           57th minute 

Lineups:
USA: 1-Will Pulisic, 2-Matthew Olosunde , 4-Alexis Velela (19-Brandon Vazquez, 76), 5-Hugo Arellano (capt.), 18-Tyler Adams; 6-Eric Calvillo, 10-Christian Pulisic, 8-Luca de la Torre; (13-McKinze Gaines, 72), 20-Alejandro Zendejas, 11-Josh Perez 7-Haji Wright (9-Joe Gallardo, 69)
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Kevin Silva, 3-John Nelson, 14-Tanner Dieterich, 15- Danny Barbir, 16-Tommy McCabe, 17-Pierre Da Silva
Head coach: Richie Williams 

JAM: 13-Jahmali Waite, 2-Javian Brown, 5-Jahwani Hinds (capt.), 17-Ajeanie Talbott , 6-Fabian Grant, 11-Zaire Bartley, 15-Deshane Beckford (19-Nathaniel Adamolekun, 46), 16-Jahlanie Hammond (14-Hakim Williams, 76), 9-Nicholas Nelson, 8-Tajea Brown (4-Shandel Senior, 83), 3-Donovan Dawkins
Substitutions Not Used: 1-Akeem Chambers, 7-Peter Vassell, 10-Alex Marshall, 12-Antoniel Mullings, 18-Chris-Andrew Dixon, 20-Demar James
Head coach: Andrew Edwards 

Stats Summary: USA / JAM
Shots: 13 / 10
Shots on Goal: 3 / 3
Saves: 2 / 3
Corner Kicks: 7 / 4
Fouls: 7 / 14
Offside: 3 / 0 

Misconduct Summary:
JAM – Fabian Grant (caution)            44th minute
USA – Hugo Arellano (caution)          56th
JAM – Nicholas Nelson (caution)       86th 

Officials:
Referee: Ricardo Montero (CRC)
Assistant Referee 1: Juan Mora (CRC)
Assistant Referee 2: Miguel Paredes (MEX)
Fourth Official: Cesar Ramos (MEX) 

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: TBA

U-17 MNT Controls Fate in Group A Finale against Jamaica

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team, coming off a 2-2 draw against Honduras, heads into the final Group A match of the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship with a two-point, first-place lead. A USA victory against Jamaica in Wednesday’s group finale would earn the top spot in the group and a berth to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile.

The USA and Jamaica kick off at 7 p.m. ET at Estadio Francisco Morazán in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The match is live on FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports GO and Univision Deportes.

The U-17 MNT could earn first place in the group with a draw against Jamaica, even if Honduras defeats Guatemala. The USA would need to maintain its superior goal differential, which is currently at plus-10, compared to Honduras’ plus-4.

The CONCACAF U-17 Championship group winners earn an automatic berth to the FIFA U-17 World Cup and advance to the title game of qualifying on Sunday, March 15, at Estadio Francisco Morazán. (Please note: The game originally was scheduled to be played at Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano.)

The second- and third-place finishers of each group will advance to the tournament’s Playoff stage, where they will be reseeded and compete for the final two World Cup berths out of CONCACAF.

The top three Group A teams have all clinched at least a spot in the Playoff stage of qualifying, with the USA on top at 3-0-1 (10 points), followed by Honduras (2-0-2, 8 points) and Jamaica (2-1-1, 7 points). Even if Jamaica falls to the USA and fourth-place Guatemala (1-2-1, 4 points) defeats Honduras to tie in points, Jamaica holds the tiebreaker for earning a 2-1 win against Guatemala earlier in the tournament.

The USA is coming off a 2-2 draw against host Honduras in a wild affair. After falling behind early, Luca de la Torre and Josh Perez scored a goal apiece to take a 2-1 lead heading into halftime. However, Honduras’ David Sanchez scored an 88th-minute equalizer to put a hold on the USA’s quest for a World Cup berth.

Jamaica recently stormed past Trinidad & Tobago for a 5-1 victory. Second-half sub Tajea Brown led the charge with three goals in a 20-minute span, while Peter Vassell and Nathaniel Adamolekum scored first-half goals for Jamaica.

Here is a look at the USA’s history against Jamaica in qualifying at this age group:

  • The USA is 3-1-1 all-time against Jamaica in this tournament.
  • The U.S. first faced Jamaica at the 1999 CONCACAF U-17 Tournament on Feb. 28 in Group A play, resulting in a scoreless draw. Jamaica held off the USA to win the group, so the U.S. had to play Group B runner-up El Salvador in a two-game series to determine the third CONCACAF berth for the World Cup. The U.S. would win both games to advance.
  • At the 2001 CONCACAF U-17 Tournament, the USA rallied to defeat Jamaica 2-1 on April 18 in group play. Santino Quaranta’s second-half penalty kick tied the score at 1-1, and Chad Marshall scored the winner in the 76th minute.
  • The USA blanked Jamaica 3-0 on March 5, 2003, in the group stage of the CONCACAF U-17 Tournament. Corey Ash, John DiRaimondo and Freddy Adu each tallied a goal in the USA’s tournament opener.
  • Jamaica earned its lone win against the USA in Group B play at the 2007 CONCACAF U-17 Tournament, as the U.S. dropped a 3-2 decision on May 4. The USA built a 2-0 lead on first-half goals by Sheanon Williams and Alex Nimo. But Jamaica responded with three late goals, including John Ross Doyley’s penalty kick winner in stoppage time.
  • The U.S. and Jamaica last met up at the 2011 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, with the USA earning a 2-0 victory in the semifinals on Feb. 25. Marc Pelosi scored off of an Alfred Koroma assist, and then Pelosi set up an Andrew Oliver tally in second-half stoppage time. The USA advanced to the title game, where it defeated Canada 2-0 in overtime.

Quote Sheet: U-17 MNT Takes a Point from Honduras in Hostile Environment

2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship Quote Sheet
USA 2, HON 2
March 8, 2015

U-17 MNT head coach RICHIE WILLIAMS

On the tie with Honduras:
"Obviously it was a very tough match, I think, for both teams. Both teams are very good teams, competed at a very high level. It was an entertaining match. At the end of the day we both came away with a draw, one point each. We’re happy with a draw. It still keeps us in first place in the group, and we move forward. Like we said from the beginning, it’s one game at a time. We’ll play a very good Jamaica team on Wednesday, hopefully get a positive result and move on.”

On if he expected a draw against Honduras:
"A draw against Honduras is a good result. It’s not easy to come into Honduras and play an international match and get a positive result. All you have to watch is from the senior team down – it’s not an easy place to play and Honduras is a good team. Obviously we were trying to win the game, but also know that one point – a draw – is also a good result.”

On difficulties that Honduras presented compared to previous opponents:
“Well, you’re in a stadium with I don’t know how many thousands of Honduran fans screaming and yelling. We knew in the second half Honduras was going to put a lot of pressure on us. They played a lot of long balls and they made the game difficult for us just by playing long balls. Again, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. You can’t control the game all the time, especially playing an international match on the road. And again I thought our guys did really well. We went down 1-0, to come back 2-1. We knew at the end of the game Honduras was going to put us under pressure. They got a goal and it ended up in a tie.”

On what he took away from his team, and what he took away from Honduras:
“I’m very proud of our team. I thought they did a great job - being down a goal, and coming back 2-1. They battled, played very hard, and left everything out on the field. And again, the score line read 2-2, so I think that means it was an even game. That’s the way we look at it. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and it came out 2-2 so both teams take a point.”

On if playing in front of the largest crowd of the tournament affected his team:
“No. We’ve played in front of crowds, we’ve played all over the world in international tournaments and we have had experiences like that. It was a lot of emotion for Honduras. I think the crowd obviously pushed Honduras, gave them a lot of energy. So that obviously makes it more difficult on us to deal with Honduras. It was a great crowd. They were loud, they were into the game and they had a lot of energy. I thought it was an even game.”

On how he visualizes the last matchday for the group:
“We’re going to play Jamaica and we’re going to try to win the game. That’s what we envision the United States is going to do. We’re going to play a very good Jamaica team. It should be a competitive match and our goal is to go out and get a positive result.”

 On if Jamaica can cause the U.S. problems in the final group match:
“It’s soccer, so anybody can beat anybody on a given day. All the teams are competitive. We’re playing a very good Jamaica team, and yes Jamaica can still win the group. And Honduras can win the group. But we’re still in first place in the group so we can win the group also. That’s our focus, to win the group.”

U.S. U-17 MNT defender ALEXIS VELELA

On his takeaway from the match:
"I think we did a great job coming back from 1-0 to [be] winning 2-1, and then trying to keep that result. It was obviously disappointing that we couldn’t get the win, but now we have a chance against Jamaica to get to the World Cup.”

On the effort tonight:
“Throughout every game, we’ve put in all we’ve got. Every starting 11 we’ve put out there has given it their best. Today, I felt we did the same thing but, we just didn’t get the result we wanted.”

On the crowd:
“It was crazy, so many people out there. But we’ve been so used to playing teams like that, in their home with their crowd. I feel like we did a pretty good job.”

U.S. U-17 MNT defender JOHN NELSON

On going down early and being able to come back to take the lead:
“We know we have to stay positive, even if they go up 1-0. We did good to get the 2-1 lead, but they got a goal at the end to tie us. But it was a good result, I thought.” 

On playing in front of a large crowd:
"I haven’t played in front of a crowd like that. It was probably the loudest crowd I’ve heard in my life, the toughest crowd. We didn’t let it get to us, we just stayed focused. I don’t think it affected us.”

On being at the top of the group heading to the final group game against Jamaica:
“We just have to beat Jamaica and we’re through to the World Cup. We have to come out strong. We can’t take them lightly. If we win we have our ticket to the World Cup.”

U-17 MNT Draws Honduras 2-2 at 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (March 8, 2015) – In a wild match that included leads for both sides, the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team played Honduras to a 2-2 draw in Group A at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship at Estadio Francisco Morazán. 

After falling behind early, the USA’s Luca de la Torre and Josh Perez tallied goals to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead heading into halftime. But in the closing minutes, Honduras’ David Sanchez salvaged an equalizer and forced the USA to look to Wednesday to clinch a berth for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup. 

Shortly after the equalizer, Honduras’ Jorge Alvarez was shown a straight red card for fouling U.S. forward Brandon Vazquez. However, the USA was unable to capitalize on the subsequent free kick and the match ended in a stalemate. 

With the draw, the U.S. (3-0-1, 10 points) maintains its two-point advantage over Honduras (2-0-2, 8 points) in the Group A standings. The USA wraps up the group stage against Jamaica at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 11, at Estadio Francisco Morazán. The game is live on FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports GO and Univision Deportes. 

A victory against Jamaica would give the USA first place in the group and an automatic berth to the FIFA U-17 World Cup. A draw also could potentially be enough for the U.S. to advance even if Honduras wins its final match against Guatemala, pending the USA maintaining its goal differential advantage. 

Earlier Sunday in Group A action, Jamaica defeated Trinidad & Tobago 5-1. Jamaica moved to 2-1-1 (7 points) while Trinidad & Tobago fell to 0-4-0 (0 points). Guatemala (1-2-1, 4 points) and Cuba (0-1-3, 3 points) played to a scoreless draw prior to the USA-Honduras game. 

Goal Scoring Rundown:
HON – Victor Matamoros, 16th minute: With heavy back-and-forth play in the early going but no real chances during the first 15 minutes, Honduras was first to strike on a set piece chance. Jose Raul Galeano delivered a right-footed corner kick from the left side that the USA defense tried to head out of danger, but Honduras right back Matamoros collected on the right side of the box. After a quick chest trap, he volleyed a shot past U.S. captain Hugo Arellano and goalkeeper Will Pulisic into the left side of the net. USA 0, HON 1 

USA – Luca de la Torre (Josh Perez), 23rd minute: The U.S. responded well after the Honduras goal when Joe Gallardo played a through ball to Perez on the left side of the box. Perez worked the ball toward the end line and crossed into the six-yard box to de la Torre, whose cheeky, left-footed back heel tap-in went into the net. It was de la Torre’s first goal of the year and second of his U-17 MNT career. Perez has three assists this year. USA 1, HON 1 

USA – Josh Perez, 32nd minute: The U.S. once again worked the ball through the left side off of a John Nelson throw-in to Luca de la Torre, who set up Haji Wright near the end line. Wright’s pass was deflected by two Honduras defenders – first Denil Maldonado and then Gabriel Ortiz – before making its way to Perez on the right side of the box. Perez made the most of Honduras’ inability to intercept, slotting his shot into the upper right corner of the net for his fourth goal of the tournament and team-leading sixth goal in 2015. USA 2, HON 1 

HON – David Sanchez (Jorge Alvarez), 88th minute: In the waning minutes, Honduras’s Alvarez crossed the ball in from the left side and Sanchez went up for the header in the six-yard box. The ball actually struck Sanchez’s right shoulder, and it caromed into the left of the frame past U.S. goalkeeper Will Pulisic. USA 2, HON 2 (FINAL) 

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
HON – Erick Arias, 46th minute: Just seconds into the second half, U.S. striker Joe Gallardo attacked from the right side of the box and Arias made a key block on the shot to surrender a USA corner kick. 

HON – Michael Perello, 46th minute: Off of a corner kick from the right side, Josh Perez connected with USA defender Hugo Arellano, who headed it toward the net. The ball hit the ground near Alejandro Zendejas but was not redirected by the midfielder. Perello stayed focused on the trajectory of the bouncing header and batted the ball away from the area. 

USA – Will Pulisic, 77th minute: Darixon Vuelto sped with the ball from the midfield and had some open space for a shot as he eyed the left of the frame. Pulisic confidently dove to his right for the save. Honduras could not muster an additional scoring chance with the ensuing corner kick. 

Next on the Schedule:
The U-17 MNT prepares for its fifth and final Group A match against Jamaica at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 11, at Estadio Francisco Morazán in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Broadcast information: FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports GO, Univision DeportesSocial: Twitter (@ussoccer_ynt; @ussoccer_esp

Additional Notes:

  • The U-17 MNT is now 6-1-1 in international play this year.
  • The USA moved to 7-1-1 all-time against Honduras in this tournament’s history.
  • Head coach Richie Williams’ starting lineup featured 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 the center back pairing of Hugo Arellano and Alexis Velela.
  • The midfield trio included Luca de la Torre in an attacking role, Eric Calvillo and Alejandro Zendejas.
  • Up front, Joe Gallardo played centrally and Haji Wright and Josh Perez played on the wings. All three players earned their third starts in four games at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship.
  • Arellano, who started the opening two games against Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago, wore the captain’s armband for the third time in the tournament.
  • Will Pulisic and Olosunde are the only U-17 MNT players to have started in all four games in qualifying, and Pulisic is the only USA player to log the full 360 minutes.
  • Midfielder Christian Pulisic, who had started in the first three games of qualifying, was an available bench option after taking a knock to his left knee in the first half against Guatemala on March 5. He is day-to-day.
  • Will Pulisic moves to 5-0-1 this year.
  • The USA used three subs in the second half In the 67th minute, Tyler Adams made his fourth appearance in the tournament when he entered for de la Torre. Forward Brandon Vazquez made his third appearance in qualifying, replacing Gallardo in the 73rd minute. In the 82nd minute, Pierre Da Silva replaced Nelson and Adams dropped to the left back position.

- U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team Match Report - 

Match: U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team vs. Honduras U-17 Men’s National Team
Date: March 8, 2015
Competition: 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship
Venue: Estadio Francisco Morazán; San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (8 p.m. local)
Attendance: 13,511
Weather: 77 degrees; Partly cloudy, humid 

Scoring Summary:   1 2 F
USA                            2 0 2
HON                            1 1 2 

HON – Victor Matamoros                               16th minute
USA – Luca de la Torre (Josh Perez)            23
USA – Josh Perez                                          32
HON – David Sanchez (Jorge Alvarez)         88 

Lineups: 
USA: 1-Will Pulisic; 2-Matthew Olosunde, 4-Alexis Velela, 5-Hugo Arellano (capt.), 3-John Nelson (17-Pierre Da Silva, 82); 6-Eric Calvillo, 8-Luca de la Torre (18-Tyler Adams, 67), 20-Alejandro Zendejas; 11-Josh Perez, 9-Joe Gallardo (19-Brandon Vazquez 73), 7-Haji Wright
Subs Not Used: 10-Christian Pulisic, 12-Kevin Silva, 13-McKinze Gaines, 14-Tanner Dieterich, 15-Danny Barbir, 16-Thomas McCabe  
Head Coach: Richie Williams

HON: 12-Michael Perello; 2-Victor Matamoros, 5-Dylan Andrade (capt.) (9-Darixon Vuelto, 46), 17-Denil Maldonado, 19-Gabriel Ortiz; 7-Foslyn Grant, 8-Erick Arias, 6-Jorge Alvarez, 15-Jose Raul Galeano, 16-Jeancarlo Vargas (14-David Sanchez, 80); 13-Wisdom Quaye (11-Oslin Sevilla, 71)
Subs Not Used: 1-Jose Aguiluz, 3-Wesly Decas, 10-Oscar Castro, 18-Kevin Castro, 20-Darwin Diego
Head Coach: Jose Valladares 

Stats Summary: USA / HON
Shots: 7 / 18
Shots on Goal: 3 / 5
Saves: 3 / 1
Corner Kicks: 7 / 5
Fouls: 16 / 19
Offside: 0 / 0  

Misconduct Summary: 
HON –Denil Maldonado (caution)                  38th minute
USA – Joe Gallardo (caution)                         44
USA – Hugo Arellano (caution)                     65
HON – Jose Raul Galeano (caution)               85
HON – Jorge Alvarez (ejection)                     90
HON – Erick Arias (caution)                          90+1 

Officials: 
Referee: Cesar Ramos (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Miguel Paredes (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Juan Mora (CRC)
Fourth Official: Ricardo Montero (CRC) 

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Luca de la Torre

U-17 MNT Faces Honduras with Chance to Clinch World Cup Berth

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team is in the driver’s seat in Group A of the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. With two group matches remaining, the USA can clinch first place in the group and earn a 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup berth with a victory against Honduras.

The USA and Honduras square off at 10 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 8, at Estadio Francisco Morazán in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The game will be live on FOX Soccer Plus, FOX Sports GO and Univision Deportes.

The U.S. is 3-0-0 (9 points) in the group, followed by Honduras (2-0-1, 7 points). The tournament’s Group A and B winners will advance to the March 15 final and receive automatic qualification to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile from Oct. 17-Nov. 8.

The U-17 MNT is coming off a 4-1 victory against Guatemala on Thursday, highlighted by a first-half hat trick from Josh Perez. Honduras most recently earned a 2-0 win against Trinidad & Tobago with second-half goals from Dylan Andrade and Wisdom Quaye.

Here is a look at the USA’s history against Honduras in this tournament:

  • The USA has faced Honduras eight previous times in this tournament, which – heading into qualifying – ties for the most games (along with Trinidad & Tobago) against a Group A opponent. The U.S. is 7-1-0 all-time.
  • The U.S. opened the series with seven consecutive victories against Honduras, starting with a 2-0 win on Sept. 1, 1983, in the semifinals stage of the CONCACAF U-16 Championship.
  • At the 1987 CONCACAF U-16 Championship, the USA faced Honduras twice, first posting a 2-1 win on Feb. 19 in the preliminary stage and then a 4-3 win in the final round of the tournament on Feb. 24.
  • The USA’s most decisive victory against Honduras was at the 1988 CONCACAF U-16 Championship, a 7-0 win on Nov. 14 in Group A play.
  • The U.S. also posted group wins at the 1992 CONCACAF U-16 Championship (2-1 on Aug. 12), the 1999 CONCACAF U-17 Tournament (3-0 on Feb. 26) and the 2009 CONCACAF U-17 Championship (3-0 on April 25). The 2009 victory, which featured a Nicholas Palodichuk brace, a goal and assist by Jack McInerney, and two assists from Joe Gyau, clinched the top spot in Group A.
  • The USA most recently faced Honduras at the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. After posting back-to-back victories to win its group, the USA was eliminated from the tournament with a 3-1 loss on April 14 at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama. Joel Soñora scored the USA’s lone goal to tie the score at 1-1, but Honduras responded with two goals as the U.S. was unable to advance to the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the first time in the program’s history.

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