VEVERKOVA, Czech Republic (Aug. 25, 2018) - For the third time in six years, the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team won the International Youth Tournament of Vaclav Jezek, outlasting Japan 4-2 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw in the Final.
“I am happy for them that they played very well, took advantage of the experience and went back to their clubs as champions,” said Tab Ramos, the U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director who served as U-18 head coach for the first time.
After topping Group A with convincing wins against the United Arab Emirates (2-1) and Bulgaria (5-0) before finishing with a 1-1 draw against hosts Czech Republic, the U.S. faced reigning tournament champions Japan in the final.
It was a tough final for a U.S. team that was perhaps caught off guard by Japan’s approach to the game. “Japan has been known for being a technical team that builds out of the back,” Ramos explained. “Against us in the final, they never took a chance building play at all. They just played long balls over the top to their two big target strikers.”
Despite getting a different look from the opposition, the U.S. struck first for the fourth straight game - with three of those goals coming in the first 14 minutes. Ulysses Llanez headed home a deflected cross at the back post to open the scoring at the 13-minute mark. It was a reward for Llanez, who registered three assists in the Group Stage.
The U.S. kept its lead until the 73rd minute when Yamazaki Ryosuke equalized from close range following a clever through ball by Matsumoto Nagi.
With the score tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes, the match went directly to a shootout.
Llanez scored the first penalty with Marcelo Palomino and Leo Sepulveda also converting their spot kicks. Meanwhile, U.S. ‘keeper David Ochoa saved the first and third penalties from Oda Yutaro and Ryosuke, respectively.
That set the stage for Thomas Roberts to win the tournament for the U.S. at the end of the fourth round. Roberts stepped up to the spot and used his left foot to drill the ball into the bottom corner to seal the victory for the U.S. with a round to spare.
The win marks the U-18 MNT’s third straight win in the tournament (2014, 2016, 2018) considering that the U.S. alternates between bringing its U-17s and U-18s to the showpiece event in the Czech Republic every year.
"We have competed in this tournament five years in a row and have won it every other year," Ramos said. "Hopefully we can win it again next year. The tournament is Under-18 every year but since we work on two-year cycles we have to alternate between our U-17s and our U-18s. Japan was the defending champion from last year."
While many players had strong showings at the International Youth Tournament of Vaclav Jezek, Ramos signaled out newcomer Folarin Balogun and 2018 U.S. Soccer Development Academy West Conference Player of the Year Llanez.
"We are always looking at the performances of players and considering moving players up but have to consider many different factors," Ramos said. "We don’t want players bouncing back and forth between teams, it makes it difficult on the players and on their clubs. I particularly thought that Folarin Balogun played extremely well for being with us for the first time and that Ulysses Llanez should have received the best player of the tournament award."
- U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. U-18 Men’s National Team vs. Japan (2001’s)
Date: Saturday, August 25, 2018
Competition: Vaclav Jezek Tournament – Final
Venue: Stadium SCM Bavlna; Veverkova, Czechia
Kickoff: 4 p.m. (CEST)
Weather: 78 degrees; cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F PK
USA 1 0 1 4
JPN 0 1 1 2
USA – Ulysses Llanez (Roberto Hategan) 13th minute
JPN – Yamazaki Ryosuke (Matsumoto Nagi) 73
USA: Ulysses Llanez (goal), Marcelo Palomino (goal), Leo Sepulveda (goal), Thomas Roberts (goal)
JPN: Oda Yutaro (save), Nakamura Takumi (goal), Yamazaki Ryosuke (save), Sumi Seiga (goal)
USA: 1-David Ochoa; 17-Nathan Harriel, 2-Julian Araujo, 15-Leo Sepulveda, 14-Julian Hinojosa; 6-Taylor Booth (capt.) (13-Aidan Morris, 76), 8-Indiana Vassilev, 7-Thomas Roberts; 9-Roberto Hategan (10-Marcelo Palomino, 53), 18-Folarin Balogun, 11-Ulysses Llanez
Subs not used: 3-Nico Benalcazar, 12-Kristopher Shakes, 16-Justin Haak, 19-Bryan Reynolds, 20-Gabe Segal, 21-Axel Picazo
Head Coach: Tab Ramos
JPN: 12-Suzuki Zion; 19-Hata Taiga (20-Sumi Seiga, 81), 6-Inoue Miki, 5-Baba Seiya (capt.), 4-Bangnagande Kashif, 18-Tsukui Takumi (9-Takada Soya, 81), 16-Matsumoto Nagi, 7-Matsuoka Daiki (2-Nakamura Takumi, 81), 15-Matsuhashi Yuan (8-Oda Yutaro, 64); 10-Sakuragawa Soromon, 13-Kuribara Ibrahim Junior (11-Yamazaki Ryosuke, 58)
Subs Not Used: 1-Ueda Itsuki, 3-Kimura Seiji, 14-Someno Itsuki, 17-Yamamoto Rihito
Head Coach: Ikeuchi Yutaka
Stats Summary: USA / JPN
Shots: 10 / 10
Shots on Goal: 8 / 3
Saves: 2 / 7
Fouls: 13 / 14
Corner Kicks: 6 / 8
Offside: 2 / 1
USA – Leo Sepulveda (caution) 24th minute
USA – Taylor Booth (caution) 33
USA – Ulysses Llanez (caution) 67
Assistant Referee: Pelikan Ondrej
Assistant Referee: Polak Jiri
Please note: Match was 90 minutes on natural grass.