-Ben McCormick

The US U-17 national team plays its first match of the 2011 U-17 World Cup tomorrow against the Czech Republic. The US has qualified for every edition of the tournament since it began in 1985. Despite their sterling qualification record, the Americans have only reached the semi-finals once in 1999, with a squad featuring players like Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley. In more recent times, the US has been fairly mediocre, bowing out in the round of 16 in the last two tournaments. The last time the team reached the quarter-finals was 2005. This year's team, however, has the potential to get back to the semi-finals for the first time since that 1999 squad. Key plays like Alejandro Guido, Marc Pelosi and Mario Rodriguez lead the US team which was seeded for the draw alongside host nation Mexico, England, Brazil, Argentina and Germany, fine company to be in by most any standard.

Due to the seed and some high powered play in qualifying, the US squad has some higher expectations than that of the past few World Cups. Much of the responsibility for realizing that potential falls on head coach Wilmer Cabrera who will have to help his squad find some consistency after some bipolarity in qualifying. Despite some brilliant moments at the qualifying tournament in Jamaica, the US needed extra time to defeat El Salvador, a loss which would have seen the Americans miss qualification. Perhaps the best demonstration of the team's Jekyll and Hyde is the final where the match was scoreless after 90 minutes before the Americans exploded for three goals in extra time. Another concern heading into the tournament is co-Golden Boot winner at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship Andrew Oliver leaving the team due to disciplinary reasons at the often criticized Bradenton Academy, home to the US U-17 residency program. Oliver's absence leaves Mario Rodriguez and Alfred Koroma to put the ball in the net, but Los Angeles Galaxy forward Jack McBean could also be called upon to aid the attack.

The strength in this squad lies in the midfield. Alejandro Guido's creativity will be key to the Americans scoring goals, providing a vital link between the defenders and forwards in addition to that attacking innovation only a number ten could have. Rumored Roma target Marc Pelosi used his pace to penetrate defenses throughout qualifying and his knack for finding the net saw him score the winning goal in the scare against El Salvador. FC Cologne youngster Matt Dunn anchors the middle of the park with his passing and ball control. Prized college prospect Esteban Rodriguez rounds out the strong midfield which also has some very reliable reserves in Nico Melo and Andrew Souders.

The defense, responsible for controlling the tempo and passing of the game, is the keystone in any Wilmer Cabrera team. This cycle's squad will rely upon rumored Fulham target Mobi Fehr at center back to do just that. Fehr will be paired with Michigan native Zach Carroll. One of the most exciting prospects on the team is outside back Kellyn Acosta, the youngest player on the squad at the age of 15. Acosta and Nathan Smith, who scored the golazo against Canada in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship final, will be relied upon to get forward in the attack and use their speed and technical abilities to set up Guido, Koroma and McBean.

The US's first match is against the Czech Republic at 6PM central tomorrow. The toughest on paper of the teams in the US's group, the Czechs went undefeated at the 2011 UEFA U-17 Championship with three draws against Romania, Germany and Holland. The Czechs held Germany to one goal and kept a clean sheet against the high powered Dutch who slammed Germany for five goals in the final. The second match, at 4PM Eastern on Wednesday against Uzbekistan, provides a much different test than the Czechs. Uzbekistan led the 2010 AFC U-16 Championship, the tournament used to qualify for the U-17 World Cup, in goals with 15 in six matches, five of which came from Player-of-the-Tournament Timur Khakimov. The last group match, at 7PM Eastern on June 25, is against New Zealand. New Zealand reached the round of 16 in 2009, and also qualified for the 2007 tournament in South Korea. If the Americans win the group, they'll face one of the third place teams qualifying for the round of 16. Should they take second, it means a likely date with Denmark, Australia or the Ivory Coast, all of which would be tough matches in attempting to recreate the success of the 1999 team.

The Czech Republic and New Zealand can be seen live on ESPNU and ESPN3, while the Uzbekistan match will be live on ESPN3 and on delay at ESPNU.
blog comments powered by Disqus
    KKTC Bahis Siteleri, Online Bahis



    Privacy Policy