U.S. Youth National Teams

Williams praises "special" U.S. U-17 side following Nike Friendlies title

U.S. U17 MNT vs England

Photo by John Dorton/ISIPhotos.com


After losing their opening match to Portugal, it seemed very unlikely that the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team would go on to win the 2013 Nike International Friendlies in the manner that they did.

To the surprise of many, the U.S. rebounded from defeat to put in two straight dominant performances against England and Brazil, scoring a combined nine goals in the two games. One person who wasn’t surprised with the team’s turnaround and performance in the Nike Friendlies was head coach Richie Williams, who had seen signs of it last August at the Copa Mexico de Naciones youth tournament, where the U.S. played national teams from Uruguay, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Paraguay, among others.

“We thought this (U-17) group was a little bit special, with no disrespect to the last group,” Williams told SBI in a phone interview. “We went to Mexico in August to a very good tournament with six CONMEBOL teams and six CONCACAF teams and we actually came in third in the tournament. We were unlucky not to get into the final and we knew we had a good, talented group.

“But the other part (that separates this group from others) is that they are also very competitive, they have drive, they push each other, which is great because you need that in the group. It can’t always just be the coaches. They’re focused on their game.”

This current crop of U.S. U-17 players differs from previous groups for another reason as well. On the Nike Friendlies squad, exactly half of the 20-man squad currently play in a professional team’s academy, with half of those ten having played or spent time in Major League Soccer academies.

The difference in talent and skill was easy to see during the week-long tournament as players like Haji Wright (LA Galaxy), Joshua Perez (Fiorentina, Joe Gallardo (Monterrey), Luca de la Torre (Fulham), and Danny Barbir (Manchester City) all produced quality performances.

Williams hopes that it’s a sign of things to come as the development of soccer players in the United States continues to catch up with the rest of the world.

“The first thing you recognize when you have four or five players who, even before the cycle starts, are already playing with foreign clubs, they have some sort of talent,” Williams said. “In the last cycle we didn’t really have anybody like that. So right off the bat you know you have players that are talented because they’re getting identified at an early age.

“You definitely have some talented kids and it helps when they’re playing at good academies and they’re getting international competition week in and week out and their environments are good environments for them to develop. It’s really good to see. You have to think that we’re making strides in developing players and the development process is getting better in the United States. Even though we still probably have a long way to go, it’s definitely getting better each year.”

Up next for the U.S. U-17s is the IMG Cup at their home in Bradenton, Fla. starting on Wednesday. The U.S. is scheduled to face domestic side Alliance Academy before matches against the youth sides of Tottenham and Stevenage of England and Querétaro of Mexico.

    • bryan

      right? Christian trained at Barca, Chelsea, and Porto before. last summer he was at PSV and is linked with another stint there. even Lara trained with Pachuca.


      • catfish

        I don’t think he meant Christian. He meant the goalie. But Christian has been going overseas to train I believe through his dad’s contacts.


      • bryan

        Christian was the MVP, so I think he was:

        eric says:
        December 17, 2013 at 6:29 PM
        Didn’t even mention the tournament MVP Pulisic???

        “tournament MVP Christian Pulisic” – USSF


  • Landon Klinsman

    Great win over Brail. Joga Bonita is dead, Brazilian are the biggest thugs and the biggest whiners. This will be on full display at WC14.


      • fischy

        For that matter, how will they learn to spell the name of their writing system?


      • atleticodemadridfan

        The ghost of Jorge Luis Borges will invent a new alphabet based on the sacred geometry of a juxtaposition of the pentagon and the hexagon, nestled within the schema of a vaguely precise spherical, repeating, orderly pattern, perceived only by those who see with their eyes closed while flying through the air with their backsides to the ground. This arcane and syncretic alphabet will be read backwards and pronounced with a Buenos Aires working class accent (or New Jersey trucker, take your pick).


      • Landon Klinsman

        If you have time to proofread your online posts, or to criticize thusly, then you are a loser.

        Something about Ives page makes my keyboard slower than I type and misses characters. I make no apologies.


  • Commenter

    The performance of the U-17 team in the N.I.F. was fantastic, a lot of potential is there. Hopefully, this team can convert their gains in this competition to better results in more important tournaments.


  • SD

    Last cycle he had one of the best players (arguably) and barely played during the concacaf qualifying tournament….not sure what richie is saying here….while this team is talented, the last team was pretty talented too…the lack of talent wasn’t the reason we didn’t qualify for u17 last cycle


    • bryan

      i think the argument is outside of Junior Flores, in the team from 2 years ago, there wasn’t a ton of talent that was considered “exceptional” by an overwhelming number of people in the business. the 2009 team certainly had some talent though; Gyau, Lletget, Renken.


      • SD

        That group won the nike invitational as well…beating beating brazil in the final as well….we all had the impression that the group was skillful as well…and even though not every one in the group was considered exceptional by the end of concacaf qualifying, it still wasn’t the lack of exceptional talent that kept them from qualifying….


    • Gary Page

      I did. Jozy played well. He had a shot on goal that the keeper knocked away and Borini was able to get to it first at a steep angle about 6 to 8 yards out and converted into a goal. Another time Jozy directed a shot going wide onto the goal but a defender was able to block it just outside the goal. Most of the game he got little to no service, but was lively. Chelsea dominated possession, Sunderland had a couple of good spells which allowed them to get even and then in extra time they seemed to have more in the tank than Chelsea, even though they had more players in the game who had played last Saturday. With just a couple of minutes left the Chelsea back line broke down on a quick counter attack and the late sub Ki scored on a low drive to the near post from about 12-15 yards out.


      • Marc

        Jozy played well and even though he didn’t score, I would give him a 8 just for his work rate and effort in and near the box. Good game.


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