Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
For the first time in the current cycle, the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team will have a chance to test their skills and guile against some of the best players in the world at their age level.
With the start of the annual Nike International Friendlies in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. U-17 head coach Richie Williams will have a good chance to look at his squad of players born in 1998 against the likes of Portugal, England, and Brazil during the course of the five-day tournament. Plenty of top prospects in the U.S. system have been included in Williams’ 20-man squad including Daniel Barbir, Pierre da Silva, and Christian Pulisic and it will be an important experience as they build towards the CONCACAF Under-17 Championships in 2015.
First up for the U.S. squad is Portugal (5pm, live streaming on USSoccer.com), who are coming off a two-match friendly series with Switzerland that finished 1-1 in the first match and 3-0 to Portugal in the second. One of the stars of the two-game series was midfielder Jorginho of Benfica, who will likely be the creative midfielder that Portugal thrives on at the international level.
Let’s take a closer look at the Portugal roster and what we can expect from them against the USA in the 2013 Nike International Friendlies:
PORTUGAL SQUAD FOR NIKE FRIENDLIES
Position Name Club
GK – Tiago Martins – Padroense FC
GK – Fabio Duarte – Benfica
DEF – Bruno Paz – Sporting Club de Portugal
DEF – Pedro Pereira – Benfica
DEF – Jorge Pereira – Benfica
DEF – Gonçalo Vieira – Sporting Club de Portugal
DEF – Bruno Pereira – Padroense FC
DEF – Ricardo Mangas – Benfica
MID – Bruno Lourenço – Benfica
MID – Jonatas Centeno – Fulham FC
MID – Pedro Ferreira – Sporting Club de Portugal
MID – Rafael Duarte – Sporting Club de Portugal
MID – Moreto Cassamá – FC Porto
FWD – Jorginho – Benfica
FWD – Rui Sousa – Padroense FC
FWD – Generoso – FC Porto
FWD – Idrisa Sambu – FC Porto
FWD – Madiu Bari – FC Porto
Portugal’s Under-16s are coached by Filipe Ramos, a former player for many years throughout Portugal, though he made his name with more than 100 appearances for Sporting Club de Portugal. Though the squad is called the U-16s, they’re the same age as the U.S. players and are using this tournament as a means to prepare the current team for when they make the jump next year to the U-17s, which is where UEFA championships for age groups begin.
In their two matches against Switzerland, Filipe made eight changes to the squad from the first to the second match, but he kept Jorginho, Bruno Pereira, and Moretto Cassama in the starting lineup for both games. Jorginho finished with a goal and an assist as he scored in the first match and set up teammate Bruno Lourenço in the second game.
According to the Portugal Football Association’s (FPF) website, Cassama has been named the captain of the squad.
It was only one year ago that the U.S. U-17s last played Portugal, falling in their final match, 4-3, in a back and forth game. The USA trailed 3-1 at halftime behind a hat-trick from Jose Postiga but goals from Peter Schropp and Alan Winn tied the match in the 62nd minute. Joao Lima however closed the door on the U.S. hopes with a goal in the 84th minute to give Portugal the title.
What are your thoughts on today’s match? How do you see the U.S. playing against Portugal? Think that the U.S. has enough talent currently to take down a European squad?
Share your thoughts below.