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U.S. U-17’s demonstrate stout defense in victory over Trinidad & Tobago



For much of the build-up to the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, the focus was on the attacking talent wielded by the U.S Under-17 Men’s National Team. With highly touted prospects Haji Wright, Christian Pulisic and Joe Gallardo, the U.S. has an attacking force that was tabbed to lead the way for the team in Honduras.

While the players atop the field did contribute a pair of goals via Gallardo and Wright, it was the defense that really asserted their dominance in Monday night’s 2-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago.

Led by captain Huge Arellano, left back John Nelson, right back Matthew Olosunde and center back Tanner Dieterich, the backline prevented T&T from emerging with many bonafide opportunities, save for a 35th-minute Arellano clearance following a deflection from goalkeeper William Pulisic.

“It started off pretty slow for us,” Arellano said, via U.S. Soccer. “We had to pick up the pace and obviously compete against them. That really brought up the tempo of the game and it pushed us. We came out with the shutout and that’s what we try to play for, defensively.

“Communication is a big factor, especially in backline. Me and Tanner (Dieterich) were able to do our part in the center, and Johnny (Nelson) and Matt (Olosunde) covered us out wide. And having Will (Pulisic) back there, we knew we were supported.” 

That support proved crucial in a game that head coach Richie Williams determined was far from the team’s best.

Despite scoring a goal in either half, Williams didn’t see the attacking sharpness he expected, and responded by pointing to the play of his defense, who proved to be an anchor at the back in a game where the coach thought his team wasn’t up to their best.

“We got a goal in the first half and a goal in the second half. I thought it was a competitive game,” Williams said. “I don’t think we were maybe at our sharpest for the 90 minutes. But again we were able to play very well defensively, get a shutout, and get the goals that were necessary. And again good teams are able to win games when maybe it’s not their best night.”

Williams will be hoping his team as a whole brings their best in the next contest: a matchup with Guatemala on Thursday. The head coach has constantly reiterated his belief that no team is to be taken lightly while pushing his group to focus on taking the games one step at a time.

“I thought Trinidad competed well, put us under pressure,” Williams said. “Again it’s a qualifying game and we’ve said from the beginning that you can’t take anybody lightly because everybody can compete and have a good game.

“I’m just concentrating on Guatemala and winning the game. We enter every game to win against that opponent. Our focus is on Guatemala and we take one step at a time.”


  1. The title of the post makes it sound as if our defense faced top notch sides like Brail, Spain or Argentina. This was Trinidad & Tobago!!!

  2. I thought Nelson had a great game for the USA. He won his battles defensively and carried the ball into the attack well and provided passes to the forwards. I thought he was not properly rewarded with return passes by his teammates as he went forward, but he never stopped trying.

    It did seem that the attackers cared more about scoring themselves than about the team scoring. That is not so unusual for teenaged boys, but they need to get over it.

  3. Great defense, Offense has been extremely selfish the last two games. Not playing as a team. Way too much one on one. Where is the coach? I would’ve pulled Wright after he twice went one against three in the second half.

    • Agree about the offensive players. Against an athletic team that was hacking at them the plan should have been quick one, two touch passing yet they attackers all seemed determined to dribble around and through. I thought the left back was the smartest and most impactful in terms of building anything as a team.

  4. …maybe I’m picking at straws here, but I thought their clearances from the back was poor, at best.
    They kept clearing the balls directly forward, rather that to the wings, which immediately caused turnovers, and kept them unnecessarily pinned back by an athletic T&T squad.

    And… again the ref was also poor, IMHO, but I think our boys need to start giving as good as they get. The game from T&T was chippy, yet it was OUR boys that ended the game on yellow(s).

    I’ve seen it too many times where OUR boys, at all levels, get officiated out of tournaments. I sometimes think that the US(A) must be the most physical team in world football, because the number of cards we receive appears excessive IMHO, anecdotally.

  5. the defense has been pretty great for the US so far. it’s especially nice given the fact that Barbir isn’t even playing and he is one of the brighter CB prospects we have.


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