Richie Williams and the US U-17 Men’s National Team journeyed to Montaigu, France for the 40th Mondial Minimes Cup and competed in four matches from April 3rd to April 9th. The Yanks put together some solid performances en route to their 5th place finish and critical win over CONCACAF arch-rivals Mexico.
The Mondial Minimes cup is a 12-team tournament that features 4 groups of three teams each. Here was how the groups were broken down:
Group A- France, Cameroon, Mexico
Group B- US, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Portugal
Group C- England, Morocco, Japan
Group D- China, Ivory Coast, Russia
US head coach, Richie Williams, led the team into a competitive match for the first time since taking over the job from Wilmer Cabrera in early January.
The US opened group play with a beautiful win against UAE by a 4-0 score with goals from Ahinga Selemani-‘23, Tyler Turner-’50, Wesley Wade-’71 and Bradford Jamieson who closed out the scoring in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
The second game for the US saw the Yanks lose to Portugal 1-0 and as a result the Americans earned second place in Group B. Portugal finished atop the group and eventually went on to play Russia in the final. This positive tournament run was not an aberration for Portugal who traditionally had strong youth teams going back to the golden generation with the likes of Luis Figo and Rui Costa.
As runners up, the US faced Japan who finished second in Group C for the chance to compete in the fifth place match while the other 2nd place finishers, Mexico (Group A) and China (Group D), competed for a similar spot in the fifth place match. Meanwhile, the group leaders played in a semifinal and final to determine the tournament winner on April 9th.
Against Japan, the US were even at the end of regulation, thanks to a goal from Bradford Jamieson who notched his second of the tournament. Despite a Japan equalizer the Yanks eventually advanced 4-3 on penalties.
Then the US, in the most important game of the tournament from a fan's perspective, defeated Mexico 1-0 on a goal from Wesley Wade. As a result the US claimed the top spot in the second place bracket which was good enough for fifth place overall in the 2012 Mondial Minimes Cup.
Despite the 5th place finish there are a couple of positives to take away from this tournament. First and foremost Richie Williams got some valuable experience in a competitive international tournament as head coach. Second, the U-17s showed they can compete with the best putting together consistent performances against the World's top nations.
Finishing fifth and losing only one game in a tournament that included England, Portugal, France, Russia, Japan, Ivory Coast and Mexico, is a good tournament in my eyes. Granted, the US didn’t play all those squads, but the games they did play weren’t exactly easy.
Jurgen Klinsmann has preached at the senior level that playing against the top nations in the world is how you measure progress. He has also stressed the importance in gaining the necessary experience of playing in these "Major" tournaments in order to prepare a player and a team for World Cup tournaments. Bottomline, this was a top tournament for youth national teams and the Americans competed at the highest level.
Another important aspect of these "Major" tournaments, is the scouting that happens from top European clubs when some of the bigger nations come together in this manner. It will be interesting to see what clubs were there scouting and who the next young American signing will be in Europe as a result.
Will it be Wesley Wade? Junior Flores? Tyler Turner? Share your thoughts in the comments section below...
U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team tournament roster-
GOALKEEPERS (2): Paul Christensen (Seattle Sounders Academy; Woodinville, Wash.), Evan Louro (New York Red Bulls Academy; South River, N.J.)
DEFENDERS (7): Adonis Amaya (Chivas USA Academy; Westminster, Calif.), Elijah Martin (Cal Odyssey; Fresno, Calif.), Shaquell Moore (Cobb FC; Powder Springs, Ga.), Kevin Politz (New York Red Bulls Academy; Morganville, N.J.), Tommy Redding (FC America Premier; Oviedo, Fla.), John Requejo Jr. (Real So Cal; Carpinteria, Calif.), Tyler Turner (South Central Premier; West Haven, Conn.)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Corey Baird (San Diego Surf; Escondido, Calif.), Junior Flores (McLean Youth Soccer; Manassas Park, Va.), Angel Heredia (San Jose Earthquakes Academy; San Jose, Calif.), Cameron Lindley (Indiana United; Carmel, Ind.) Rubio Rubin (Westside Metros; Beaverton, Ore.)
FORWARDS (4): Bradford Jamieson (Chivas USA Academy; Los Angeles, Calif.), DeAndre Robinson (Concorde Fire; Atlanta, Ga.), Ahinga Selemani (CSA Wolves; Ann Arbor, Mich.), Wesley Wade (New York Red Bulls Academy; South Orange, N.J.)
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