After a convincing 2-0 thumping of Russia on Thursday, the US U-17's faced the two concluding matches of the Nike Friendlies this past weekend. After the first-teamers bagged a somewhat fortunate 2-0 win over Brazil, the second team got keelhauled by the Turks and were fortunate to only go down by a 0-2 scoreline.
In the Saturday match, Renken and Jerome demonstrated their superior touch and composure, looking head and shoulders above the rest of the US team in possession. Unfortunately, the entire Brazilian side was composed of such players, with the magic Coutinho being the pick of the bunch. Joseph Gyau showed well again for the US, but lacked the final touch and poise of Renken and Jerome, while the wonderfully named Perry Kitchen showed well at the back, proving that the American kids can boast more than one center back with a touch of skill.
My man of the match, however, was goalkeeper Earl Edwards, who pulled off some good saves, but was most instrumental in his control of the box. It's never a good sign when your keeper has to be the man of the match, but the US were far from dominated in this game. The same scorers took the glory as in the first game, with the brave Martinez knocking in a cross for the first, and the slippery Jerome drawing a penalty and converting it for the second.
The Sunday match saw coach Cabrera trotting out a team top-heavy with reserves--and it showed. The US lacked cohesion and creativity and were tentative in attack and vulnerable to the quick counter. An early cross caught the defenders napping at the back post and failing to mark up on the first goal. The second dutifully followed after some wonderful control on the sprint by the Turkish front line. After that, the Turks couldn't find a third, but it wasn't for lack of opportunities as they should have piled on the goals.
The US second-teamers looked pedestrian in possession. Lead-footed touches, passes to nowhere, and a general lack of foot (and brain) speed were all indicative of the frightening lack of depth available to the squad. Gutierrez looked like he might have that little something extra that made the difference in attack, but he was starved for chances and set-up play.
So what's to take from this series of matches? That's a difficult question. Sometimes the players who shine at this level never pan out, but it certainly looks like there are a handful of really promising prospects. Jerome, Renken, Martinez, Gyau, Watts, Duran, Kitchen, and Edwards all made a significant impression in this admittedly small shop window. It will be interesting to see how their careers pan out.