The United States team has high expectations for their trip Nigeria for the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup. Considered one of the better youth national teams in recent years, this year's U-17 World Cup roster features players from 13 different states with loads of experience. Eighteen of the 21 players, including all 11 starters from Monday's game against Spain, and 10 of the 11 from Thursday's game against Malawi, participated in the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP). Six of those players have logged at least 25 games with the U-17 Men's National Team, and 10 players have been in the U.S. Soccer residency program since the fall semester of 2007. With only four losses in their last 19 games, Coach Wilmer Cabrera is hoping for a long stay in Africa.
After a disappointing opener against Spain, the United States rebounded with a 1-0 victory against Malawi on Thursday. The United States dominated every aspect of the game, besides the score sheet, as the Americans held 58 percent of the possession and amassed 11 shots and 11 corner kicks. Malawi was also caught offside an astounding 18 times. The Americans struggled to put together the final piece of the puzzle until midfielder Alex Shinsky (York, Pa./Super Nova FC) slapped home a loose ball in the box in the 54th minute. The goal came together after substitute forward Andrew Craven (St. Simons Island, Ga./First Coast Kickers) was sent down the left side. His cross was too long, but Luis Gil (Garden Grove, Calif./Pateadores) chased the ball down and flicked a perfect heel pass back into the box for midfielder Marlon Duran (Duncanville, Texas/Latino Americana). Duran settled the ball and struck a great shot that was saved by the Malawian keeper. Malawi failed to properly clear the rebound, and Shinsky sent it between the legs of the keeper in a crowded penalty area. American goalkeeper Earl Edwards (San Diego, Calif./Nomads SC) recorded the shutout on five saves.
Currently, the United States is tied for second place in Group E along with their next opponent, the United Arab Emirates. Both teams are level with a 1-1 record, however U.A.E. are ahead on the second tiebreaker, goals scored, with three for and three against. The United States currently sits at two goals scored and two against. It is possible that even with a loss against U.A.E. that the U.S. could advance, although a win would guarantee them a spot in the second round and a draw would most likely be enough. Sixteen of the 24 teams in the tournament will advance to the second round, meaning four of the six third place teams after the group stage will move on. The match versus U.A.E. is on Sunday, November 1 at 11 a.m. EST and will be broadcast on ESPNU.
On Monday, the United States put on a strong performance against the Spanish as they held a one goal lead and a man advantage after the first five minutes. Forward Jack McInerney (Alpharetta, Ga./Cobb FC) scored his team leading 10th goal of the year. Despite controlling possession and creating numerous chances, Spain showed their class in overcoming the deficit with two outstanding first half goals. Spain is a seven-time winner of the U-17 European Championships, and in the last U-17 World Cup in 2007 were defeated in a penalty shootout in the championship match.