By Michael Anderson, USYouthSoccer.org
The United States team has high expectations for their trip to 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 games against Spain and the U.A.E., and 10 of the 11 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 20 games, Coach Wilmer Cabrera is hoping for a long stay in Africa.
The United States clinched their place in the knock out stages Sunday with a commanding 1-0 performance against the United Arab Emirates. Despite controlling most of the game, the U.S. once again struggled to capitalize on their chances in front of goal, something that has to have Cabrera at least slightly concerned.
The Americans recorded 13 shots with nine on goal. The U.S. has scored in each of their first three games; however, all three goals have come off goalkeeping errors. In the opener against Spain, forward Jack McInerney (Alpharetta, Ga./Cobb FC) pounced on a dropped cross by the Spanish keeper. Against Malawi, midfielder Alex Shinsky (York, Pa./Super Nova FC) drove in a loose ball that the Malawians failed to clear, and that slipped through the keeper's hands and legs. The U.S. tallied Sunday against U.A.E. when McInerney tucked away a rebound from a Nick Palodichuk (Battleground, Wash./Washington Premier FC) shot that the goalie couldn't contain. The U.S. has recorded two shutouts in the last two matches thanks to eight saves from goalie Earl Edwards (San Diego, Calif./Nomads SC).
The United States finished in second place in Group E with six points on two wins and a loss, Spain won the group with three victories. The U.A.E. finished third, but still advanced to the next round. U.A.E., Brazil and the Netherlands all finished with three points and the exact same scoring record, however U.A.E. took the final qualification spot based on the last tiebreaker, FIFA Fair-Play ranking. The United States will face Italy in the second round on Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. EST, with the winner taking on the Switzerland/Germany survivor. Wednesday's game will be televised on ESPNU.
Italy will surely be a big test for the United States as they conceded just one goal while claiming Group F with wins over Korea Republic (2-1) and Algeria (1-0), and a draw versus Uruguay (0-0).
For complete match reports from U.S. Soccer click here
For complete FIFA U-17 World Cup standings and results, click here