Rubio Rubin Leads U.S. U-17s in Wild 4-4 Tie with Brazil

The United States Soccer Federation started the Bradenton U-17 academy program in 1999 and right out of the gate they produced/were blessed with an incredible crop of talent.

The 1999 group looks better with each passing year, having sent Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu, Kyle Beckerman, and Bobby Convey, among others, to the professional ranks.

With each new U-17 group that convenes in Florida, the question resurfaces: Where are the next Donovans and Beasleys?

It’s way too early to tell, but attacker Rubio Rubin of Beaverton, Oregon, could be the best answer to that question in years. Wednesday night, in the opening game of this year’s Nike Friendlies in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., he scored two goals and set up two others to help the U.S. tie none other than Brazil, 4-4.

The Yanks held a 3-1 lead in the second half, and were up 4-3 with nine minutes to play, but could not hold on to the lead.

Here’s some postgame reaction from coach (and MLS ref Michael Kennedy doppelganger) Richie Williams, striker Ahinga Selemani (Ann Arbor, MI) and Rubin:

These games are not being televised for some reason (they were on Fox Soccer last year), and US Soccer is so far being stingy with the highlights, but hopefully we’ll be able to post them as the tournament progresses. The U.S. takes on Turkey tonight.

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Brazil and Argentina Fill, Thoroughly Entertain, MetLife Stadium

Bruce Springsteen himself never rocked New Jersey so hard: South American giants Brazil and Argentina squared off in front of 81,994 fans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on Saturday and gave the fans an afternoon to remember.

Lionel Messi scored three goals—including a sensational 22-yard winner in the 84th minute—to lead the Albicelestes to a wild 4-3 victory, and make Pelé’s recent comments about Neymar—who was involved in two of Brazil’s goals—being better than Messi seem even more wishful than when they were first uttered.

Here is the hat-trick:

What a performance, and what a crowd. “He’s the best player in the world,” Brazil coach Mano Menezes told reporters afterward. “He received four balls and scored three goals.”

As for the New York–area crowd, they turned out in those numbers on a day when the third leg of the Triple Crown was being run at the Belmont, the Yankees were playing the Mets, the New Jersey Devils were fighting for their Stanley Cup lives (successfully, it turned out) against the LA Kings, and there were Euro 2012 games on TV, along with an NBA playoff Game 7.

Misleading Scoreline of the Week: Brazil 4, U.S. 1

Onyewu is still 6-4; it’s just that Edu and Howard are on their toes, Prison Mike tells us.

There it was, on the left of the screen, in SportsCenter’s upcoming-stories list this morning: “Brazilian Blowout.”

Yes, Brazil topped the United States 4-1 in Landover, Md., last night, and yes, that scoreline, beamed out to the world over the AP and Reuters, looks very much like a blowout.

But the scoreline does the U.S. a bit of a disservice. They were in this game for long stretches and they created a good number of chances against the mighty Brazilians. Oguchi Onyewu hit the crossbar. Herculez Gomez and Terrence Boyd were denied, in quick succession, by great saves from Brazilian keeper Rafael. Gomez bounced a header toward the gaping Brazilian net that Clint Dempsey nearly bundled in—only to see his attempt cleared off the line.

Then there was Brazil’s first goal, on a dubious penalty, that put the U.S. in a hole just 12 minutes in. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann also disputed the fourth strike, saying Alexandre Pato was offside (in real time he looked off; on replay, it looked like Onyewu kept him on), and argued that Gomez should have been awarded a penalty when he was taken down in the box in the second half.

To those grumblings we would add that Neymar was offside on his overlapping run that led to Goal No. 3.

Yet we also have to add that Michael Bradley neglected to mark Marcelo on that play, that Brazil generally made that game extremely difficult for the Americans with their unrelenting pressure on the ball and their speed and possession. (In closeup shots of U.S. midfielders Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, and Bradley, you could see how much chasing they were doing by the fatigued looks on their faces.)

Brazil deserved to win and were the better team on the night, but that 4-1 … well, 3-2 or 3-1 would’ve told the story more accurately for those who didn’t watch.

In any case, on to the highlights:

Some more takeaways for the U.S. side:

• Gomez had an excellent game, and should certainly be part of Klinsmann’s mix going forward. He scored (reacting very well to a deflected cross in front of goal), put pressure on Brazil’s backline, and created opportunities for others.

• Michael Bradley may be the best U.S. player right now. He’s so poised on the ball, rarely gives it away, and is showing new flashes of skill.

Fabian Johnson has won the left back job. Is there any doubt now? He’s athletic, skilled, dangerous going forward and solid defensively. He also faked out the entire stadium with a move on the  left in the second half, before sending in a dangerous cross.

• Canada better be ready Sunday. After competing hard against one of the best teams in the world—and being visibly ticked off about falling short—the Americans should be primed to take out their frustrations on the Canucks at Toronto’s BMO Field (NBCSN, 7:00 pm).

Is the U.S. Poised to Beat Brazil Tonight?

Michael Bradley is playing the best soccer of his life. Landon Donovan followed up comments about his “hunger” for the game possibly waning by blasting three goals and helping set up two others in a 5-1 thrashing of Scotland (LD also hit the post in the game). Fabian Johnson looks very much like the solution to the long-running problem at left back. Jose Torres is coming off his best game ever in a U.S. shirt.

With all those cylinders firing, the U.S. tore apart the Scots on Saturday night in Jacksonville. Take a look:

And tonight, the Americans can add Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore to the mix.

Of course, Brazil is about as distant from Scotland as a soccer opponent as Rio is from Edinburgh (geographically, culturally, and meteorologically). They’ll be bringing the likes of Neymar (Santos), Hulk (Porto), and Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), and even though most of the players lining up in yellow tonight (8:00 ESPN2) are U-23 Olympic hopefuls, Brazil will have over-23 stars Thiago Silva (AC Milan) and Marcelo (Real Madrid) joining Hulk in the starting lineup.

A win will be a tall order for the Yanks, who have played Brazil 16 times and lost 15, but it’s not out of the question. Of those 16 matches, 11 were decided by one goal, and this roster is by far the most talented group Klinsmann has had at his disposal during his U.S. stewardship. Tonight’s as good a time as any to match the Yanks’ 1-0 win in the 1998 Gold Cup.

The most intriguing questions concern how Klinsmann—who has tinkered continuously with the U.S. lineup and formation since taking over the team—will line up his side, who he’ll put out there, and what style they’ll attempt to play. It seems doubtful that they’ll try to take the game to Brazil as they did Scotland, but sitting back too much could put Brazil in their comfort zone, from which they can unlock any defense in the world. Klinsmann has hinted (see below) that the U.S. will try to dictate the game at times.

Another question mark facing the U.S. will be the play of the backline, particularly the central defenders, who were not heavily taxed versus Scotland. Will Geoff Cameron get to test himself against mighty Brazil? If the experienced duo of Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu get the call, will the U.S. have enough speed at the back?

On the other side, apart from the youth spread throughout the team, there appears to be only one potential soft spot, and that’s between the pipes, where 22-year-old Santos keeper Rafael will be making his full national team debut. (Well, that and their atrocious new teal unis.)

Here’s the U.S. camp, previewing the match:

Messi Stole Neymar’s Thunder Yesterday

Lost in the massive shadow of Lionel Messi’s five-goal turn in the Champions League yesterday was this stunner of a goal from Neymar in the Copa Libertadores:

Go ahead, watch it again. What is that, an 80-yard solo run? Past four defenders (with a fifth shading over) and the goalkeeper?

Golazo-azo-azo.

Neymar just turned 20 this past month. How much longer before he jumps from Santos to a big European club?

U.S. U-17s Stun Brazil 3-1 to Win Nike Int’l Friendlies

The U.S. U-17 national team grabbed the lead in the second minute and added two more goals before halftime en route to a 3-1 victory over Brazil that captured the Nike International Friendlies title in Lakeland, Florida, on Sunday evening.

Midfielder Rubio Rubin (Beaverton, OR), captain and defender Tyler Turner (Meriden, CT) and Red Bulls prospect Wesley Wade (South Orange, NJ) got the goals—all of them well taken—but the star of the show was tricky winger Junior Flores (Manassas Park, VA), who played a part in all three goals and consistently tormented the Brazilians for 90 minutes.

Here are the goals:

2′ Rubin finds the net early with a skillful touch with his back to goal:

16′ Brazil ties it up on an unbelievable strike by Matheus Querioz:

31′ Turner beats two players in the box and finishes into the upper corner to put the U.S. back on top:

43′ Wade makes it 3-1 right before the break, finishing off some great set-up work by Flores:

The U.S. created three more clear chances in the second half but couldn’t finish. For their part, Brazil did ramp up the pressure but they never seriously troubled U.S. keeper Paul Christensen (Woodinville, WA).

On their third goal, the U.S. out-Brazil-ed Brazil, stringing together 11 consecutive passes, the final one coming from Flores on the left flank and finding Wade at the near post. The Red Bulls academy player—one of seven New York prospects in camp with the U-17s—scored two goals in the tourney to go with one assist.

In addition to Wade, Flores, and Turner (two goals in three games from his centerback position), other U.S. standouts were DC United academy player DeAndre Robinson, a speedster who opened the scoring in the 2-2 draw with France, outside backs John Requejo (Carpinteria, CA) and Shaquell Moore (Powder Springs, GA), Rubio, and striker Corey Baird (Escondido, CA).

The Americans finished first with two wins and a draw (and seven goals scored). Brazil were second with a win a draw and a loss.

Neymar Creates A Whole New Way of Skinning A Defender

We’re pretty sure the maneuver Neymar puts on the last defender here is unprecedented in the annals of spectacular soccer goals, but take a look and judge for yourself:

Combined with the magic he uses to scorch the two opponents on the sideline at the start of the sequence, the finishing flourish makes this an instant icon in the history of great goals. And Neymar is 19 years old, just for the record.

The top commenters on the YouTube clip of the goal may have said it best:

 “What in the actual fuck was that”

AND

“It’s times like this I remember he’s 19, and I’m here on my computer getting fat.”

But here’s the kicker: Neymar’s goal put Santos up 3-0 on Flamenco,  but Flamenco, spurred by a hat-trick from Ronaldinho, came charging back, tied the game up before halftime, and eventually won, 5-4.

H/T’s to the Carolina Cannon and Seeling the Deal.