U.S. U-17s, Coach Richie Williams, Make the Wrong Kind of History

Former MLS midfielder Richie Williams and his U.S. U-17 charges lost 3-1 to Honduras in the CONCACAF Championship quarterfinals on Sunday evening in Panama City.

The defeat denied the team a berth in the 2013 U-17 World Cup, and made them the first U.S. U-17 side ever to fail to reach the World Cup, a string of 15 straight appearances dating to 1985.

The Americans came into the match as heavy favorites, but after Honduras broke a 1-1 tie with two goals early in the second half, the U.S. could not recover, and their World Cup dream evaporated.

Highlights here:

This is the third disappointing result for a U.S. youth team in the past three years, following the 2011 U-20 team’s failure to reach their World Cup, and the U-23’s inability to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

U.S. U-17s Edge Guatemala, Advance to Do-Or-Die Game with Honduras

On a patchy field in Panama City, the U.S. U-17 national team got a 49th-minute goal from midfielder Corey Baird and made it stand up for a 1-0 win over Guatemala in the Americans’ second game of the CONCACAF U-17 Championships.

Check out the highlights, which include some quality wing play from Rubio Rubin, and a sweet piece of skill (at the 1:56 mark) by newcomer Joel Sonora, a Boca Juniors Academy product who made his first start for the U.S. U-17s:

The victory handed the Group C title to the U.S., who defeated Haiti 3-0 in their opener on April 7 behind two goals from Red Bulls Academy player Christopher Lema.

The Yanks now move on to face Group D runner-up Honduras on Sunday (6:00 pm ET, Fox Soccer) with a berth in this fall’s U-17 World Cup on the line.

If the Americans win, they’ll advance the CONCACAF semifinals as well as to the nation’s 15th consecutive U-17 World Cup, with this year’s edition being held in the United Arab Emirates from October 18 to November 8.

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.

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.

2011 U-17 Nike Friendlies: U.S. 2, France 2

American striker Wesley Wade—a New York Red Bulls academy product—scored a dramatic 93rd-minute equalizer to lift the U.S. to a 2-2 tie with France in the opening match of the U-17 Nike International Friendlies in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, last night.

DeAndre Robinson had drawn first blood for the U.S. in the 25th minute, bending a shot into the top corner from 22 yards, but France equalized just before the break and went ahead on a U.S. own goal in the 75th minute. That set the stage for Wade’s heroics.

Highlights here:

In the day’s other match, Brazil edged Turkey 1-0. The U.S. faces Turkey on Friday at 5:00 p.m. ET (Fox Soccer).

Backpost on the Road: U.S., MLS Roundup

Hey folks, we flew the BP coop for the beach this week, and before we get to the soccer, we’d like to thank the inventors of non-aerosol spray-on sunscreen. Those people deserve a Nobel prize.

If you’re a parent, you are nodding your head in agreement right now.

If not, just know that that stuff can get two toddlers beach-ready at 7:30 a.m. in a fraction of the time with none of the fuss of the old-school goop, and is therefore worth its weight in gold.

It already costs something like 16 bucks a can (and lasts about three days), but we would happily pay twice that. We couldn’t say what number would have to appear on the price tag to make us balk at buying the stuff, but we’re pretty sure it would have to be in triple digits. This is one of the great overlooked advancements of our time.

Okay, Gold Cup final: Yeah, not good. After an incredible start to the game, and a brilliant second goal that went Adu-to-Dempsey-to-Donovan-to-back-of-the-net to put them up 2-0, the Yanks crumbled like Feta cheese (or maybe it was Queso Blanco) and lost, 4-2.

The Mexico comeback had an air of inevitability about it, and El Tri’s ability to get behind the U.S. backline at will was downright terrifying for U.S. fans. The U.S. camp pointed to the early exit, due to injury, of Steve Cherundolo, as an explanation, and while the veteran defender’s calming presence was certainly missed—he may have been the most consistent U.S. performer in the tournament—his absence alone doesn’t explain the problem.

No, the U.S. is simply not as good as Mexico right now. With West Ham winger Pablo Barrera, Tottenham attacker Giovani Dos Santos, and Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez (who scored 20 goals in 45 appearances for the Red Devils this past season), this is one of Mexico’s best teams ever, and they ran roughshod over the Yanks.

Would things have been different if the U.S. had Stuart Holden and Timothy Chandler at the Gold Cup? Probably, but the fact remains that the Yanks lack depth, and have some real concerns as they head toward qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

The backline is full of question marks due to age on the one hand and inexperience on the other. The midfield is a strong suit but still lacks a playmaker in the Claudio Reyna or Tab Ramos mode (though Adu could fill that role; more on him later). And up top, we’re still awaiting the second coming of Charlie Davies.

Let’s look at the good, the bad, and the future of coach Bob Bradley in the wake of the 2011 Gold Cup:

The Good

Freddy Adu! The (still-only) 22-year-old did nothing short of revive his entire career with his Gold Cup performance, showing great skill on the ball and an ability to spark the U.S. offense. Frankly, we’re still in disbelief. It will be a very interesting next season for Mr. Adu.

Eric Lichaj showed a lot of poise, great speed and decent skill on the ball. He’s only 22. If he and Timmy Chandler were the starting outside backs in the qualifying cycle, U.S. fans would take it. Especially as the excellent Cherundolo is 32.

Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore. Both showed flashes of the potential to be top-class strikers. Agudelo came on in emergency circumstances vs Jamaica and did very well, and Altidore scored two goals, one of them a blinder, before injuring his hamstring.

The Bad

• Backline depth is very suspect, as exposed by the injury to Cherundolo. Jonathan Bornstein did nothing to dissuade his (many) critics, and Tim Ream showed he’s not quite ready for the best international competition.

• Shockingly, given his track record, Tim Howard had an awful game against El Tri. He was too easily beaten on Barrera’s second goal, an outside-of-the-foot shot that wasn’t all that hard-hit or well-placed, and he was at sea flailing at Dos Santos in the box before the Mexican attacker hit his incredible chip to the far upper 90.

The Coach

Is Bradley done after his team’s failure to win the Gold Cup and a berth in the World Cup dress rehearsal that is the 2013 Confederations Cup?

He could be. The USSF has long said that this tournament was a priority and a measuring stick, and if they were going to make a change, now would be a good time. Any new coach would have time to acclimate before World Cup qualifying starts, and three years to work with the team before Brazil 2014.

Yesterday, The New York Times asked federation prez Sunil Gulati if Bradley would stay on as coach, and his reply was terse: “We’ll have something to say later this week.”

So, what do you think? Will that “something” be a vote of confidence or a dismissal? What should it be? And if Bradley is let go, who would you like to see take his place? (We’re partial to Peter Nowak ourselves.) Let us know in the comments.

U.S. U-17s

The young Yanks tied New Zealand 0-0 in their third group-stage game at the youth World Cup and ended up tied with the Kiwis in the group standings, on both points and goals. They won the tiebreaker—a drawing of lots—and will play Germany in the knockout stage on Thursday (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU, ESPN3.com).

MLS

• The Red Bulls made another blockbuster trade, sending midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, a player they acquired from Toronto in April, to D.C. United in exchange for midfielder Dax McCarty on Tuesday. De Rosario was essentially auditioning for DP money in 2012 from the Red Bulls, and after producing two goals and four assists in 13 games, he apparently botched the audition.  New York cut bait, bringing in the younger (by nine years) and cheaper (by roughly $300,000) McCarty in his place.

• MLS teams began U.S. Open Cup play yesterday and seven of the eight teams from the league won their games to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Red Bull New York won a unique derby, dropping third-tier FC New York 2-1, with the winning goal coming from John Rooney. The only MLS team to slip up was the Columbus Crew, which fell to the third-division Richmond Kickers 2-1.

MLS teams have won 14 of the previous 15 U.S. Open Cups.

For two takes on the USMNT and the future of coach Bradley, see here, and here.

Early-Evening Roundup: Donovan Benched Again, Uzbeks Drop U.S. U-17s

We’re about to bust out to watch the U.S. take on Panama in their Gold Cup semifinal, but we just checked the Twitter feed and found this bombshell: Landon Donovan will start tonight’s crucial game on the bench.

This is obviously huge, and it suggests that his previous benching, against Jamaica in the quarterfinals, may have had more to it than the fact that LD flew in from his sister’s wedding in California the night before.

Here’s the starting XI:

Tim Howard

Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Eric Lichaj

Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones; Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan, Clint Dempsey

Juan Agudelo

It’s probably safe to say that most (all) observers assumed that either Kljestan or Bedoya would be dropped in favor of Donovan, but that has not happened.

How will the team respond? How will Donovan respond if and when he comes in as a sub?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and enjoy the game.

In other U.S. news, the U-17 American team was upended 2-1 by Uzbekistan this afternoon at the youth World Cup in Mexico.

It’s a surprising result, to say the least, since the U.S. was coming off a convincing 3-0 win over the Czech Republic while the Uzbeks were drubbed 4-1 by New Zealand in their opener.

The young Nats will need a result, and maybe a win, against the Kiwis in their final group stage game. New Zealand and the Czech Republic kick off their second group-stage game at 7:00.