[NIKE INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLIES] The USA's 3-1 victory over Brazil on Sunday to win the Nike International Friendlies wasn't the first time it had beaten Brazil at the annual U-17 event, but this was a special win orchestrated by a special player. The undisputed star for Wilmer Cabrera's promising U-17s was their young wizard, Junior Flores, whose trickery led to goals by Rubio Rubin and Tyler Turner and who fed Wesley Wade for the third goal just before halftime following a tantalizing run down the left wing -- a run that followed a sequence of 10 passes out of the back.
Perhaps the greatest compliment paid to Flores came in the form of the disappointment of the Mexico under-17 national team coach when he approached the 15-year-old playmaker at a recent tournament in Spain and learned his family was Salvadoran, not Mexican. Indeed, Flores had already trained with the El Salvador national team at the Gold Cup.
Flores had only one goal in Lakewood Ranch, the late winner against Turkey on Friday, but it was his ability to take on opponents going either direction and find open teammates -- like on the play that ended with his goal against Turkey -- that was so special.
To wit ...
-- A minute into the Brazil game, Flores makes a simple cut-back to his right foot and is fouled by Gabriel. Off Flores' ensuring free kick, the ball bounces to Rubio, who side-volleys it into the goal from a close angle.
-- In the 31st minute, Flores this time darts to his left and is taken down by Marcel 25 yards out on the left side. Again, he takes the free kick and again the ball bounces around in the area until Turner controls it and blasts a rocket inside the post.
-- On the third goal shortly before the break, the USA has passed the ball around 10 times before left back John Requejo Jr. feeds Flores down the left wing. Flores freezes his marker, cuts to his left and darts down the left wing before putting a cross with his left foot into the six-yard box, where Wade taps it past the Brazilian keeper Guilherme.
It was Flores' third assist of the tournament and the kind of stuff that have European scouts already tracking him.
Flores grew up in the outlying Washington, D.C., suburb of Manassas Park, Va., a hotbed for Central American talent. He isn't a product of a big club, playing for the Manassas Park Cougars for two seasons and Great Falls Soccer Club through spring 2011 and participating in the Virginia ODP program before moving to McLean Youth Soccer, a member of the U.S. Development Academy.
Flores was by no means the only player who impressed at the Nike International Friendlies:
-- Out of Connecticut's South Central Premier, Turner scored two goals coming forward from his position in the middle of the backline. The U-17 captain showed quick feet and good touch to calmly put away the second goal against Brazil.
-- Wade, one seven players from the New York Red Bulls academy in residency, had won the Golden Boot at the AGS Cup in Spain. He scored two goals in Lakewood Ranch -- the tying goal in stoppage time against France and the insurance goal against Brazil -- but his most impressive moment came late in the Turkey game when a ball popped up to him in the penalty area and he had the presence of mind to flick the ball into Flores' path for the winning goal.
-- Concorde Fire product DeAndre Robinson set the tone with the first of seven U.S. goals in three games with the first goal early in the France match. He demonstrated a soft touch to go along with his considerable speed.
-- The two outside backs, Shaquell Moore (Georgia's Cobb FC) and John Requejo (Real So Cal), were active throughout three games. In the France game, Moore smashed a shot off the crossbar.
-- One of two players brought into residency from Oregon's Westside Metros, Rubin is player the U-17 coaching staff is high on and he showed why on his goal against Brazil.
-- Corey Baird (San Diego Surf) added energy to the U.S. attack in the two games he started and had the key pass to break the Brazil pressure on the sequence that led to the third goal.
Dec. 4 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
USA 3 Brazil 1. Goals: Rubin 2, Turner 31, Wade 43; Matheus Queiroz 16.
USA -- Christensen, Moore, Donovan, Turner, Requejo, Rubin, Kabala (Echevarria, 65), Lema, Flores (Kafai, 78), Baird (Politz, 90+1), Wade (Robinson, 65)
Brazil -- Guilherme, Kaue (Derlan, 83), Marcel, Erik, Abner, Walney (Linik, 46), Ze Augusto, Matheus Queiroz, Gabriel (Gabriel Barbosa, 87), Joanderson (Ian, 65), Bruno (Renan Gorne, 83)
Dec. 2 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
USA 2 Turkey 1. Goals: Turner 19, Flores 88; Mustafa 47.
USA -- Louro, Moore, Donovan, Turner, Requejo, Rubin (Wade, 55), Echevarria, Flores (Lema, 90), Calix (Heredia, 54), Baird, Kafai (Robinson, 61).
Turkey -- Mehmet, Anil, Melih, Mehdi, Mahmuthan (Umut, 36), Serdar, Ismail (Aziz, 82), Mert (Cahit, 66), Yusuf, Berk, Mustafa.
Red Card: Turkey -- Selim 40.