The international break created opportunities for three U.S. teenagers to see friendly game action with their Bundesliga clubs.
Weston McKennie and Nick Taitague made their first-team debuts at Schalke 04 in a 3-1 loss to second division Hannover, while McKinze Gaines saw first-team action for VfL Wolfsburg in a 1-1 tie with second division Arminia Bielefeld.
With 10 Schalke players away on national team duty, Coach Markus Weinzierl started four U-19 players, including 18-year-old defensive midfielder McKennie, who joined Schalke from FC Dallas' academy. Taitague, an 18-year-old Virginia product, entered the game, played in front of 6,500 in Hannover, in the 82nd minute. Haji Wright, an 18-year-old California product who has scored 12 goals in 16 U-19 games for Schalke, was unavailable because of injury. Wright made his first-team debut in a friendly during the winter break against Belgium's Oostende in Spain.
Gaines, a 19-year-old South Texas product who played for Wolfsburg in January, assisting on a goal in a 2-0 Florida Cup win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies, played the first 45 minutes in the tie with Bielefeld in front of 1,500 fans in Wolfsburg. Eleven Wolfsburg players are away on on national team duty.
U.S. U-17 boys beat Japan three times
Coach John Hackworth added eight players to the U.S. U-17 Residency Program squad for a 37-player roster that played four games against Japan as the U.S. U-17 national team continues its preparations for the 2017 U-17 World Cup qualifying tournament April 21-May 7 in Panama.
The USA beat Japan 2-0 and 4-1 on March 19. Three days later, the USA won 2-1 while Japan picked up its one victory, a 3-2 win.
“Our coaching staffs agreed to play each other in back-to-back matches on each game day,” Hackworth said. “This [allowed] both staffs to prepare and evaluate a greater number of players each day against a quality international opponent. … We scheduled these match days at the same interval that we will be faced with in World Cup Qualifying, so our periodization for these matches will mirror our process in Panama a little over a month from now.”
The eight players who joined the residency roster were Jake Arteaga, Andrew Carleton, Sergino Dest, CJ Dos Santos, Christopher Durkin, Christopher Goslin, Rayshaun McGann and Alex Mendez. Durkin (D.C. United), Carleton (Atlanta United) and Goslin (Atlanta United) signed MLS Homegrown Player contracts in 2016.
Japan has already qualified for the 2017 U-17 World Cup, to be hosted by India (Oct. 6-28).
“Japan is one of the top programs in the world,” Hackworth said.
Players born on or after Jan. 1, 2000, are eligible for the 2017 U-17 World Cup. The youngest players on the 37-player roster for the Japan games were 2001-born goalkeeper David Ochoa, midfielders Taylor Booth, Marcelo Palomino and Indiana Vassilev, and forward Bryan Reynolds Jr.
U.S. U-17 boys national team roster
GOALKEEPERS (5): Alexander Budnik (Sockers FC; Arlington Heights, Ill.), CJ Dos Santos (S.L. Benfica; Philadelphia, Pa.), Justin Garces (Kendall SC; Miami, Fla.), Quantrell Jones (Baltimore Celtic; Baltimore, Md.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake AZ; Casa Grande, Ariz.).
DEFENDERS (11): Jake Arteaga (LA Galaxy; Glendora, Calif.), Carlos Asensio (Atlanta United; Roswell, Ga.), Ethan Bartlow (Crossfire Premier; Woodinville, Wash.), Sergino Dest (Ajax; Almere-stad, Netherlands), Christopher Gloster (New York Red Bulls; Montclair, N.J.), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City; Charlotte, N.C.), Rayshaun McGann (Philadelphia Union; Royal Palm Beach, Fla.), James Sands (New York City FC; Rye, N.Y.), Arturo Vasquez (FC Golden State; Mira Loma, Calif.), Chandler Vaughn (D.C. United; Woodbridge, Va.), Tristan Weber (Unattached; San Clemente, Calif.).
MIDFIELDERS (12): George Acosta (Weston FC; Hollywood, Fla.), Isaac Angking (New England Revolution; Providence, R.I.), , Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake AZ; Eden, Utah), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.), Blaine Ferri (Solar Chelsea SC; Southlake, Texas), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United; Locust Grove, Ga.), Alex Mendez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.), Marcelo Palomino (Houston Dynamo; Houston, Texas), Jesus Sahagun (Weston FC; Miami, Fla.), Indiana Vassilev (IMG Academy; Savannah, Ga.), Adrian Villegas (Portland Timbers; Hood River, Ore.), Akil Watts (IMG Academy; Fort Wayne, Ind.).
FORWARDS (9): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC; Brampton, Ont.), Grayson Barber (Sporting Kansas City; Blythewood, S.C.), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United; Powder Springs, Ga.), Matthew Hundley (Real Colorado; Littleton, Colo.), Alejandro Pereira (Orlando City FC; Oveido, Fla.), Bryan Reynolds Jr. (FC Dallas; Little Elm, Texas), William Sands (New York City FC; Rye, N.Y.), Joshua Sargent (Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallen, Mo.), Tonny Temple (IMG Academy; Millville, Pa.).
Tab Ramos on the next chapter of U-17 program
Tab Ramos, U.S. Soccer's Youth Technical Director and U-20 men’s, discussed the closure of U.S. Soccer's U-17 Residency Program, in an interview at USSoccer.com.
“When the Residency Program started [in 1999], there was no Development Academy, there were no MLS teams investing in youth development and there was no particular training direction," Ramos said. "Most youth players at all levels were training twice per week and playing anywhere from one to five games on the weekends. Now we live in a completely different landscape.
"The DA has now been around for 10 years and players are taught to play, hold the ball and be creative. There is a clear 'training over games' mentality of learning the game properly, and more importantly clubs all over the country are investing millions in youth development led by teams in MLS.”
The Residency Program will cease following the current spring semester. Players in residency are aiming for the 2017 U-17 World Cup.
“Players currently in Residency will go back to their clubs, the majority of which will be in excellent club environments and living at home,” Ramos said. “[The U-17 program] will look very similar to our U-20 national team programming. There will be five or six camps per year and the head coach will be keeping track of players at their own clubs.”