Previewing the U-17 World Cup and the U-17 Roster

Raphael Wicky and his support staff have dropped their final roster for the U-17 World Cup that kicks off at the end of October in Brazil. The US team is coming off a strong qualifying where they placed second behind Mexico in the Concacaf U-17 Championship and should have probably beat them. The US will be hoping to get farther than the last time around where they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by the eventual winners England. That dream could be stifled by the strong group the US has been put in with teams Netherland, Senegal, and Japan. All pose a strong challenge with the Netherlands thought to be o e fo the best teams in the tournament. The team kicks of play on October 27th in Brasil against Senegal at 4 Pm Edt.

Raphael Wicky released his roster this morning with quite a few changes and a couple of hopeful new stars making the team.

 

Goalkeepers

The goalkeeper position is the most secure in maybe the entire pool with two of our brightest Gk talents of any age group making the list. Both Las and Odunze have recently made high profile moves to Fulham and Leicester from Chicago and Vancouver academies respectively. Las has been one of the most highly touted Gk prospects since Tim Howard broke through the US youth teams. While Odunze is a rather new name to the team but he has had a meteoric rise in the last year or two. He has been spotted as part of Leicester’s first-team training and could challenge Las for the starting spot if he is in better form. Cervantes is another solid option that is getting pro minutes already for the USL side Orange County SC. Our Gk position is locked down for the foreseeable future with these three between the pipes.

Defenders

The defense is another strong area of this team and is filled with by far the best field talent of this group.

Geroge Bello makes his return to the U-17 picture after a lengthy injury set him back quite a bit for both club and country. He has lost a lot of the momentum that he gained last season after getting starts for Atlanta United, but he seems to be rounding into form at the right time in the USL.

Wicky has brought his strongest centerback pairing of this age group with Kobe Hernadex Foster and Nico Carrera. KHF is one of the most exciting talents in the entire US pool, not just his age group. He is a stalwart defender that can make strong runs up the flank with his dribbling. He also posses a sweet left foot that can hit a nice pass from anywhere on the field or a beta file free-kick. While he projects as a leftback long term he will be used as a left-sided centerback in this tournament. KHF will be hoping for a strong World Cup so that he can get a move abroad and get out of his situation at Los Dos (La Galaxies academy).

Nico Carrera is another exciting prospect that could become a mainstay in the USMNT pool in the coming years. Recently making a high profile switch from Mexico youth teams to US youth teams after gaining full citizenship, Nico will be making strong contributions to this team. Already 6′ 2″ before even turning 18 Carrera projects to become one of the best defenders in the country by the time he reaches his twenties.

The rest of the defense is made up of good role players that can have an impact on a game. Tayvon Gray is a very well-rounded player that can play in defense and the midfield providing much-needed versatility to this group. Armour is a strong defender that can go the distance or go in late and provide a strong defensive showing. Scally use to be one of the most touted right-backs in the pool but a rough 2018-19 filled with injury and bad showings has brought his stock down. he will hope to recapture his form and become the right-back that many thought he could become. Andersson will most likely be the starting right-back this cycle has had a quick rise in the U-17 pool. He’s a pretty good defender and can provide a little bit of something in the attack.

Midfielders

The midfield is a weaker position for the US but we have one of our best midfield talents making the roster.

Daniel Leyva is just 16 years old and is getting regular minutes for the Seattle Sounders in MLS. He is a player that offers a lot and gives the midfield creativity and a bit more bite than any other player at this age. He looks like a player that projects to contribute to the USMNT providing he doesn’t switch to Mexico.

Adam Saldana will probably be Leyva’s partner in the midfield as a more holding midfielder. He is a very resolute defender that has an eye for the pass but can be a little indecisive at times when the balls at his feet. Expect Saldana to be a reliable starter at the tournament this year.

Ethan Dobbelaere, teammates with Leyva and AOC, has had a rather meteoric rise in the US depth pool after not featuring in the Concacaf U17 Championship. His performances have booked his spot to Brazil after impressing for both club and country. He provides a creative spark of the bench that could change a game late. If he plays well at the tourney he could land himself a professional contract up in Seattle.

The rest of the midfield is filled with squad players who have a lot of potentials. Those two players are Bryang Kayo and Maximilian Dietz. Dietz currently plays for the Freiburg U-19s in Germany and has had a rough couple of months, but it seems Wicky sees something in him so we will have to see what he can bring to the table. Kayo, on the other hand, is an interesting player as he just got a move to Orange County SC and has an eye towards Europe next Summer. That is because he has access to an EU passport before he is 18. If Kayo has a good tournament it could force that move even sooner so his performances will be the key to his future.

Forwards

The forwards for this roster have a lot of top-end talent but lack a lot of quality depth that could get the US in trouble at the tournament and there is also a lack of quality wingers outside the starting XI.

The first name anybody thinks about when they think of this U-17 roster and the team will be that of wonderboy Gio Reyna. He is looking like the next prodigal talent to come out of the US development system after Christian Pulsic. Reyna is also following a very similar career path of plying his trade in Germany at the world-class youth academies of Borussia Dortmund. This team will be very reliant on the magic that Reyna can create with a ball at his feet. His combination of athletic ability, pace, and dribbling sets him apart from almost everybody else on this list. He looks ceratin for a first-team breakthrough at Dortmund after lighting up their youth teams and a good tournament could catapult him to minutes sooner rather than later.

(Reyna is number 11 in this video)

Ricardo Pepi is another very exciting name on this list and is the US’s main striker for this tournament. Pepi plays for both North Texas FC and FC Dallas and projects to be the next pure striker in the pool after the emergence of Josh Sargent. his dribbling ability is very good and has a lot of physicality about his game. The US will be relying on him to supply a lot of goals to carry them deep in the tourney.

Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez or AOC as I have dubbed him is another player that has come out of the Seattle Sounders academy. He will primarily play on the right-wing and deputize for Pepi if the need arises. AOC is very clean on the ball and has a very good eye for the back of the net. Keep an eye out for him at this tournament because he could be a breakout star.

Gianluca Busio is another very talented 16-year old that has made this team. He plays almost exclusively for Sporting KC in MLS at 16 years old. Busio usually plays as more of a number 10 and has a very good eye for a pass and always finds himself in a dangerous situation where he can make a play. unfortunately, he plays for a really bad team and his talents can sometimes get lost. He will be hoping to be back to his best for this tourney and moving forward in his career.

The rest of the forwards are comprised of good squad players that help fill out the roster. These players include Griffin yow and Andres Jasson. Yow is a very hard-working winger that might not be the most flashy of players but can do a job that he is given and has been rather succesful in his short Profesional career. Jasson is rather new to the US youth systems, but he has reacted well and earned himself a shot at the U-17 roster. Let’s hope they can find success at the tournament this year.

Just Missed Out

Of course with every roster, there are going to be players that miss out for reasons that can seem rather fickle at this age group. It’s also important to remember that just because they missed out does not mean that they will not surpass the kids that made the team this time around.

The most high profile name missing from this list is the uber-talented 15-year-old Moses Nyeman. Nyeman, who recently signed a homegrown contract with DC, is seen as one of if not the best US talent that plays at home. The reason Nyeman didn’t make the list was that he is technically not a US citizen yet. Many thought that his citizenship would be sorted out by now, but unfortunately, we still seem to be a bit of a way off from that. Nyeman has the potential to be something special for the US in the middle of the park.

Sagir Arce is a high profile attacker that didn’t make the roster this go around for the U-17 World Cup. Arce recently made his Liga MX debut for Morelia which is impressive for a 17-year-old American. He brings a combination of versatility in that he can play on the wing and in the middle. that could have been a boost to our forward pool but Wicky didn’t see fit to include him.

Jonathan Gomez, the younger brother of US U-20 striker Johan Gomez, is a left-back who plays for North Texas FC. He is probably one of the highest ceiling defenders in the entire US pool, but he is just a little too young to have displaced the strong group of defenders called up for this tournament. A decent defender and a strong dribbler he could even have a higher ceiling than Bello but that will have to be seen later down the line.

Joshua Pynadath is another name that could have displaced one of the wingers on this roster but didn’t. Pynadath plays for Ajax and made his senior team debut in a friendly the other day. Pynadath is a step over king and is probably one of the trickiest players in our pool, however, he lacks the game awareness and passing ability to have made a strong case for this roster. Let’s hope he can continue his development at Ajax and become a more solid player later down the line.

Conclusions

This roster has me very excited for the future of USMNT and im honestly more excited for the U17 World Cup then the upcoming Concacaf Nation League games. This feels different than any other U-17 cycle before whether that be from the number of professionals on the roster to the technical ability of the entire roster. Look at this clip below

Wicky has created a group that can play a style that is very sopchiteaced and cohesive. The whole group has a level of ability that we haven’t seen in a U-17 group up to his point. It feels like we have potential stars in almost every group of this roster. While it’s hard to project their careers at this young age it feels like we could have the start of a turn around for the US program.

 

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