CARSON, Calif. – The U.S. U15 Boys National Team wrapped up camp at the StubHub Center on Saturday night with a win and a loss in a pair of scrimmages against Development Academy squads. Opposed to the customary local opponents, U15 BNT head coach Hugo Perez selected Crossfire Premier (Seattle, Wash.) and Real Salt Lake-Arizona (Casa Grande, AZ) for the competition.
“Real Salt Lake wasn’t going to play Academy games this week so I talked to their staff and asked them to come,” Perez told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “I think it was a good game for them and a good game for us. Crossfire’s schedule is light for the next three months and they had the means to travel and wanted to play us so I invited them too.”
The U15 BNT beat Crossfire 2-0 and lost to defending national champions RSL-AZ 3-0.
“These are the games that we need for our kids,” Perez said about the results. “If our kids [the U15s] played two years up when they went back to their Academies, we would be a step ahead of where we are now.”
On the day, the youth national team faced players born in 1997 – a two year age difference. The RSL squad featured Brooks Lennon, a U18 MNT member, and Justen Gladd, a former member of the U17 MNT. It was some of the most difficult competition for Perez’s group during this cycle.
RSL-Arizona U16 3-0 U.S. U15 Boys National Team
Brooks Lennon netted a hat trick, and Real Salt Lake used its experience to hold off the younger competition.
The U15s started strong with a dominant spell of possession through the first 15 minutes of the game. However, the bright start did little for the youth national team in front of the goal and the residential academy appeared to be the more likely squad to go in the early proceedings.
With balls over the top of the defense, RSL’s midfield attempted to release Lennon into space at every turn. The youth national team outside backs struggled with the tactics and Lennon’s superior speed.
It was the Arizona-native who broke the deadlock when he finished off the rebound from an initial shot by Miles Stray that Eric Lopez blocked right to Lennon who easily put it away into the empty net.
The squads went into the break with RSL holding a 1-0 lead.
The MLS Academy continued to take over control of the game in the second half, as the battle in the midfield slowly tilted toward the more experienced side.
Lennon notched his second of the game on a rocket of a free kick from 30 yards out that left Lopez helpless in goal.
The Liverpool target capped the hat trick in the 73rd minute when he cut in from the left channel onto his right foot and hit a curling effort into the top corner of the net.
The U.S. had a few chances in the second half to cut into the lead, but nothing found the back of the net. The best look came in the dying moments when Nicholas Taitague broke free on the wing and whipped in a cross from Jeanpaul Marin, but his header missed just wide.
“I think we could’ve done better,” Taitague told TopDrawerSoccer.com after the game. “We need to be sharper because good teams are going to punish us for our mistakes. And we need to finish our opportunities when we get them because they aren’t going to be many in these types of games.”
U.S. U15 BNT Starting XI:
U.S. U15 Boys National Team 2-0 Crossfire Premier
Perez did not hesitate when asked if this was the deepest pool of players he has had in camp with the youth national team.
“Yes, it is,” Perez said when asked if this was the deepest camp he has had. “And we still had two players that did not come due to injury so we are going to have some difficult decisions on the 18 for Florida.”
The U15 BNT is headed Florida next month as part of the Development Academy Showcase event. The U15s will play three U16 teams while there.
Saturday’s games were part of the preparation for the event, and to get the new players in camp a shot at playing against a more physical style of play from the visitors from Washington.
Crossfire had a few chances to nab the equalizer early in the second half including a couple of shots that hit the framework of the goal, but none of them crossed the painted line.
U.S. doubled the lead late when Ernesto Espinoza linked up with Wilterlynd Inalien near the top of the box. The quick combination between the two allowed Espinoza to walk in past the defense and calmly tuck his shot into the net.
U.S. U15 BNT Starting XI: