CARSON, California – Game reports typically incorporate the what and how that happened at youth national team events, but on Saturday that hardly told any of the story.
Saturday marked the end of the February camp for the U14 Boys National Team and showcased the youth national team in a pair of games against Cal South Olympic Development (ODP) 97 and 98 squads.
The final result says that the U.S. U14 BNT lost to the 1998 squad 2-0 and 5-4 to the 1997 team, but it would be an injustice to proclaim those figures as the only noteworthy part of the fixtures.
The U14 BNT, specifically the ‘A’ team, was absolutely splendid on the day. With a performance that other youth national teams could only dream of achieving, the youngest team in the Federation crisply zipped the ball around the field against a squad that was two years older.
The five goals conceded will be a focal point for some, but an older team was always going to punish the mistakes that the U14 BNT had especially when it takes the risk that head coach Hugo Perez demands of his players.
Perez wants his players to gamble with pushing numbers forward and with holding possession from the goalkeeper to the No. 9. There is never an excuse for this team to mindlessly hit a ball forward.
When the coach demands such of players, they are forced to think and make decision on the fly. Those can sometimes hurt the score, as it often did on Saturday, but it is an important lesson for the future.
The Cal South ODP ’97 team, the favorite to win the upcoming ODP National Championship in Frisco, Texas, is a very good team with a number of quality players, but there were stretches of Saturday’s game when the ODP squad could not win the ball back from the U14 BNT. And that was the story of the day.
The dominance in possession was a collective effort from the starting 11 players from the youth national team, which got off to a blazing start with two goals in the opening seven minutes.
Once again, CASL standout Lucas Del Rosario was leading the charge for the youth national team. After scoring a hat trick on Wednesday, Del Rosario followed up with another hat trick on Saturday. The Durham, North Carolina-native was active from the opening whistle and quickly rewarded for his smart, elusive runs off the ball.
Attacking midfielder Nicholas Taitague (FC Richmond Magic/Midlothian, Va.), who also had a magnificent camp, set up Del Rosario on the first goal. Tatigue’s linking play with Adolfo Trujillo (Ballistic United/Livermore, Calif) opened up the right side of the ODP defense. Taitague then cut the ball back for Del Rosario who had lost his mark six yards from goal for the easy tap in.
Four minutes later, Trujillo torched the right side of the ODP defense with a mazy run and an identical setup for Del Rosario, who easily put home his second of the night.
ODP got on the board ten minutes later when a shot from 20 yards out was nicely blocked out for a corner by goalkeeper Eric Lopez. On the ensuing corner kick, the youth national team lost its marks and Zachary Kobyashi volleyed home the opening goal for Cal South.
The goal only briefly interrupted a sublime opening 30 minutes from the youth national team, as Hugo Perez’s side again took the attack to ODP shortly after the goal.
The next chance for the U.S. came off a corner kick that bounced out to left back Edwin Lara, who was positioned about 25 yards from goal off the right corner of the box. Lara ambitiously tried his luck from distance. His shot zipped past the plethora of players in front of the goal and clanged off the crossbar.
U.S. did not wait long to return that two-goal lead when Trujillo once again got behind the ODP defense. The winger’s cross was punched into the back of the net by an ODP defender to give the U.S. a 3-1 lead.
Midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez nearly put the game away minutes later when he struck a shot from 18 yards out that hit off the post and was cleared by the ODP defense.
Just before half time, ODP exposed the U.S. defense on a quick counter-attack down the left side that Eddie Cabrera finished to put the score at 3-2 at the break.
ODP came out on the front foot to start the second half and collapsed pressure on the center midfielders of the youth national team. The turnovers paved the way to three good chances in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
“We are a little older than them and in the second half we showed that experience,” Cal South Director of Player Development Steve Hoffman told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “Anytime we come here it is a treat. It was a good game against a good side. We are getting ready to go to the ODP National Championships this Thursday so it was a great warm up for us and we didn’t want to go in as a loser.”
Cal South leveled the score in the 54th minute when Jonathan Hernandez Silva caught Lopez cheating off his line when the ball was 30 yards from goal. Silva quickly shot into the net and Lopez could not recover in time to keep it out.
U.S. regained the lead eight minutes later when Tatigue brought down a chip into the 18-yard-box. The center midfielder was knocked off the ball, but Del Rosario was there to clean it up and put in his third goal of the game and sixth of the camp.
Cal South was not going to go quietly into the night though. The ODP squad struck twice in quick succession off crosses to snatch the victory. Silva set up the game-tying strike from Andre Garcia. Adam Eaton provided the assist on the winning tally.
The youth national team could not manage to break down the Cal South defense, which put numbers behind the ball for the last 15 minutes of the game.
“Second game [vs. the 1997 group], unhappy because we lost but this was the best game we have had,” Perez told TopDrawerSoccer.com after the game. “They were older and we needed to be tested physically. I just told the kids, ‘We should have won the game.’
“The futbol, though . . . to see that team just go back and be scared of us for the last ten minutes. When you see these kids play that type of futbol, what can they do? They couldn’t get the ball. I told the kids that this was the best scrimmage that we have had so far and that is going to help them grow.”
U.S. U14 BNT Starting XI (4-3-3):
Cal South ODP Roster:
Alibekov Mutalip, Leobardo Bahena, Eddie Cabrera, Sergio Chavez, Alexis Diaz, Adam Eaton, Andre Garcia, Jonathan Hernandez Silva, Zachary Kobayashi, Jordi Lozada, Rey Ortiz, Jacob Plascencia, Anthony Ramirez, Joshua Ramirez, Christopher Rodriguez, Orlando Trujillo, William Van Zandt, Dmitry Zhuravlev
Cal South ODP ’98 2-0 U.S. U14 Boys National Team
Rodriguez’s first goal came in the fifth minute when he bumped U14 BNT center back Chris Goslin off the ball and then finished around goalkeeper David Preys.
The best chance for the U14 BNT came in the 29th minute when Roberto Hernandez combined with Jeanpaul Marin at the top of the box for a quick give and go. Hernandez broke through the Cal South defense, but his shot was directly at the goalkeeper who managed to just barely keep it out as it almost slipped through his hands.
The U14 BNT finished the half with three shots on goal and some good spells of possession, but did not have the final product.
The second half was a different story, as Cal South dictated the play and the youth national team got a little frazzled under the constant pressure.
Head coach Hugo Perez was not pleased with the effort from his players in the second half, as they could not put together much possession.
“A lot of those kids in that game are still being evaluated so we needed to put them in that situation,” Perez said.
Rodriguez doubled the lead for Cal South early in the half when he picked off a pass across the back and slotted it home.
The U14 BNT had two good chances to score in the latter stanza. Captain Cody Sundquist should have cut the lead to one when he met a corner kick from Jose Ortiz with his head about five yards from goal. Sundquist’s effort went wide of the net.
Ortiz had the other shot when he had a free shot following a short corner kick play. The midfielder pulled his shot wide of the near post.
Cal South had a couple of chances to put the game away with the introduction of Brendan Hildreth (Arsenal). The target forward was one of the many bright spots for the local side. Hildreth linked up with Rodriguez for two quality chances in a matter of minutes but keeper David Preys turned both shots away.
Cal South ended the game with 13 shots, seven on goal.
U.S. U14 BNT Starting XI (4-3-3)
Cal South ’98 Roster
Dominic Menolascino, Victor Rodriguez, Luis Mora, Christian Enriquez, Daniel Klemm, Brendan Hildreth, Eric Cuellar, Daniel Morales, Andrew Gregory, Chase Paulson, Tyler Dean, Jerry Fitschen, Sebastian Des Pres, Billy Garton, Omar Padilla, Marco Romo, Brandon Vazquez,