CARSON, Calif. – The results may not have gone the U.S. U18 Men’s National Team’s way on Saturday in a pair of scrimmages against older opposition, but the coaches were pleased with the growth of the team during the week-long camp.
“I think overall we are pleased with the performances,” U18 MNT assistant coach Chris Brewer told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “The goal for this week was to build a foundation to help us establish our style of play.”
This was the first camp for new head coach Javier Perez and his staff. From the onset, the goal has been to let the players know what the coaching staff expects from them, as the team establishes a style of play.
Saturday’s scrimmages offered a chance to see the progress from the players since the start of camp, albeit against two teams that had players that ranged from a few to 10 years older than the U18 MNT.
“Yes, we were overmatched in those areas physically, but it was by design,” Brewer said. “We wanted to see if we could still play and build possession in that environment, and I think we saw that very clearly.”
The coach added that this is the first part in establishing a style of play, and the group will continue to build on it moving forward.
LA Blues (USL-Pro) 5 – 1 U.S. U18 Men’s National Team
In the first game of the day, U.S. held knocked the ball well for stretches, but ultimately struggled with the age difference and dropped a 5-1 result against local professional team, LA Blues. The Blues scored twice in the first half, and three times in 10 minutes in the second half to seal the victory.
The U.S. maintained the possession advantage, but at times struggled to connect with the attacking line throughout the first half.
Ultimately, it would be the other member of the midfield trio, New York Red Bulls’ Adam Najem, who would set up the goal. Najem picked out Philadelphia Union’s Zach Pfeffer in between defenders about 20 yards from goal.
The Union’s Home Grown signing slotted it past Blues’ keeper Amir Abedzadeh, and it appeared like the U.S. youth internationals were back in the game early on in the second half.
But Blues responded with a goal of their own in the 60th minute, and the air vacated the sails of the U.S. defense.
Ten minutes later, Blues netted twice in one minute and sealed the 5-1 victory.
Former Los Angeles Galaxy player Israel Sesay was at the front of much of the attack for the Blues with his speedy runs across the U.S. backline, which was shorthanded due to injuries to Trevor Haberkorn and Michael Amick.
U.S. goalkeeper Alex Bono prevented Sesay from grabbing a hat trick with two great saves in the second half.
First half lineup:
Second half lineup:
Ventura County Fusion (PDL) 3-2 U.S. U18 Men’s National Team
The second game offered a more competitive clash, and another chance for Dillon Serna to stamp his claim on one of the starting midfield spots in this age group.
After enjoying a stellar showing on Wednesday in the intrasquad scrimmage, Serna was once again on the front foot in pushing the attack. (link: http://www.topdrawersoccer.com/players-to-watch/players-to-watch-archives/nid-24041)
In the 35th minute, Serna was on the end of a failed clearance in the box after a cross from Dylan Greenberg. Serna’s shot was blocked, but Real Salt Lake – Arizona’s Benji Lopez headed in the rebound to give the U.S. the 1-0 lead over the Fusion.
Minutes before half, Fusion would equalize via Yuri Moreria. Former Portland Timbers midfield Rodrigo Lopez sent him in on goal with a great pass between the two center backs. Moreria rounded U.S. goalkeeper Ethan Horvath for the equalizer.
Horvath made two kick saves earlier in the half to keep Fusion off the scoreboard, but there was little he could do on the Moreria’s goal.
After half, Fusion took control of the game, as Lopez pulled the strings. The midfielder grabbed an unlikely goal off a corner kick in the 47th minute when the U.S. failed to clear a cross that went into the net untouched.
Seven minutes later, Moreria raced past the defense again to take a 3-1 lead.
The U.S. grabbed one back in the 69th minute, and again it was Serna in the thick of things.
The University of Akron bound midfielder delivered a great corner kick to the middle of the box that Seattle Sounders Academy defender Jalen Markey rose up to thunderously head into the corner of the net.
Beyond some shots from distance, the U.S. did not trouble the Fusion keeper over the last 20 minutes and lost 3-2 to the PDL squad.
The U.S. U18 MNT will return to action in late May with an international tournament in Lisbon, Portugal.
First half lineup:
Second half lineup: