Last week, the U.S. U17 MNT made the sort of history worth stepping back and pondering over. They beat Mexico, of course, for the first time in their competitive history, a span of five matches stretching back to 1983. It was not the biggest win in U17 MNT history by half – you’d need to delve into Landon Donovan’s 1999 team to go quite that far – but it provided one of the most important rallying points in the team’s modern history.
Turns out, the men’s U17s weren’t the only USYNT putting in work last week.
The week of April 24-30 was a unique confluence of success in YNT terms, to the point that it’s fair to label it one of the more extravagantly successful seven-day periods in the cross-program USYNT history. There was of course the U17 success at World Cup qualifying, which led the way, but three other YNT programs were in action at the same time at different international tournaments, and none lost a game. The U15 BNT opened play at the internationally significant Torneo Delle Nazione, and the U18 MNT swung into action at the Slovakia Cup with a slew of relatively fresh faces looking to impress in the go-between cycle between the U17 and U20 World Cups. On the women’s side, the U17 WNT started its own experience at the Torneo Femminile Delle Nazione in Slovenia and took two wins from its first three.
In nine matches between all three age groups, the U.S. went 7-0-2. It was, by any measure, a wildly successful week the likes we’ve rarely seen before. And to head you off at the pass, winning does matter in the framework of development. It isn’t of primary importance, but it does point back to the actual work of development you’ve done, and take note of Germany in this instance. Back in the 00’s, as its machinery ground into gear, the German FA prioritized winning on the YNT level in international tournaments. Years later, they won the World Cup with those players.
Here’s the timeline of how it went down.
Monday, April 24th
U18 MNT draws Hungary 1-1
– In its kickoff match at the Slovakia Cup, coach Omid Namazi rolled out a mixed bag U18 lineup with a few fringe guys looking to muscle into the regular picture tossed in with a few high end prospects. Two of the biggest were FCD’s Paxton Pomykal, who wore the vaunted No. 8, and New England Revolution academy striker Justin Rennicks. With an awkward 9 a.m. kickoff, the U.S. started slowly and gave up the initial goal before clawing back with a 78th-minute equalizer from CASL forward Emmanuel Perez. A fine start to the week.
Tuesday, April 25th
U15 BNT beats Slovenia 4-0
– It’d be tempting to simply think Slovenia a pushover, but the fact that they were hosting this tournament makes that assessment a bit muddier. The U15s opened their Torneo Delle Nazione with a soaring triumph over the hosts anyway, with goals in turn from Alfonso Ocampo Chavez, Giovanni Reyna, George Bello and Daniel Mangarov. The U15 team’s recent tear continued, leaving little doubt the next U17 MNT cycle is in good hands.
U17 WNT draws Slovenia 1-1
– While the U15s were participating in the boys’ edition of the Nazione tournament, the U17 WNT opened the female version of the same tournament in the same Slovenian town of Ajdovscina. The U.S.-Slovenia doubleheader didn’t go quite as smoothly for the WNT, which was missing a number of top talents but still managed to pull out a result anyway. After falling behind in the 39th, Jordan Canniff hit the equalizer in the 58th, and the U.S. took a point out of its deceptively difficult match against the hosts.
U18 MNT beats Belarus 2-1
– Another 9 a.m. kick, another slow start. Belarus, playing relatively close to its home base, popped out with an 8th minute goal the U.S. spent the rest of the game turning around. After a series of chances, the U.S. equalized via the aforementioned Pomykal in the 69th and then rang up the winner in the 75th via a well-taken penalty from Jonathan Gonzalez. After a tooth-and-nail 1-1 draw in the opener, this one followed a similar format but for the winner this time. It was a harbinger.
Wednesday, April 26th
U15 BNT beats Russia 2-1
– This was the first result to come in on the cornerstone day of the week, and it was a biggie. Russia brought a supposedly top side to this tournament, and the U.S. was fresh off a 4-0 win in its first game here. All the U.S. did was leg out a mighty impressive tournament win after falling behind. Russia struck early with a tally in the 11th minute, but the U.S. was on the precipice of a furious rally. Behind a back-to-front play style, the U.S. got goals from Diego Lopez in the 41st and Giovanni Reyna 20 minutes later to cement the win. A big deal, this, and a heck of a tournament performance from the captain Reyna.
U17 WNT beats Mexico 4-0
– There’s been so much talk about a shift in CONCACAF WNT power precisely because Mexico’s on the come-up. In 2016, Mexico fought the U.S. in a tooth-and-nail U17 World Cup qualifying final, and the U.S. needed a silver bullet in the 86th minute to scrape out a 2-1 win. This time, the U.S. left the nail-biters at the door. A massively impressive 4-0 blowout put those thoughts of a CONCACAF takeover on hold, as Lia Godfrey scored twice to pace the win, including one in the first minute. Just the confidence-booster this side needed.
U17 MNT beats Mexico 4-3
– In the span of several hours across two continents, a combined effort between the U.S. U17 teams managed to hang eight goals on their Mexican counterparts and win both games. This one, of course, was the biggest result of the week. The U.S. broke the Mexican hex at U17 World Cup qualification and actually came within two minutes of winning this game by two goals, if not for an own goal in the 91st minute. What’s more, the U.S. thoroughly deserved this win by dint of it’s aesthetic style. Major props.
Friday, April 28th
U17 WNT beats England 2-0
– This might reasonably have been expected to be the U.S.’s sternest test in the earliest phases of this tournament, and the Americans passed with flying colors. After a win and a draw, the U17 WNT notched its most impressive performance of the week, shutting out a pesky English attack and bagging goals from Payton Linnehan and Jordan Canniff. The win also gave the U.S. a group win, meaning every team involved in a group format won their group over the course of the week.
Saturday, April 29th
U17 MNT beats El Salvador 1-0
– On a list of cynical performances, El Salvador’s belongs somewhere near the top. Despite the fact that the U.S. had already locked up the group, and perhaps due to the fact that El Salvador had already been eliminated, the Central American side engaged in a brutal fouling campaign that did serve its purpose in slowing the U.S.’s goal train from earlier in the tournament. But it couldn’t completely kill the game, and Atlanta United prospect Zyen Jones scored a winner to give the U17 MNT three wins from three and close out the USYNT week with yet another resounding victory.