LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. -- The U.S. U17 Men’s National Team lost 1-0 to England on Wednesday on the opening night of the 2017 Nike International Friendlies.
Taylor Harwood-Bellis scored on a header off a corner kick in the 79th minute to lead England to the victory.
The game looked destined for a scoreless draw for much of the evening. U.S. goalkeeper Damian Las was the star of the game from the home side. The Chicago Fire Academy player made a number of highlight-reel worthy saves to keep USA in the game and England off the scoresheet until the final minute. Las’ performance was aided by the effort of a couple of his defenders as Axel Alejandre and Mason Judge also came up with goal-line clearances during the contest. England also had two goals called back due to an offside flag.
For being under pressure for most of the game, the USA defense held strong together and looked relatively organized. Joseph Scally, George Bello, Alejandre, and Judge have been the top pick as a defensive unit for many of the games the 2002 age group has played together over the past few years.
USA had chances in the contest, but the product in the final third was lacking. New York City FC’s Giovanni Reyna is sitting out this tournament due to a soft tissue injury. Reyna was one of the top players for USA during the run to the U15 CONCACAF Championship game over the summer. His absence from Friday’s game was noticeable especially when it came to the final product in and around the 18-yard box.
With Reyna’s absence, the spotlight is on some other players and youngster Dante Sealy, the only 2003 on the roster, earned some playing time on Wednesday. Sealy had some struggles against a quality England outside back, but it looked like a good learning experience for a player who has shown a lot of promise against players in his age group in the past and now gets the challenge of playing up an age.
Wednesday’s game was the first for U17 Men’s National Team coach John Hackworth with this group. Hackworth said after the game that they had only had five training sessions together up to that point. The coaching staff will get another look at the team on Friday when they take on Netherlands, who lost to Brazil 2-1 in the other game on Wednesday.