Meet the U17 World Cup Team: Forwards

Meet the U17 World Cup Team: Forwards
by J.R. Eskilson
September 29, 2016

While California leads the way in the defense for the U17 World Cup roster, it is Colorado at the forefront among the attackers. Civana Kuhlmann is the notable name among the group. Kuhlmann was part of the U17 WNT in 2014. She was one of two players born in 1999 to make the team as 15-year-olds. 

Now, as one of the veterans of the group, Kuhlmann looks to lead the forward line to a successful campaign at the 2016 U17 World Cup. Hear what her club coach had to say about the striker plus thoughts from the club coaches on the forwards who made the U17 World Cup roster.  

Read More: U.S. U17 World Cup Roster | Meet the Team:  Part One  | Part Two | Part Three

Civana Kuhlmann, Forward, Colorado Rush

Kuhlmann joined Colorado Rush in 2011. She came to the club for the challenges and environment it could provide a player of her quality. She has not been disappointed. 

“Rarely is there one moment,” Colorado Rush Technical Director Erik Bushey told TopDrawerSoccer when asked if there was a moment when he realized Kuhlmann had national team potential. “Civana was a good player when she joined our club. When did we think she had this kind of potential? The day she moved here and made such a serious commitment to training. Why not?”

Kuhlmann’s improved her game over the years. She has listened to the instructions from Bushey and Snow and implemented in her game. Her commitment to the craft helped her refine her approach as a player. 

“Naturally, as one might expect, her confidence has increased and with that has come a more consistent, dominant, driving approach to her attacking game,” Bushey said when asked about the biggest differences in her game since joining the national team. “Additionally, her commitment to defense and appreciation of its value has increased.”

Rush has a support network from top to bottom to challenge players of exceptional quality. With a rich talent pool, Kuhlmann found the place to reach her goals with Rush. 

“Part of our responsibility as youth coaches is to evaluate players so we have an idea just how to push those players to aid in their development,” Bushey said when asked about how he keeps a player like Kuhlmann motivated. “For many players who strive to achieve great things there is a certain level of self-motivation, an internal push if you will. Civana has that quality. Our job is to continually try to create conditions where she can both succeed and be challenged.”


Adrienne Richardson, Forward, Minnesota Thunder 

Adrienne Richardson jumped into the fray with the U.S. U17 Women’s National Team in October of 2015. She has only been in four camps since then, but she made enough of an impression on the coaching staff to earn a spot on the World Cup roster. 

Richardson’s been a dominant force in the ECNL, the current top girls club soccer league, for the Minnesota Thunder. Her combination of skill, strength, and pace sets her apart from the mold. 

Thunder has been her home for much of her soccer career as her club coach Danny Storlien said she joined Thunder when she was nine years old. 

“She has always been a special player,” Storlien, the Minnesota Thunder Girls Elite Director, told TopDrawerSoccer. “She has had many special moments for sure like a four-goal game vs. Jacksonville at PDA in May.”

Storlien said that there was never any confidence lacking in Richardson’s game so the national team attention did not bring that out of here, but rather helped her improve in other areas, which led to a “steady improvement.”

Now, Richardson is in Jordan as the first player from the Minnesota Thunder to make a U17 Women’s World Cup roster. Richardson has the support network with the state’s most well-known club, but she seems like she is fine blazing a trail on her own. 

“She is self motivated and players on a very good team with very good players so she challenges herself but is also challenged by her teammates,” Storlien said about motivating the forward. “She does a lot of individual training on her own too.”


Sophia Smith, Forward, Real Colorado 

Sophia Smith was 12 years old when she joined Real Colorado. She came to the club at the same time as national team teammate Jaelin Howell. The two combined in 2013 to make Real Colorado’s team one of the best in the nation. 

Howell and Smith could’ve sat back on their merits already. They were among the upper echelon of players in that age group and they were creating a team that would be dominant on the club scene for years to come. 

However, neither wanted that from their experience with Real Colorado. They went to the club and to highly regarded coach Lorne Donaldson’s guidance for the chance at something special. They both wanted to be pushed and they found exactly what they wanted with Real Colorado

Smith and Howell are on the U17 World Cup team. In many ways, their journeys are similar. They both hail from Colorado. They both have been part of the national team program since 2014. 

However, on the field they are very different. Howell is the starting center defensive midfielder for the group. She is the safe, conservative one. She knows when to step forward and apply pressure, but more frequently she knows when to drop back and provide the safety net. 

Smith is the artist. She is the flamboyant one with the ball. She wants to take on the defender and smash the ball into the back of the net. She wants to take the risks and reap the rewards. Either one would stand out on the field, but together they’ve complimented each other on the club and national team level. 

The journey to get here required an absurd amount of commitment from both of them. Smith and Howell both travel over three hours round trip to training, Donaldson told TopDrawerSoccer.

“They both travel over three hours round trip to team practice, and will travel on their off days to train with the Academy boys or a staff coach,” Donaldson said. “They will continue to improve due to their massive appetite to play the game.”


Isabel Rodriguez, Defender, Michigan Hawks 

While Isabel Rodriguez does not fit the forward narrative, she is one of the best players in the attack at the club level. 

Rodriguez has been utilized as a defender with the U.S. U17 Women’s National Team, but still suits up mainly as a midfielder with the Michigan Hawks, her club coach Doug Landefeld told TopDrawerSoccer. 

Rodriguez joined the Midwest powerhouse at U12, and has been a star there ever since. 

“She has always been a good play, one of the better ones on our 1999 team,” Landefeld said when asked about when he realized she had national team potential. 

“After her first invitation to national camp, she has embraced the opportunity and has doubled down to make this a reality,” Landefeld said. “She has been gone almost every fourth week, so she has really had to be very organized in her training and with her studies.”

Rodriguez, like many of her teammates on the national team, has relied on her club to keep pushing her when her level has advanced.

“We are fortunate to have very good teams at all ages,” Landefeld said. “[We have] a very good boy’s side so we have been able to give Izzy everything she has needed.” 

Outside of the club, Rodriguez has kept busy. Like her club teammate Alexa Spaanstra, Rodriguez is a star on the track. She picked up all-state accolades in the 400-meter dash as a freshman in 2014. 

With the increase in national team duties, she has not been as active on the track, but the left-footed playmaker doesn’t seem to mind with a spot on the World Cup roster as her reward. 

Frankie Tagliaferri, Midfielder, PDA

Frankie Tagliaferri is one of two players on the 2016 USA U17 World Cup roster who played in the 2014 U17 CONCACAF Championship. She has been this good for that long. 

Tagliaferri joined New Jersey club soccer powerhouse PDA when she was a U12. Renown coach Meghan Ryan has been guiding Tagliaferri during that time. 

“I realized she had national team potential as soon as she came to the team,” Ryan told TopDrawerSoccer. “She is a standout player who always makes a difference when she steps on the field. She always wanted the ball when the game when on the line. The bigger the game the more impact she had.”

Tagliaferri has been there for the big moments: the international goals, scoring the game-winner in the State Championship, and countless goals at the club level. The fact that she is in these situations speaks to her quality as a player and her competitiveness. 

“She has grown to become more confident on the ball,” Ryan said when asked about what changes she noticed in Tagliaferri’s game since joining the national team. “She sees the game better. Knows how to bring everyone at practice to her level and knows how to lead through her play and vocally.”

Ryan has been coaching Tagliaferri since she made that U17 Women’s National Team World Cup qualifying roster as a 14-year-old in 2014. With the added early success, the tendency is for the player to slow down, but Tagliaferri has continued to push and Ryan has been there to make sure she stays at the top of the game. 

“Demand and have a high expectation of her work ethic, attitude, and effort,” Ryan said when asked how she keeps Tagliaferri motivated. “Make sure she finished where she needed to finish fitness wise.”

Tagliaferri heads to Jordan as a veteran of this group thanks to that early success, but she hardly seems satisfied with past honors. The New Jersey-native is looking to lead the USA to a historic finish in Jordan. 

Trending Videos
IMG Academy Top 150 Rankings
see full ranking:
Boys Girls