CARSON, California — Forty-six boys national team hopefuls are in Southern California this week with the aim of impressing youth national team coaches and becoming part of the group that will head to the U17 World Cup cycle in a few years. The majority of that camp earned their chance in the spotlight on Wednesday evening in an intersquad scrimmage.
The national team coaching staff divided the group of 46 into three teams with one team taking on Chivas USA earlier in the day. The other two teams battled in a scrimmage that was highlighted with some positive attacking movements.
One team was forced to don the yellow bibs for the contest, as they both trotted out in the traditional red U.S. Soccer training tops. The Yellow squad featured the midfield trio of Carlos Anguiano Dias (Chivas USA), Ben Lederman (FC Barcelona), and Sebastian Cruz (De Anza Force). On paper, it looked to be the stronger of the two units, but the Yellow team struggled to find cohesion and any linking play between the three was interrupted pretty quickly. Anguiano Dias acquitted himself well to his surroundings as the holding midfielder in the group and showed off some smooth movements on the ball. He was poised with the ball and kept his group under control for the most part.
The Red midfield of Chris Durkin (Richmond United), Jesus Ortiz (Houston Dynamo), and Ronald Alexis Cerritos (DC United) made up for some questionable positioning with a high work rate and some clever individual play from Cerritos. The son of former MLS standout Ronald Cerritos was caught on the ball twice in the game, but it was a minor hiccup in an otherwise fairly impressive performance in the center of the field.
Both teams declined to pressure high on the field and instead relied on a trap in the midfield, which made for a crowded game through the middle third with forwards tracking back to cover ground and midfielders stepping up to close space.
The circus in the center opened up the wings, which allowed rumored Manchester City target John Hilton (Chivas USA), aka Xuxuh, to flourish with his speed and skill down the right channel for the Yellow team. Hilton faced off against club teammate Kelee Cornfield-Saunders in one of the better individual matchups of the game. Cornfield-Saunders did well to force Hilton away from the end line on a couple of occasions, but eventually Hilton broke through and tried to make magic happen from a darting run near the corner flag. The timing of the runs from the other attackers was still off and Hilton’s passes did not quite result in the finishes that they deserved.
However, it was on the other end of the field that the game would open up. Hilton’s recovery speed allowed him to erase some poor positioning across the backline and knock a ball away from danger on a potential breakaway. However, his clearance led to a corner kick.
Durkin delivered the corner kick, which center back Jaylin Lindsey (Charlotte SA) headed home for his first tally of the game.
The physically imposing Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC) tried to add onto that total before the break and gave the two center backs for the Yellow team all they could handle through much of the first half. Yellow goalkeeper Hunter Pinho (PDA) also did well to keep it close early in the game. Pinho snagged a ball off the foot of a Red team attacker late in the first half on a breakaway.
The second half was not quite as kind to Pinho or the Yellow defense. He coughed up the ball on the opening movement from kickoff and Tristan Weber (LA Galaxy) finished it into the open net. It took all of 16 seconds for the Red Team to double the lead.
Niccolo Lemoine (Ballistic United SC) tipped the scales even further into the favor of the Red Team minutes later with his opportune finish.
Yellow continued to push for something to put on the board and had some looks in front of the net in the second half. Ramiro Palencia (Santa Cruz Breakers) beat his defender and then goalkeeper but his shot was a touch too slow and Lindsey made an incredible sliding save to keep the ball from crossing the line.
Ricky Mendez (Marin FC Alliance) found the breakthrough for Yellow with 11 minutes left in the game. Mendez’s strike was short-lived as Lindsey and Weber both had impressive finishes in the final seven minutes to give the Red team a four-point advantage at the end.
The highlight of the second half came from Hilton who pulled off an elastico with his left foot in the attacking third that left his defender weak in the knees.
Red Team Starting XI:
Yellow Team Starting XI: