U17 MNT breezes by Belgium, 3-0

U.S. U17 MNT Highlights vs. Belgium
by Tom Hindle
May 7, 2022
Players featured in this article:
F | Real Salt Lake
D | LA Galaxy
Tyler Hall |  2024
D | Inter Miami CF
MF | San Jose
Axel Perez |  2025
MF | Lyon
MF | Dynamo

Axel Perez simply flicked the ball up. He was a pace, maybe two, outside the 18-yard box, and had just enough breathing room for the spectacular. And that flick, judged perfectly, with the right amount of spin, set it up.

With the ball at knee height, Perez swung his right leg, slicing it slightly with the requisite topspin to send it over the Belgium keeper’s head and just under the bar.

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It was the third of three wonderfully crafted first half goals for the US U17 MNT in their 3-0 win over Belgium in the UEFA Development Tournament Saturday morning.

It was emblematic of a flashy performance from the Americans — with their front four running riot against a dazzled Belgian back line. For most of the proceedings, Perez pulled the strings, the elusive 15-year old finding pockets of space, and picking the Belgians apart, one flick and neat turn at a time. Indeed, it was his trickery that played a part in all three goals, with smart runs and timely passes opening space for others, and also helping create directly as he finished the game with a goal and an assist.

Still, the US turned in a well-rounded performance. Attacking in the first half, and requisitely defensive in the second, they seldom looked troubled against a subdued Belgium side, running out deserved winners in the Portuguese countryside.

The US opener came from a direct piece of play. Pedro Soma picked up the ball inside his own half, and looked up to see Ezekiel Soto bursting between the Belgium center backs. With one smooth movement, Soma pinged a pass into Soto’s pathway, who strode onto the ball and rounded the keeper for a 1-0 lead.

Wibowo added the second 60 seconds later. It started with Perez, who sent his man the wrong way inside the Belgium 18-yard box, before feeding Wibowo on the left side. The midfielder deftly cushioned Perez’ pass, before stroking the ball into the bottom left corner.

And the US didn’t let up from there. Fidel Barajas was thwarted by the Belgian goalie after a mazy run and left-footed strike. Wibowo almost added a second after darting to a near post to meet a cross on the half-volley.

Perez’s strike put the US firmly in control two minutes before half time, capping off a dominant performance in which the side seldom looked troubled.

The second half brought more of the same attacking intent from the MNT. Perez continued to pull the strings, creating chances for Soto and Wibowo — but their efforts were met with smart blocks and nifty saves.

By the 60th minute, US coach Gonzalo Segares started to rotate. Perez was benched, as were Soto and Soma. Their replacements were equally energetic, and provided quality. However, a more resolute Belgium backline kept the US from extending their lead.

Still, by that time, the damage was done. There were still promising moments — especially thanks to the pace of Andre Giatu on the left wing — but the US settled for control of the rest of proceedings. And as the Belgian side looked languid, the US continued to stroke the ball around.

Meanwhile, the three goalscorers watched from the bench, shielded from the Portuguese sun. At full time, celebrations were subdued. The job, as it turned out, had been done.

All the US needed, in the end, was a deft flick.


Diego Kochen, Riley Dalgado, Tyler Hall, Edwyn Mendoza, Fidel Barajas, Ezekiel Soto, Christian Diaz, Adrian Wibowo, Pedor Soma, Axel Perez, Aiden Harangi

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