Mexico U-17 Capitalized on its Chances against Italy

Mexico’s 2013 U-17 World Cup campaign didn’t get off to the start head coach Raúl “Potro” Gutiérrez may have wanted, but the team rallied to advance to the knockout stage. Despite a 6-1 rout by Nigeria its opening match, victories over Iraq and Sweden in the remaining group stage matches earned Mexico a date with Italy in the Round of 16.

Omar Govea maintained his place in the startling line-up ahead of José Almanza and Erick Aguirre did the same in place of Francisco Calderón, the right back whose fitness has been challenged earlier in the tournament.

From the outset, Salomón Wbias did well to organize his defense and routinely stepped up to make important interceptions throughout the game. Italy’s big center forward, Alberto Cerri, was a constant threat to Mexico’s defense and the central defenders struggled at times to contain him.

During the first few minutes, Ulises Jaimes dropped into midfield to receive a ball to his feet and play it back as Alejandro Díaz drove forward to accept the subsequent long ball over the top of the defense. This encapsulated the role of each of Mexico’s forwards as Díaz continued to play as a target forward and Jaimes worked into the channels and back into midfield.

In the first 15 minutes, each team had a corner kick but neither goalkeeper had been troubled with a shot on frame. Minutes later Raúl Gudiño aptly tipped an Italian free kick over his crossbar. After this chance, Italy put together a nice spell of sustained pressure in the Mexican half but El Tri stood firm. As the first half wore on the two teams began trading chances and opening holes in the opposition defense. Continue reading

Mexico U-17 Edged Past Sweden after Controlling Possession

After a thorough 3-1 victory over Iraq, Mexico had partially exorcised its 6-1 defeat at the hands of Nigeria. A draw against Sweden would give Mexico 4 points and a path to the knockout round via the best ranked third-placed teams. Sweden had amassed 4 points by beating Iraq and drawing against Nigeria, so the Scandinavians were already qualified for the next stage. If Mexico lost to Sweden, its World Cup campaign would end in the group stage.

Raúl “Potro” Gutiérrez again lined his team up in a 4-4-2 and made two changes from the squad that defeated Iraq. Because he correctly predicted Sweden would put up a solid defensive effort, Gutiérrez replaced right back Francisco Calderón with the more mobile Erick Aguirre and opted for Omar Govea in central midfield over the defensive-minded José Almanza.

During the first 25 minutes, despite having 76% of possession, El Tri created few quality chances. Mexico still played a majority of its corner kicks short and to little success. A few minutes later, Ulises Rivas hit an in-swinging corner from the left side which was cleared by Sweden out to Govea, whose shot from outside the area didn’t trouble Sixten Mohlin in goal.

The best chance of the first half belonged to Victor Zúñiga of Mexico. The Cruz Azul academy product was played through the Swedish defense and set off on a 30 yard break away. As he approached the goal, Mohlin came off his line and the defenders recovered to pressure Zúñiga. In the end, Zúñiga only dispatched a half-hearted shot that he didn’t strike cleanly that was easily smothered by the Swedish goalkeeper. Continue reading

Mexico U-17 Bounced Back against Iraq

In its first match of the group stage, Mexico was on the losing end of a 6-1 rout by Nigeria. Iraq faced a similar fate, losing 4-1 to Sweden on matchday 1. A loss in the second match would likely spell elimination from the competition for either team as the tournament was designed to give teams a second chance but not a third.

Head coach Raúl “Potro” Gutiérrez made two changes to the starting line-up that lost heavily to Nigeria. The goalkeeper and backline remained the same but Luis Hernández and Victor Zúñiga, both substitutes in that first match, came into the side for Christian Tovar and Ulises Jaimes. That meant the team looked a little something like the following picture, a pretty standard attacking 4-4-2 with José Almanza as the deepest midfielder and Alejandro Díaz as the target man up top.

Inside the first minute, Hernández made a run down the left and sent a decent cross into the box towards Díaz. The ball was cleared out for a corner, which was played short, and the play resulted in another corner.

During the opening sequences, Mexican players showed their technical prowess by keeping the ball in very tight space down the left flank despite heavy pressure by Iraq. However, a danger appeared for Mexico a short time later. After the Iraqi goalkeeper claims a cross after initially flapping at it, Bashar Resan sprang a counter-attack down his left side. Resan would be a constant threat to Mexico and occasionally sparked flashbacks of Nigeria’s Success Isaac getting the better of the Mexican defense. Continue reading

Mexico’s Shaky Start in the U-17 World Cup

FIFA’s U-17 World Cup kicked on October 17 in the United Arab Emirates and CONCACAF was represented by Mexico, Canada, Honduras, and Panama. Of those four teams, the region’s best chances for a deep run in the competition had to be with the reigning world champions, Mexico. Led again by Raúl “Potro” Gutiérrez, the young Aztecas would bring an attacking mentality to the global tournament and attempt to reignite the fascination with Mexican soccer born from the 2011 U-17 World Cup title, a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American games, a gold medal in the London 2012 Olympic Games, and first place at each of the 2013 U-17 and U-20 CONCACAF tournaments.

Mexico’s 21 man squad for the U-17 World Cup consists of five players from Pachuca, four from Chivas de Guadalajara, three from Club América, two from each of UNAM Pumas, Morelia, and Santos Laguna, and one player from Atlas, Monterrey, and Cruz Azul.

Every player in this Mexico U-17 team was born in 1996 except for Morelia’s wide midfielder / full back Erick Aguirre who is a ’97.

Under Raúl Gutiérrez, Mexico’s U-17 team has spent the past few months playing several preparation matches. Since August, the team has played as many as 13 exhibition matches against local and foreign clubs, as well as other national team sides.

Several players, including starters Raúl Gudiño (Chivas), Francisco Calderón (Pumas), and Alejandro Díaz (América), missed August’s Copa Independencia international club U-17 tournament in Mexico City for exhibition matches in South America with the national side.

Mexico may have been one of the most prepared squads heading into the tournament, but the opening group stage match against Nigeria argued the opposite.

World Cup Group Stage
Mexico opened its 2013 World Cup campaign against Africa’s runners-up, Nigeria. Nigeria has a physically imposing squad with a number of strong and quick players who are dangerous on the counter-attack.

This was Mexico’s starting line-up against Nigeria. Mexico started out on the front foot when Osvaldo Rodríguez got open on a overlapping run and fired in a cross from the left side that Iván Ochoa powered towards the Nigerian goal.

Nigeria made its game-plan apparent in the early goings as well, when the midfield repeatedly tried to find frontrunner Success Isaac with balls through Mexico’s defense. Central defenders Pedro Terán and Salomón Wbias started the game strong and kept the defense organized.

Mexico continued pressuring down the wings with the wide midfielders and fullbacks on both sides serving dangerous balls into the area for Díaz, Jaimes, and Rivas to attack. However, Nigeria would make the breakthrough with a pacey counterattack. Continue reading

United Soccer Leagues Evolves its Extensive Development Model

In case you haven’t seen the press release yet, United Soccer Leagues announced on Wednesday that they will align the Premier Development League and the Super-20 League for the upcoming summer season. Each league is a part of USL’s overall development scheme and the move strives to clarify and solidify the path forward for talented young players in the United States.

PDL-Logo

In case you’re not on top of the alphabet soup of American soccer, USL is an umbrella organization that operates a national professional men’s league (USL-Pro), a national professional-amateur women’s league (W-League), a national mostly college aged and mostly amateur league (PDL), a national under-20 men’s league (Super-20), a national under-20 women’s league that aligned with W-League for the 2013 season (W-20), and youth legues for both boys and girls from u-12 to u-17 (Super Y-League).

Wednesday’s announcement is another step in USL’s growth to provide the best development path for young players in this country. 2013 has already provided two important strides forward for USL-Pro’s role in player growth. In late January, USL and MLS each announced an affiliation in which MLS clubs would partner with USL-Pro clubs to provide four players on loan and MLS Reserve teams would play competitive matches against USL-Pro clubs in the 2013 season ahead of further integration in the next two years. In February, USL-Pro announced the addition of 5 special roster slots for academy players. These players must be under 21 at the start of the season, have neither collegiate or professional experience, and be from a USL-Pro club’s “region, an affiliate youth team or from an MLS affiliate.”

Four USL-Pro clubs partnered with MLS clubs in the 2013 season (Orlando City with Sporting Kansas City, Harrisburg City Islanders with Philadelphia, Richmond Kickers with D.C. United, and Rochester Rhinos with New England Revolution) with varying degrees of effectiveness across the board. Revolution loanee Bilal Duckett was called up to his MLS parent club for a match in Portland in early May. Orlando City and Richmond Kickers both used their loaned players to surge to the top of the regular season league standings while Sporting Kansas City’s forward Dom Dwyer scored 4 goals for Orlando in the Championship Final. Continue reading