Elite showcases are designed to challenge and stretch the best players ECNL has on offer.
And this past weekend, players and coaches alike were tested to their limits at the ECNL National Showcase in San Antonio, as the league put on another successful showcase in the heart of Texas.
"It was another outstanding event," ECNL commissioner Sarah Kate Noftsinger told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "The games were all competitive - with all showcase events for us, every game means something, every goal that's scored for or against could have an impact in the overall standings. That feeling is always there and it brings another aspect to a national event."
But with the success, there were plenty of obstacles teams had to overcome and contend with in the three-day window - including the presence of more than 275 coaches and scouts for the U.S. national team.
Dallas Texans' keeper Ashton Hierholzer"It was a tough weekend," FC Virginia U17 coach Paul Ellis told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "Physically, it was probably the most three demanding games we've played in a row in a long, long time."
While Ellis' side performed decently from a results standpoint - winning once and losing twice - the experience once again provided a chance to learn how to cope with the difficult demands of a high level event. According to Ellis, injuries pushed his players even further than other squads, as four girls couldn't travel - adding to the strain of playing three games in quick succession.
"It's very demanding, but obviously because of the travel distance and the cost, there's no other way of getting three competitive games in without going back-to-back-to-back like that," Ellis said. "Obviously it does affect the quality of the games the deeper they go into these events."
Perhaps then it came as little surprise to see a number of the Texas-based clubs fare well in San Antonio, not only possessing a strong pool of talent, but also factoring in a shorter commuting distance to the event. Dallas Texans (7-1-1), FC Dallas (7-2-3) and Solar Chelsea (10-1-1) all sent at least three teams to the event and performing at a high level.
Other teams, like Michigan Hawks U16 (2-0-1), San Juan SC U16 (1-0-2), Colorado Rush U15 (3-0-0), Washington Premier U15 (1-0-2) managed to string together three unbeaten games across the three days.
While the physical demands were evident, the games provided tough competition across the board. High-scoring matches were truly few and far between - though there was an odd lopsided result tucked into the final scoreboard here and there throughout the action-packed weekend.
"When you getting the top teams together, the games are very, very competitive no matter who you're playing," Ellis said. "When you're looking at all the scores, there's very few games that's more than two goals. They're always very, very tight. It was a well put on event, it was very good."
In all, the experience across the three-day weekend left coaches pleased with the overall way things ran.
"We really love the atmosphere that surrounds [the tournament]," KCFC coach Huw Williams told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "When you warm up your teams you see the other games going on, and it's just quality games all the way around."
The next ECNL Showcase is scheduled for a little more than a month away in San Diego, California on March 31.
"It's a quick turnaround, but I'm looking forward to it, and I hope the teams are as well," Noftsinger said of the next showcase. "San Diego is going to be pretty neat. It's a constantly evolving entity, and each time we want to improve, improve, improve."
The qualifying process for the 2013 U20 World Cup is a long way off, but preparation for the U.S. side continues in earnest with another U20 camp currently in progress.
Under head coach Tab Ramos, 26 players are training in Clermont, Florida through March 1, as the former U.S. international continues working fervently to sift through the player pool.
"Every camp is important, you don't get to see the guys all the time, so it's important when they come in they do the best they can," Ramos told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "We're purely in an identification mode right now, we're trying to find out what we have, how deep we can do into the player pool and hopefully discover guys who we think can help at this level."
Villyan Bijev in 2011 with Cal OdysseyThe 26 players in camp come from a variety of backgrounds. Some, like Vilyan Bijev and Juan Pablo Ocegueda are already full professionals. Another group hail from the collegiate ranks, like Mikey Lopez (North Carolina), Sean Okoli (Wake Forest) and Dan Metzger (Maryland) all fighting to impress after strong freshmen seasons.
And then there is a smaller contingent of players still in high school involved with Development Academy sides, like Collin Martin (D.C. United), Javan Torre (LA Galaxy) and Daniel Garcia (FC Dallas).
According to Ramos, the variety of backgrounds hasn't posed any kind of problems in this current camp.
"I think the players handle that pretty well," he said. "You can tell there is excitement there with the players coming in no matter where they're coming from, no matter if that's high school, Academy team, college or pro team overseas or a pro team domestically, they're all genuinely excited to be on the national team."
MORE NATIONAL TEAM NEWS: U23 MNT ready for Mexico | U23 WNT searches for stars
That excitement doesn't dilute the importance. With players coming from all over the world, time is short with these camps providing the only opportunity for coaches to analyze the player pool at this age level.
And while there is plenty that Ramos wants to achieve in this latest camp, identification is the highest priority.
"At this point that's the number one thing," Ramos said. "You want to identify players, want to put them through sort of what the rigors are of national team training when they come in for camp and whether or not they can handle the training twice a day and having meetings, studying other teams and whatever else."
One of the ways Ramos and his staff will test this group is with a pair of friendlies against MLS reserve teams. The US drew 2-2 against FC Dallas on Sunday, and will play Montreal on Wednesday. And while the results won't count for much, a lot of credence will be placed on how the young players handle themselves in these games as Ramos examines players he has at his disposal.
"It's when you get on the field and you have a little bit of time to think, and make decisions and now you have more options and what you do with the options and which options you choose is going to determine the guys we're going to keep here," he said. "They're real games for us, and it helps us to see what types of players are making what types of decisions when the game time comes."
U.S. U-20 Men's National Team Roster By Position:
Goalkeepers: Tomas Gomez (Georgetown; Webster Groves, Mo.), Jesus Guzman (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Kamil Kaminski (Legia Warszawa; Berlin, Conn.)
Defenders: AJ Cochran (Wisconsin; St. Louis, Mo.), Sean Cunningham (Molde FK; Troy, Mich.), Christian Dean (California; East Palo Alto, Calif.), Mobi Fehr (Unattached; Tokyo, Japan), Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (UANL Tigres; Riverside, Calif.), Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina; Edmund, Okla.), Walker Zimmerman (Furman; Lawrenceville, Ga.), Javan Torre (LA Galaxy Academy; Santa Monica, Calif.)
Midfielders: Seth Casiple (California; Rocklin, Calif.), Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Matt Dunn (OFK Beograd; Dallas, Texas), Daniel Garcia (FC Dallas Academy; Dallas, Texas), Alejandro Guido (Unattached; Chula Vista, Calif.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Mikey Lopez (North Carolina; Mission, Texas), Collin Martin (D.C. United Academy; Chevy Chase, Md.), Daniel Metzger (Maryland; Staten Island, N.Y.), Victor Pineda (Chicago Fire; Bollingbrook, Ill.)
Forwards: Villyan Bijev (Fortuna Düsseldorf; Fresno, Calif.), Alfred Koroma (Solar Chelsea SC; Southlake, Texas), Sean Okoli (Wake Forest; Federal Way, Wash.), Andrew Oliver (Chicago Fire Academy; Indianapolis, Ind.), Omar Salgado (Vancouver Whitecaps; El Paso, Texas)
The U.S. got their attacking mindset going early and created some excellent scoring chances, narrowly missing the target within the first 10 minutes. Sweden was able to generate several counter attacks, but could not turn them into quality chances. The U.S. was able to maintain a majority of the possession throughout the match and was the more aggressive team in the physical battles.
The first U.S. goal came off a free kick 40 yards out in the 24th minute. Lauren Barnes curled her service to the back post and U.S. midfielder Amber Brooks fought through a crowd of players to hammer home a header into the right corner.
In the 58th minute, the USA doubled its lead as Lindsey Taylor laid a pass to midfielder Zakiya Bywaters, which opened space for her to skate through the defense and curl a right-footed shot into the side netting from 18 yards out.
The U.S. was forced to make its first change of the match in the 27th minute after goalkeeper Bianca Henninger sustained an ankle injury during a collision with Swedish forward Kosovare Asllani, a former player in WPS with quite a bit of experience with her full national team. Adrianna Franch completed the shutout and victory for the U.S. while making several key saves late in the second half.
The match was the first international of the year for the U.S. U-23s and the first international win for new head coach Randy Waldrum. Next up for the USA is the England U-23 Women's National Team on Feb. 28.
-- U.S. U-23 WNT Match Report --
Match: U.S. U-23 WNT vs. Sweden U-23 WNT
Date: Feb. 26, 2012
Competition: Four Nations Tournament
Venue: La Manga, Spain
Weather: 73 degrees, sunny
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
SWE 0 0 0
USA - Amber Brooks (Lauren Barnes) 24th minute
USA - Zakiya Bywaters (Lindsey Taylor) 58
USA: 1-Bianca Henninger (18-Adrianna Franch, 27); 2-Elli Reed; 3-Lauren Barnes (9-Bianca D'Agostino, 70); 4-Natasha Anasi; 5-Toni Pressley; 6-Camille Levin; 8-Morgan Marlborough (12-Taylor Lytle, 77); 11-Stephanie Ochs; 13-Zakiya Bywaters (14-Sinnead Farrelly, 81); 15-Lindsey Taylor (21-Vicki DiMartino, 65); 22-Amber Brooks
Subs Not Used: 17-Jazmin Hall; 23-Kika Toulouse
Head Coach: Randy Waldrum
The 1997 US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) Girls Regional teams are halfway through their trip to Costa Rica. After two games, Region III (South) sits as the lone team with two wins. Region IV (West) is undefeated after two games with a win and a tie.
The trip to Costa Rica is one of the many benefits associated with the playing US Youth Soccer ODP, furthering the experiences of some of the nation's finest youth players while testing their talents in environments typically only found as a member of the national team.
Day 1 - Saturday, Feb. 25
10 a.m. Region IV 4-1 Alajuela
10 a.m. Region I 1-1 Saprissa
2 p.m. Region III 7-0 Arenal
2 p.m. Region II 0-1 Cartago
Day 2 - Sunday, Feb. 26
10 a.m. Region I 1-1 Alajuela
10 a.m. Region IV 1-1 Saprissa
2 p.m. Region III 2-0 Cartago
2 p.m. Region II 1-3 Arenal
Day 3 - Tuesday, Feb. 28
2 p.m. Region III v Alajuela
6 p.m. Region I v Arenal
6 p.m. Region IV v Cartago
7 p.m. Region III v Saprissa
Day 4 - Wednesday, Feb. 29
1 p.m. Region II v Alajuela
4 p.m. Region III v Saprissa
6 p.m. Region IV v Arenal
6 p.m. Region I v Cartago
Despite the FC Dallas side controlling possession and scoring chances early on, it was the U.S. squad that notched the game's first goal when FCD Academy product Danny Garcia played a ball through to Daniel Cuevas on the left flank in the 19th minute. Cuevas turned and outpaced his defender, while FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz moved to cut the young midfielder's angle. Undeterred, Cuevas sent his shot across the mouth of the goal where it hit the far post and caromed in for a 1-0 U-20 lead.
Just six minutes later, Villyan Bijev made it 2-0 in favor of the U.S. squad, capitalizing on a mistake by the Dallas back line. Bijev won a 50-50 ball in the box and slotted it past Seitz for the second goal of the game.
Despite controlling the majority of possession, FC Dallas didn't find the back of the net until the end of the first half when Top received the ball at the top corner of the box, took a couple of touches to the middle and fired a shot in to make it 2-1.
The Dallas side had several chances to pull even in the second half with Luna hitting the far post and trialist Juan Carlos Enriquez testing the 'keeper from the top of the box. Meanwhile, the U.S. side nearly added an insurance goal in the 81st minute when Mikey Lopez hit the far post, then found his own rebound for a second attempt, which Seitz pushed wide.
Finally, in the 83rd minute, Andrew Wiedeman dribbled down the right flank and found Luna in open space at the top of the box, setting up a perfect finish from the young forward.
U.S. U20s - Daniel Cuevas 19
U.S. U20s - Villyan Bijev 25
FC Dallas - Jonathan Top 44
FC Dallas - Ruben Luna (Andrew Wiedeman) 83
US - Walker Zimmerman (caution) 34
US - Boyd Okwuonu (caution) 45
DAL - Juan Carlos Enriquez (caution) 67
US - Tomas Gomez (caution) 74
FC Dallas - Chris Seitz, Alex Lee (Victor Ulloa 46), Christian Ibeagha, Matt Hedges, Moises Hernandez, Jonathan Top, Bobby Warshaw, Bruno Guarda, Andrew Wiedeman, Scott Sealy (Ruben Luna 32), Juan Carlos Enriquez* (Geoffrey Tulasne* 75).
U.S. U-20s - Tomas Gomez, Boyd Okwuonu, Walker Zimmerman, Christian Dean, Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Mikey Lopez, Seth Casiple, Daniel Cuevas, Victor Pineda (Sean Okoli 79), Villyan Bijev (Dan Metzger 65), Daniel Garcia (Collin Martin 46).
SAN ANTONIO - Sunday's final day of the 126-team ECNL Texas Showcase produced at least two shutout victories by two of the U17 teams at STAR Soccer Complex.
CASL Chelsea Ladies ECNL (N.C.) defeated the Michigan Hawks 2-0, and the Minnesota Thunder topped SC Del Sol (Phoenix) by the same score.
The difference in the matchups was how and when the scoring occurred.
CASL Chelsea Ladies and the Hawks played to a scoreless first half. But it all changed in the second stanza as Betsy Middleton scored one minute into the half. Joanna Boyles sent the ball into the middle, and Middleton took advantage of the opportunity. Just four minutes later, Cameron Castleberry scored on a corner from Boyles. The service touched off a scramble in front of goal, and Castleberry, selected for last year's ECNL All-Event Team, volleyed and finished into the upper 90.
"We knew we didn't have to rush," said Castleberry, who has committed to North Carolina. "We knew if we took our time, our chances would come, and we could finish them on our set plays."
The CASL Chelsea Ladies were the 2011 U-16 national champions, and were guided by the same coach as the U-17 team, Damon Nahas.
Bridget Hamway"In the first half, we definitely had some good chances as well, we just didn't finish them," Nahas said. "They were organized and did a good job of defending. In the second half, we increased the tempo and maintained more possession. It made them chase a bit, and we finished our chances."
Middleton agreed with her coach and teammate about the ebb and flow of the tightly played game.
"We started quickly in the second half," Middleton said. "We were confident, put it away early, and kept the momentum going."
Taylor Francis earned the shutout at goalkeeper for the CASL Chelsea Ladies, who improved to 14-4-0. The Michigan Hawks dropped to 12-2-2.
Minnesota Thunder Academy scored on a penalty kick in the first half by Madison Yueill, the daughter of coach Mark Yueill. Anastasia Medellin got the PK, and Yueill put the ball into the net.
Kylie Schwarz took the corner kick in the second half from Brianna Ismale, and gave the Thunder a 2-0 lead. Schwarz described the ball as a "perfect floater from Bri."
"Both teams put up a good fight, and it was evenly matched," said Schwarz, who has made a commitment to Wisconsin. "In the end, we worked harder and battled for the ball individually more than they did."
Thunder, whose club team earned Minnesota State Cup championships in four divisions (U14 through U17) upped its record to 3-1-3. SC Del Sol now stands at 2-3-4.
"Del Sol is a very good team," Thunder coach Yueill said. "Surprisingly, I thought the team going against the wind had the better of play. We had better possession, and it was a good defensive and offensive effort. Both teams put the ball on the ground and tried to play out of the backfield nicely. It was a fun game to watch, and the teams played hard."
The next ECNL Showcase takes place in San Diego March 31-April 2.
MORE ECNL NEWS: San Antonio Showcase gets underway
Washington Premier 2, SC del Sol 0
Crossfire Premier 0, Lonestar SC 0
Colorado Rush 2, KCFC 0
Challenge SC 1, Real Colorado 0
CASL Chelsea Ladies 3, D'Feeters 2
Michigan Hawks 1, TSC Hurricane 1
Dallas Sting 2, Minnesota Thunder Academy 1
Colorado Storm 3, FC Milwaukee 0
FC Dallas 2, East Meadow 0
San Juan SC 2, Connecticut FC 1
Utah Avalanche 2, Sockers FC 2
Solar Chelsea 2, Carolina Elite Soccer Academy 0
Dallas Texans 2, St. Louis Scott Gallagher 1
Crossfire Premier 1, Atlanta Fire 1
Lonestar SC 4, Bethesda SC 0
FC Milwaukee 1, Real Colorado 1
PDA 1, Carmel United 0
Michigan Hawks 5, CASL Chelsea Ladies 1
San Juan SC 3, East Meadow SC 0
Dallas Sting 5, FC Virginia 0
Charlotte Soccer Academy 0, Sockers FC 0
Carolina Elite Soccer Academy 1, Blue Valley SC 1
Challenge SC 3, Washington Premier 1
SC del Sol 2, TSC Hurricane 1
Minnesota Thunder Academy 0, Eagles SC 0
Virginia Rush 1, Colorado Storm 0
Utah Avalanche 1, Vardar 1
Solar Chelsea 2, Richmond Strikers 1
FC Dallas 1, Colorado Rush 0
KCFC 2, D'Feeters 0
Dallas Texans 5, Crossfire Premier 0
Bethesda SC 3, TSC Hurricane 2
D'Feeters 2, Real Colorado 1
Charlotte SA 2, FC Dallas 1
CASL Chelsea Ladies 2, Michigan Hawks 0
Carmel United 0, Colorado Rush 0
Lonestar SC 3, FC Virginia 2
KCFC 6, Virginia Rush 0
Dallas Sting 1, PDA 0
Carolina Elite Soccer Academy 4, Colorado Storm 0
Atlanta Fire 0, Utah Avalanche 0
Minnesota Thunder Academy 2, SC del Sol 0
Eagles Soccer Club 3, Sockers FC 1
Solar Chelsea 8, Blue Valley SC 0
St. Louis Scott Gallagher 1, East Meadow 0
Washington Premier 1, FC Milwaukee 0
Richmond Strikers 1, Vardar 0
Challenge SC 1, San Juan SC 0
Crossfire Premier 3, Dallas Sting 0
KCFC 3, San Juan SC 1
Dallas Texans 2, CASL Chelsea Ladies 1
Solar Chelsea 1, Albertson Fury 1
Minnesota Thunder Academy 3, SC del Sol 1
D'Feeters 8, Bethesda SC 0
Challenge SC 0, Mclean Youth Soccer 0
Utah Avalanche 1, Penn Fusion 0
PDA 3, Michigan Hawks 2
Real Colorado 1, Carmel United 0
FC Milwaukee 0 Virginia Rush 0
FC Dallas 2, Washington Premier 0
Eagles SC 1, Lonestar SC 1
Colorado Rush 1, Sockers FC 0
East Meadow 0, TSC Hurricane 0
In the limited history of the Development Academy, there has only been one team that finished the season undefeated, the 2010-11 Dallas Texans U18.
Well, the storied club from Texas does not want to talk about it, but this season's U16 team might just join that elite company.
It is a big might, at this point, with four months of play remaining combined with a likely trip to the playoffs, but the Texans have survived six months of competitive games in the Texas Division without a loss.
However, the run of 19 games without a loss nearly came to an end on Saturday.
The Texans trailed Solar Chelsea SC late, 1-0, when coach David Hudgell, who also coached the undefeated Texans U18 team last season, inserted 15-year-old Cooper Whitfield into the game.
Saturday's appearance was only the second of the season for Whitfield who has played a grand total of 31 minutes this year.
Whitfield made the most of his limited time on the field this weekend, as the youngest player on the Texans' roster scored the equalizer in the final minute against Solar SC Chelsea.
Galaxy's Mario RodriguezThe undefeated run prolongs for at least another month, just don't ask the Texans to talk about it.
Real So Cal U18 and Arsenal FC fought to a 1-1 draw in one of the few games in California on Saturday. Jamie Enriquez notched his sixth goal of the season for Arsenal, which remains a point behind Real So Cal for fourth in the SoCal Division. In the later game, the U16 squads drew 0-0.
LA Galaxy U18 retook the top spot in SoCal with a 2-0 win over Pateadores. Jaime Villarreal continued his stellar debut season in the Development Academy with two goals. He now has 15 goals in 14 games played.
In the U16 game, Justin Dhillon and Kevin Labastida scored for Galaxy, as Kenny Arena's team is now within one point of division leaders, RSL-AZ.
Up in Northern California, California Development Academy U18 picked up its first division win of the season with a 2-1 victory over Seattle Sounders. Michael Gallagher scored the only goal for the visitors, but Tanner Thompson and Tommy Thompson found the back of the net to give the home team the win. Sounders U16 won the later contest 3-1 to sweep the season series.
The match between Crossfire Premier and Vancouver Whitecaps was postponed due to inclement weather in the Seattle area.
Richmond Kickers U18 won the local derby 2-1 on Saturday thanks to a late goal from Ryan Clapman. Zachary Harris scored the other goal for the Kickers and Michael Kibler found the back of the net for the Strikers.
Strikers U16 picked up its first division win of the season on Saturday over the Kickers via a second half goal by Gil Topaz.
Solar SC Chelsea U18 battled back from a goal down in the last 18 minutes with a tally from Eric Dinka and an own goal to claim all three points against the Dallas Texans. Solar is in third place in the division.
Houston Texans SC cruised to 5-0 victories over Classics Elite on Saturday in both the U18 and U16 games.
FC Dallas U18 recorded another comfortable win against Andromeda over the weekend with a 7-0 result. The U16 game ended in a 1-1 draw.
The trip to Costa Rica is one of the many benefits associated with the playing US Youth Soccer ODP, furthering the experiences of some of the nation's finest youth players while testing their talents in environments typically only found as a member of the national team.
Day 1 - Saturday, Feb. 25
10 a.m. Region IV v Alajuela
10 a.m. Region I v Saprissa
2 p.m. Region III v Arenal
2 p.m. Region II v Cartago
Day 2 - Sunday, Feb. 26
10 a.m. Region I v Alajuela
10 a.m. Region IV v Saprissa
2 p.m. Region III v Cartago
2 p.m. Region II v Arenal
Day 3 - Tuesday, Feb. 28
2 p.m. Region III v Alajuela
6 p.m. Region I v Arenal
6 p.m. Region IV v Cartago
7 p.m. Region III v Saprissa
Day 4 - Wednesday, Feb. 29
1 p.m. Region II v Alajuela
4 p.m. Region III v Saprissa
6 p.m. Region IV v Arenal
6 p.m. Region I v Cartago
The fourth such gathering of the 2011-2012 season is in San Antonio This weekend, with teams beginning play Friday at the STAR Soccer Complex, under cold and windy conditions.
A total of 125 U-15 through U-18 girls teams - considered to be the best in the nation - will compete through Sunday, playing one match per day.
U16 Girls: Charlotte Soccer Academy 0, KCFC Fury 0
In the U16 division, Charlotte Soccer Academy battled the Kansas City Football Club Fury to a 0-0 draw. KCFC previously sported a perfect 17-0-0 record, and was a prolific team with 69 total goals. They were shut down by Charlotte, which improved to 4-9-5.
"We limited their play and took them in a little tighter at midfield," said Charlotte coach Adam Denton. "When they get the ball wide, they are dangerous. When (goalkeeper) Sam (Steyl) was called upon, she did well, and had some saves from a distance."
Steyl accounted for three saves in the defensive duel, including two key stops in the first half of play.
Dallas Texans' Sophie Groff"I feel my defense did well," said Steyl, an honor student at Ardrey Kell High School. "It was a very windy game, so we had a lot of clearing to do. Overall, I think we are not going to give up many goals, if we keep it up."
Steyl especially credited two of her teammates for superb defensive play. Center back Lauren Nalevaiko was effective with headers, and Megan Gray did yeoman's work covering the outside backs, according to Steyl's analysis.
U15 Girls: Colorado Rush 2, Lonestar SC 0
The Colorado Rush U15 squad remained undefeated (15-0-1) with a 2-0 shutout over Lonestar Soccer Club (7-3-4), from Austin, Texas.
Twenty minutes into the opening half, Rush forward Aspen Robinson scored for the Littleton-based club, off her own corner kick.
"It curved right into the back post, and the wind helped me out," Robinson said. "Our back play was really strong, and our forwards connected with the midfield. We played an overall good game."
Goal No. 2 came in the second half from forward Jastin Redman, which proved to be the icing on the cake for the Rush.
Colorado coach Wes Hart was complimentary of the execution of his team, which has now scored 57 goals in 15 matches.
"It is a solid, hard-working group," Hart said. "We did a good job settling the ball and making the other team chase, and we have special players who have the ability to break. It was difficult because of the weather and field conditions. Considering the conditions, I was pleased with the soccer we played."
KCFC 1, Real Colorado 1
FC Milwaukee 3, Carolina Elite 0
SC Del Sol 1, East Meadow 1
Crossfire Premier 4, Challenge SC 0
Dallas Sting 5, CASL Chelsea Ladies 0
TSC Hurricane 3, San Juan SC 0
Connecticut FC 1, Utah Avalanche 0
Washington Premier 1, Minnesota Thunder 1
Colorado Rush 2, Lonestar SC 0
Solar Chelsea SC 1, Colorado Storm 0
Sockers FC 1, FC Dallas 0
Michigan Hawks 1, D'Feeters SC 0
Bethesda SC 1, Dallas Texans 1
Michigan Hawks 0, D'Feeters SC 0
Dallas Sting 2, Carmel United 0
Virginia Rush 1, FC Milwaukee 0
Colorado Rush 1, Atlanta Fire 1
KCFC 0, Charlotte SA 0
Lonestar SC 2, St. Louis Scott Gallagher 0
Sockers FC 0, PDA 0
FC Dallas 1, San Juan SC 1
Blue Valley SC 1, Real Colorado 0
Carolina Elite SA 1, Eagles SC 0
Solar Chelsea SC 2, FC Virginia 1
Richmond Strikers 0, Colorado Storm 0
Challenge SC 1, East Meadow 0
SC Del Sol 1, Minnesota Thunder 1
Utah Avalanche 1, TSC Hurricane 1
Washington Premier 1, Vardar 1
Carmel United 2, CASL Chelsea Ladies 1
FC Virginia 1, San Juan SC 0
Lonestar SC 1, Real Colorado 0
Michigan Hawks 2, Bethesda SC 0
Dallas Sting 2, Colorado Rush 1
TSC Hurricane 2, PDA 0
D'Feeters 2, Crossfire Premier 0
Challenge SC 3, KCFC 0
Dallas Texans 2, Charlotte SA 0
St. Louis Scott Gallagher 1, Utah Avalanche 1
Atlanta Fire 0, Vardar 0
Solar Chelsea SC 2, Minnesota Thunder 1
Virginia Rush 2, FC Milwaukee 0
Washington Premier 1, Sockers FC 0
FC Dallas 2, East Meadow 2
Challenge SC 1, San Juan SC 0
D'Feeters SC 1, Eagles SC 0
KCFC 1, Mclean Youth Soccer 0
Michigan Hawks 4, Albertson Fury 1
Dallas Sting 2, C olorado Rush 1
Real Colorado 3, PDA 3
SC Del Sol 2, Solar Chelsea SC 1
Dallas Texans 3, Sockers FC 0
CASL Chelsea Ladies 1, Minnesota Thunder 1
Crossfire Premier 0, Carmel United 0
Washington Premier 1, Virginia Rush 1
TSC Hurricane 0, FC Milwaukee 0
Lonestar SC 6, East Meadow 2
FC Dallas 1, Penn Fusion 0
Utah Avalanche 3, Bethesda SC 1
Photo credit: Michele Hierholzer
This year has been kind to Swanson's group. The team recently captured the title at the Four Nation's Cup in La Manga, Spain with a convincing 10-0 win over Switzerland, 2-0 victory over Norway, and 1-0 win over Germany. MORE NATIONAL TEAM NEWS: U23 WNT Heads to La Manga | U23 MNT Depth Chart
"I thought we did a good job defensively as a group," said Swanson about the tune-up. "Our back four did quite well in limiting the chances in three games. In that standpoint, it was a good tournament because we were tested. Our midfield, backs and goalkeepers all preformed well, which was good to see at this point."
Pathman, who plays college soccer at Duke, also said that the tournament in Spain was a good warm-up for the team before qualifying begins, which starts on March 2 for the Stars and Stripes against Guatemala.
"I think the La Manga tournament was great preparation for these qualifiers," said Pathman. "It was good to get three quality games in and it really helped us come together as a team." Defender Stephanie Amack, the youngest player on the roster, agreed with Pathman about the team's cohesiveness. "The team is really coming together," said Amack who already made a verbal commitment to Stanford. "This is an incredibly talented and competitive group of players." Striker Lindsey Horan was the star from the Four Nations Tournament, as she collected the honors for the best player of the event.
"There is no question she is a top talent at this age group," said Swanson about UNC recruit Horan. "She is a real hard-worker, which I really like. She has a bright future."
Swanson said that midfielder Sarah Killion also had a very good tournament overall in Spain.
"I thought Sarah did a nice job over there - just linking our team and settling us down when we needed it," added Swanson.
UCLA freshman and Fort Wayne, Indiana native Killion is one of the standouts from the midfield, which is where the coach highlighted some of the positive growth of this team in the last year. He was also encouraged by what he saw in Spain as the team started to get on the same page.
"I think overall, it is about how we are coming together on both sides of the ball as a team."
Now, the coach's attention is firmly placed on qualifying for the World Cup and he knows he is going to face some challenging obstacles when his team starts play in Panama.
"We know it won't be easy," said Swanson. "It is a tough environment to play in. Our goal is to make it to the finals and qualify for the World Cup."
The situation may be challenging, but the coach is secure with this group of players about getting the job done. "We have a grounded group that knows every game will be important there. I am confident in this team. We are certainly looking to get off to a good start. We are excited for the challenge."
"Now it's just time for us to put it all together," Pathman summed it up aptly.
While Olympic preparations are in full swing for the U.S. Woman's National Team, the stars of tomorrow are getting a chance to shine in La Manga, Spain over the coming week.
Starting February 26, the US U23 women are competing in the Four Nations tournament, facing Sweden, England and Norway. The event will in part be used toward the continuing effort to help player identification in the U.S. women's program.
Recently appointed U23 WNT coach Randy Waldrum (also the Notre Dame head coach) had a chance to catch up with Pia Sundhage at the recent U.S. friendly against New Zealand, and is implementing some of the ideas discussed there into this tournament.
"We also had some great discussions regarding her philosophy and the style she wants to see our team play," Waldrum told TopDrawerSoccer.com via email. "So with these discussions in mind, I'll be updating Pia on the progress of our team as well as some of the individuals in our program."
Zakiya BywatersWith Sundhage firmly focused on preparing for London, the work for Waldrum is to try to identify and recommend players who can perhaps one day contribute at the full national team level.
It hasn't been a straightforward buildup, as Waldrum only took the position last month, and will have just six days in advance to prepare the group for this tournament, as the team arrived in Spain on February 20.
"One of the biggest challenges I'm finding right now is simply not having enough time with the team before the La Manga event," he said. "I came on board in January, and we've only had one camp to prepare, so our team preparation is not where I would like it ideally."
The U.S. opens play against Sweden on the 26th, before taking on England two days later, then wrapping the tournament up against Norway on March 1.
Waldrum's roster is a mix of players either still in college, fresh out of school, or with a year of WPS play under their belts. Toni Pressley, Bianca Henninger and Stephanie Ochs join Lindsay Taylor, a national champion at Stanford last fall, as some of the post-collegiate talent on the roster.
Unfortunately, that quartet was left in a lurch by the loss of the WPS season after they were all drafted this past January, something which also happened to a handful of others who now must also sort our their playing future in a world without women's pro soccer in America (at least for this season).
Regardless of the variety in background of his players, Waldrum feels like he has a good grip on his roster.
"I feel like I know most of the players in our pool due to college and following them in the pros," he said. "There are obviously some of the players at certain schools I don't know as well. I'm trying to have some of the players I don't know as well come into camp so that I can compare them to the existing pool that I do know."
A number of the players, will return to their respective college programs after the tournament, including goalkeeper Adrianna Franch (Oklahoma State), Amber Brooks (North Carolina), Jazmin Hall (Notre Dame) and Vicki DiMartino (Boston College).
But with the other half of the roster looking for opportunities to play, Waldrum said it remains to be determined how well U.S. and the U23 program can help fill the void.
"That is still being worked out, but I do know the rest of the schedule includes another camp after La Manga and possibly another foreign tour which I believe is being worked on now," Waldrum said. "We'll have to reevaluate the future schedule in this new environment."
U.S. U23 WNT Roster:
Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Oklahoma State; Salina, Kan.), Bianca Henninger (unattached; Los Gatos, Calif.)
Defenders: Natasha Anasi (Duke; Arlington, Texas), Lauren Barnes (out of contract; Upland, Calif.), Jazmin Hall (Notre Dame; Highland Village, Texas), Camille Levin (unattached; Newport Coast, Calif.), Toni Pressley (unattached; Melbourne, Fla.), Elli Reed (out of contract; Park City, Utah), Kika Toulouse (Virginia; Arlington, Va.)
Midfielders: Amber Brooks (North Carolina; New Hope, Pa.), Zakiya Bywaters (UCLA; Las Vegas, Nev.), Bianca D'Agostino (out of contract; Longmeadow, Mass.), Sinead Farrelly (out of contract; Havertown, Pa.), Taylor Lytle (Texas Tech; Las Cruces, N.M.)
Click to read previous chapters: One | Two | Three | Four | Five
Derek took a drink of water and sat on the bench. In the eight weeks since the Labor Day Tournament, the U14 Boys of United FC had begun to coalesce. Players whose first instinct at the beginning of the season was to try to solve every problem individually, were now playing more intelligently, picking their spots for dribbling better, and flourishing as passers and movers on the field. The results on the field were reflecting this, but more importantly to Derek, the conversations were beginning to change among the team.
Instead of just being content with winning everything, which they had the potential to do, the team members were talking more about playing well, about living up to the standard of leading teams and players from around the world. They were starting to think and play like real soccer players, and seeing this was one of Derek's favorite parts of coaching.
This team has serious talent, he already knew, but now Derek was seeing it being used in a way that would ultimately separate great teams from a much larger group of good teams.
Additionally, Derek was recognizing he had no fewer than three special players in the group, and by special, he felt these were players with real potential to play professionally and internationally. Most parents were hoping their sons would have the chance to play collegiately, and Derek figured probably everyone on this squad was that good, but the talent level for his terrific trio was tantalizing.
The players who really excelled were Joe Mitchell, Freddy Barazza, and Mickey Hilliard. Joe was not only a fast forward built a bit like a fire hydrant, but someone who brought excellent close control along with his magnificent acceleration. What Derek was really noticing about Joe was how quickly he was learning when to make those explosive runs, mixing his plan of attack in such a way to really accentuate his speed and skill.
Freddy "Froggy" Barazza was a bit more physically mature than the other boys, and while his strength helped him keep the ball for long spells, what really set him apart were his exceptional skills. Derek noticed that whenever he got to practice, and it was usually pretty early, Froggy was already there, working on technique. Sometimes he was just fooling around with tricks like the other boys would do, but more often he had dragged a dozen or so balls to a certain part of the field and was practicing things that he would actually use in a match, while his dad and younger sister chased down the balls and brought them back. Froggy had the passion for the game, and the willingness to put in the work.
The other standout was Mickey Hilliard. Taller than everyone on the team but goalkeeper Caleb Waugh, Mickey had perhaps more natural talent than anyone in the group. He sometimes seemed too casual to Derek. He wasn't as explosive as Joe, and he definitely didn't work on his game the way Froggy did, but he just seemed to have this special knack for making the ball do the right thing for him, and like the other two, he was very smart in knowing what that was.
The other players had their positives, and Derek didn't want to peg anyone too early, either way, but at this point and time that was the way the talent ladder on his team unfolded.
The team had rolled through its Regional League schedule with just one draw blemishing the record. On the final weekend of the season, United was set to play Bayside FC, which with one loss, was the only team that could steal the league crown away. A win by United and the league title would be won on its first attempt.
The match started uneventfully, but Derek noticed his team was a bit tight, much as it had been in the final of the Labor Day Tournament. Sure enough, about 20 minutes in, defender Edgar Frick failed to deal with a simple cross, and while Caleb Waugh made a great save on the first close-ranged shot, the rebound fell kindly to a Bayside player and he scored to put United down for only the second time all season.
The halftime whistle blew and the players trudged to the sideline, clearly frustrated. Ruben Lomeli kicked a water bottle and Trevor Walker got into an argument with Rich Metzger and then Chase Yates. After letting the players vent for a few seconds, Trevor stepped in.
"Listen to yourselves. You are so cool when things are going well, but you fall behind and now you're a bunch of whiny babies," he said. "It's like you have forgotten every good thing you've done all year, just like that. This is the kind of challenge that makes a good team a great team, you have to think of it as an opportunity.
"All year you've been playing soccer in a way that makes the other team chase you around the field. The other team has had very little of the ball," he continued. "Now this team has had a lot more of the ball, not because they are taking it from you, but because you are giving it to them. They are a little bit bigger, a little bit faster, you have to take that advantage away from them. Work a little harder to make the spaces smaller. Link better and you can keep the ball like you normally do. If you don't, it's going to be more long passes and more of them getting the ball. Is it important enough to you to do that much more?"
The group murmured.
"I said, is it important enough to you?"
"Yes," the players answered back more assertively. He didn't see a convinced look in every eye, and that was the main thing dictating his lineup for the 2nd half. He pulled Trevor Walker aside just before the team returned to the field for the second half.
"This starts with you," Derek said. "You lead by example. Show me the work rate in the middle that we need. I know you're fit enough."
Trevor had a surprised look on his face at the affirming challenge. He nodded and ran out, calling the players together for a quick huddle.
The second half was a different story. Bayside was quickly chasing the game and within a few minutes Jack Grobmyer had combined with Ron Metzger to set up Mickey Hilliard, and the tall striker scored to tie the match.
A few minutes later, Trevor chased down a ball in the center circle, and hit a nifty pass over the top for Joe Mitchell to run onto. The speedster split the middle and banged a shot in off the upright. Bayside mounted one good attack but Waugh was there to make the save.
With about 10 minutes left a Bayside player fouled Froggy in the box and Alex Wasserman, a defender who had won a penalty contest in practice, stepped up to knock in the PK, and United were regional league champions.
When the final whistle blew it touched off a wild celebration as the team knew it was the best thing they had won so far. Derek enjoyed the predictable Gatorade bath from the players, and later accepted congratulatory handshakes and hugs from the parents, even a hug from Pamela, who had largely kept her distance since the ill-fated night at his apartment.
Derek made it home that night and thought about the good season the team had enjoyed thus far. He had settled into all of the director's duties and the board were making it clear that he had a good chance to be hired permanently since Warren did not appear to be recovering enough to return to his old post.
Things were going very well, but Derek had learned through his life not to trust happiness. He knew something was coming, he just didn't know what it was going to be.
Next Week: Florida Follies
Is it possible that top prospects across the country are checking out our Top 100 Lists and aligning with other standouts?
Ok, maybe that's a stretch, but we did just release our updated 2013 Boys and lo and behold we have a couple standouts who are set to join players from the prestigious ranking.
Jake Taylor (Bavarian SC) has verbally committed to Marquette for the 2013 season, making him a future teammate of Louis Bennett. Bennett is our No. 73 ranked player and a Chicago Fire star. Taylor will be pleased to join such an elite attacker.
Colton AmidonAnd then there's FC Delco's Colton Amidon who has verbally committed to Penn State for the 2013 season and is now aligned with No. 21 ranked Top 100 player Connor Maloney. Maloney helped lead his PA Classics team to the Development Academy championship game last season. He made the East Conference Starting XI and left quite an impression with his scoring prowess. Yeah, he's the kind of guy you want to play with.
Highlighting a nice signing class from Montverde Academy Soccer, the Florida club saw a host of players join program for 2012: David Graydon, Donte Brangman and Jair Minors have all signed to Saint Louis.
Henrique Novaes and Joao Ramalho signed to East Tennessee State while Fernando Vega has signed with Florida Gulf Coast and Juan Jose Morales to Mercer.
In other commitment news:
Erik Yamane has signed with Trinity International for the 2012 season.
Jon-Luke Ferrandino (NJSA) has signed with Connecticut for the 2012 season.
Eric Lagg (New York Red Bulls) has signed with Seton Hall for the 2012 season.
Marco Sunol (North Carolina Fusion) has verbally committed to North Carolina for the 2013 season.
Warren Marshall (North Carolina Fusion) has verbally committed to North Carolina for the 2013 season.
Shawn Mearing and Michael Kirk have signed with La Salle for the 2012 season.
Adam Hamdan (D.C. United) has signed with VCU for the 2012 season.
Dylan Cope (Bayside United) has signed with Iona College for the 2012 season.
Ryan Thompson (CASL) has signed with Duke for the 2012 season.
Starting Friday, more than 2,000 players and 126 teams will kick off the latest ECNL Showcase in San Antonio, Texas.
In three short days, a little more than 200 games will be played as the elite players from across the United States compete to standout as the ECNL season continues.
TopDrawerSoccer.com will have updates from the action this weekend and Monday, as well as a comprehensive recap next week. Of course the results will be drawn from at our next scheduled update of TeamRank.
The difficulties of tournament play are well known, particularly for those teams who have to get on a plane in order to make the trip. Teams must combat the fatigue of travel and make the adjustment on the fly.
FC Virginia's Brittany Basinger"We have a routine that we go through once we get off the airplane, within 3-4 hours of landing we try and train which we'll do down in San Antonio," FC Virginia U17 coach Paul Ellis told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "It puts them in the right mindset for the job at hand."
Along with the competitive incentives of the ECNL National Standings, it's a big weekend for those girls still uncertain about their college future. More than 200 college coaches are expected to be in attendance at the three-day showcase.
Of course, with teams descending into Texas from all corners of the country, it creates an unusual challenge for coaches, having to face unfamiliar talent at different points in their season.
"I'm not really sure [what to expect] because the teams we're playing, some of them may be heading into high school season, some could be like us, in early mode," Bethesda SC U16 coach Dave Nolan told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "They're going to be three challenging games - I'd certainly like us to pick up as many points as possible."
Here's a look at what various teams have at stake this weekend:
For some teams at this level, like Crossfire Premier and Washington Premier, the ECNL season is just getting started. Both of the Northwest Conference clubs have played just a single game on the season, and will have to handle the challenge of playing teams such as Minnesota Thunder Academy and CASL.
Others, like Colorado Rush, are trying to continue a successful season. The Rush, which is top of the Mountain West, has a record of 14-1-0, and will look to boost up the National Flight A Standings when playing Lonestar SC, Dallas Sting and KCFC this weekend.
The big story at this age level is Kansas City FC and its chase of the No. 1 spot in the National Flight A Standings. Entering the weekend with a perfect mark of 17-0-0 in its Conference, KCFC is led by the goal-scoring exploits of Abigail Sieperda, with 16 on the year. The club faces Charlotte Soccer Academy, Bethesda SC and D'Feeters SC this weekend.
Teams poised to make a run at KCFC and Ohio Elite at the top of Flight A that will be in San Antonio include Colorado Rush, Crossfire Premier.
Like the U15 age group, the Rush has a strong conference record of 11-1-1 that it'll look to carry into the showcase. A successful weekend against Dallas Sting, D'Feeters and Carmel United could have the Colorado club push up the national standings.
The CASL Chelsea ladies fit in the category of clubs nearing the end of their respective seasons. These three games in San Antonio - against Carmel United, Dallas Sting and Michigan Hawks, are the final three games currently scheduled, and one final opportunity to finish near the top of the Flight A Standings.
The Dallas Texans are near the top of the Flight A Standings, and have yet to lose a game so far this year (9-0-0 conference record). With one of the shorter trips to the Showcase, it'll be an opportunity to boost their record against Sockers FC, Bethesda SC and Washington Premier.
In the National Flight B Standings, the Utah Avalanche and FC Milwaukee both have a chance to climb. Utah, with just a single win in the national standings, faces Bethesda SC, Lonestar SC and Penn Fusion, while FC Milwaukee, boasting a 6-0-1 national mark, takes on TSC Hurricane, East Meadow and Virginia Rush.
Amplified pressure, intense crowd, spirited challenges - rivalries add a bite to any meeting regardless of placement in the table.
One of the top rivalries in the South Conference kicks off this weekend with Richmond Kickers and Richmond Strikers meeting for the second time this season.
"When you have two teams of the same town, you get that added incentive to play," Richmond Kickers U18 assistant coach Leigh Cowlishaw told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "There's always an added spice in competition."
Kickers' Keck BunnellRichmond Kickers won both games when the teams met earlier this month, but the Kickers now make the 21.8-mile journey to the Strikers home stadium in what should be a fiery contest.
Beyond the Richmond derby, it is really quiet in the South Conference this weekend. The lone other contest on the docket pits McLean Youth Soccer against Virginia Rush with the older game kicking off at noon on Saturday.
This is the second meeting between these clubs this season. McLean held onto a 2-1 win in October and is still undefeated in division play all season. Amardo Oakley and Joel Teston are the top scorers for McLean with five goals apiece.
Rush won the first meeting between the U16 sides. James Hoffman's side captured a 1-0 victory at home, but Hoffman's team has not traveled well this year with only one road win in seven attempts. Mason Duke leads the way for the Rush with eights goals in 18 games.
Pateadores seek revenge against LA Galaxy on Saturday after losing to the MLS academy in both games only two weeks ago. Galaxy continues to field limited numbers due to injuries, but should still hold the upper hand in the U18 game with William Raygoza and Sebastian Velasquez running the show.
In the U16 game, Pateadores are coming off their best result of the season last weekend, a 2-0 win over RSL-AZ. The Pats are also buoyed by the return of Brian Pachecho. He was suspended when these teams met two weeks ago in a 4-0 Galaxy win.
Arsenal will have to survive at least one more game without Paul Arriola, who is with his high school team in the playoffs, and it could be a tricky one. Real So Cal U18 has strung together a quietly impressive run with only one loss in the last 10 games. Arsenal U18 trails Real So Cal by one point in the standings.
In the U16 game, Arsenal and Real So Cal are level on points heading into the weekend. Jose Garcia leads the way for the Temecula club with nine goals in 15 games.
In Northern California, California Development Academy welcomes the Seattle Sounders to Mahany Park on Saturday. Sounders U18, which is currently second in the table, is looking to close the gap on De Anza Force with a win over CDA.
For the younger game, Sounders will have to slow down Dalton Pando who has six goals in six games since returning to CDA. Sounders are top of the table in the U16 bracket.
Crossfire Premier hosts Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. Whitecaps U18 trail Crossfire in the standings by three points, but have four games in hand. Crossfire star Jose Ocampo will have his hands full marking Whitecaps' Caleb Clarke who has 16 goals on the season.
The younger Whitecaps are looking to gain ground on the Sounders and De Anza Force, as Craig Dalrympie's side trails those clubs by four points. Brody Huitema is continuing his breakout season with 14 goals in 14 starts.
In perhaps the best contest of the weekend, Dallas Texans U18 take on Solar Chelsea SC at the University of Texas - Dallas on Saturday. Solar won the first meeting between the teams behind an early goal from Colton Missimo. Texans fought to a 1-1 draw in the second meeting. Saturday will be the final clash between the two storied Texas clubs this season.
The U16 contest should be equally as enticing with Dallas Texans undefeated run still on the line. Texans topped Solar 2-1 in the first meeting with Christian Ramirez netting the late winner. The squads settled for a scoreless draw in the second meeting. Texans' Brandon Aubrey and Solar's Alan Winn are the players to watch - both have 10 goals on the season.
Elsewhere in Texas, Texans SC Houston face Classics Elite on Saturday. Leobardo Vazquez (17 goals) and Christian Duarte (11 goals) lead the way for the U18 Texans SC Houston, which is holding onto second place in the standings.
Division leaders, FC Dallas, are also in action over the weekend. The MLS academy hosts Andromeda. Since FC Dallas U18 lost its lone game of the season on January 14, the Hoops have yet to concede a goal while accumulating a plus nine-goal differential in three games.
The nation's leading-scorer Kekuta Manneh takes his talent on the road against Houston Dynamo over the weekend. Manneh is up to 23 goals on the season, but Lonestar remains in the middle of the pack in the Texas Division.
Tabatznik spent 22 years as the Head Coach at Georgetown University ending his career there in 2005 as the winningest coach in the school's history. Twice the BIG EAST CONFERENCE coach of the Year as well as the US Amateur Soccer Association National Coach of the Year, Tabatznik led the Hoyas (a program with no more then 2 scholarships at the time) to 1 BIG EAST title and 2 NCAA tournament appearances.
Since leaving Georgetown Tabatznik has served in several capacities including the Assistant National Coach for Bermuda during their World Cup qualifying campaign for 2010 and the Technical Director for the Crystal Palace USA NASL professional team. He also commentates on Fox Soccer for their NSCAA college games of the week and the USL Pro games of the week,
A holder of the US Soccer "A" license, Tabatznik has been involved in ODP for almost 30 years. In 2011 he was inducted into the DC/Virginia Soccer Hall of Fame. In the late 90s Tabatznik was the USASA National team head coach (which served as the US "B" team). He has also been on the US National staff for Coaching Education. He is President of ktsoccerworld.com - a soccer training and consulting company and is a co-Director of the Elite 300 Soccer Academy.
"I am honored to oversee the Region I Olympic Development Program." Tabatznik said. "I hope to continue the proven success of the ODP in identifying and developing players for our national teams, pro teams and top colleges."
U.S. Men's National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has named a squad of 21 players to prepare for the match against four-time World Cup champion Italy on Feb. 29 in Genoa. Kickoff for the teams' first meeting on Italian soil since 2002 is set for 8:45 p.m. local time (2:45 p.m. ET), and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2, ESPN3 and Galavision.
The match takes place on the first FIFA international fixture date of 2012, which allowed Klinsmann to select all available players.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3) :Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (7) :Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS (6) : Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
"We're looking forward to having all the European-based players back in the roster and picking up where we left off with them from the Slovenia game," said Klinsmann, who is on a three-match winning streak dating back to the 3-2 victory on Nov. 15, 2011, against Slovenia. "I'm excited about getting everybody together and challenging a world-class team like former World Cup winner Italy on their home soil. I think we have put a very competitive roster together. This roster was co-developed with the U-23 team because we wanted them to have a great preparation game before they go into Olympic qualifying in March. Our roster is highly competitive and ready to give them a real fight."
- A total of 13 players return from the group that defeated Slovenia 3-2 in Ljubljana, including all three goalscorers: Edson Buddle, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
- The goal was Dempsey's 24th career strike, tying him for fourth all-time in goals scored for the United States along with Joe-Max Moore. The 2011 U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year is having a record-setting season at Fulham; his 16 goals in all competitions include two hat tricks.
- In the Slovenia match, U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra earned his 100th career cap.
- Michael Bradley is the lone U.S. international playing in Italy, becoming a fixture in the lineup for Chievo in Serie A since moving there this summer. Bradley has started 22 straight league matches and was named Man of the Match in the 1-0 win against Genoa last weekend.
- Jose Torres returns to the U.S. fold after recovering from a foot injury he suffered last September.
- Brad Guzan makes his debut in a camp under Klinsmann, the goalkeeper last appearing for the United States in the 1-0 win against South Africa on Nov. 17, 2010, in the Nelson Mandela Challenge.
- Altidore, Steve Cherundolo and Jermaine Jones remain involved in Europa League action, as AZ Alkmaar, Hannover and Schalke 04 all have reached the Round of 32.
- Terrence Boyd is the only player on the roster who will seek to earn his first cap. The Borussia Dortmund-based striker has been a regular part of the U.S. U-23 Men's National Team. Boyd originally was named to the U-23 roster heading into the team's Feb. 29 match against Mexico in Frisco, Texas, but he had not joined the team yet.
- Nine leagues in eight different countries are represented on the roster.
- The U.S. has collected three consecutive victories, including a pair of shutout wins against Venezuela and Panama to open the 2012 campaign. In addition to providing a series of activities designed to develop individual player pathways, Klinsmann has given 41 players at least one cap through his nine games as head coach.
The team has lined up a series of friendlies for this summer in preparation for the start of World Cup qualifying. The U.S. Men's National Team returns to Jacksonville for the start of its critical summer campaign when it faces Scotland on May 26 at EverBank Field. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET, and the match will be shown live on the NBC Sports Network in the channel's debut broadcast of a U.S. National Team game, as well as the Univision family of networks.
Following the match against Scotland, the U.S. continues its competition against the world's top teams when it hosts five-time World Cup champion Brazil on Wednesday, May 30, in Landover, Md. Kickoff for the USA's first ever match at FedExField is set for 8 p.m. ET, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2, ESPN3 and Univision.
For the last game before the start of World Cup qualifying, the United States will make a rare visit to Canada when it renews the rivalry June 3 at BMO Field in Toronto. Kickoff for the USA's first match on Canadian soil since 1997 is set for 7 p.m. ET, and the match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.
The United States will kick off the effort to qualify for its seventh-consecutive FIFA World Cup when it hosts Antigua & Barbuda on June 8 at Raymond James Stadium. The semifinal round opener begins at 7 p.m. ET live on ESPN, ESPN3 and the Univision family of networks. Tickets go on sale starting March 1. Along with these two teams, Group A is comprised of Guatemala and Jamaica. The top teams from each of three groups will advance to the final round of qualifying, which will take place in 2013. Three teams will automatically qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, while the fourth-place team will play in a two-leg playoff against the winner of the Oceania region.
FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman had a stellar day in goal for the home side. He began by denying the U.S. U-23s of a goal with a point-blank save in the 12th minute. On the play, Amobi Okugo collected the ball in central midfield and played a ball over the top to Juan Agudelo. With FC Dallas center back Hernan Purtuz on his back, Agudelo chested the ball out in front of him and was in alone on Hartman. Agudelo opted to take a hard shot at the back post, but Hartman punched the shot away to keep the match scoreless.
Dallas battled back and earned a corner kick in the 15th minute. Colombian forward Fabian Castillo took the kick, lining a cross to the center of the six-yard box, where Andrew Jacobson beat his defender to the ball and nodded a hard finish into the back of the net to give FC Dallas a 1-0 advantage.
The U.S. U-23s found an equalizer just four minutes later on a corner kick taken by Freddy Adu. An exact copy of Jacobson's goal, Adu picked out Ike Opara at the top of the box and the defender headed a shot to the back post to level the score, 1-1.
FC Dallas got a boost in the 36th minute when FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman brought on 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira for the first time since he suffered a season-ending injury on April 23, 2011. Unfortunately for Dallas, the substitution came after Shea, playing for the U.S. U-23s, earned his team a penalty kick after coming together with Hartman at the top of the box.
Adu opted to take the kick, firing a waist-high blast to the right side, but Hartman guessed correctly and parried the shot away only to have Adu fire another shot from three yards out. Quick to recover, Hartman made yet another outstanding save before the ball was ushered away from danger by defender Zach Loyd.
The U.S. U-23s came out strong following the half and got a goal in the 51st minute from Shea. Playing on the left flank, Shea timed his run well and beat the FC Dallas defense to a ball played over the top by Adu. In alone against Hartman, Shea cracked a hard shot high to the back post from 12-yards out to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.
The U.S. went down a man in the 58th minute when Kofi Sarkodie was whistled for his second caution after bringing down Fabian Castillo at the top of the box. The breakout was started by Ferriera, who collected the ball in the center of the pitch before lobbing a perfectly-weighted pass into space for Castillo.
The U-23s lost yet another man in the 75th minute when Shea was shown his second yellow after coming together with FC Dallas trialist Daniel Osorno. The advantage gave Dallas a distinct advantage in possession as the home side pushed for a late equalizer.
But FC Dallas was unable to break down an organized U.S. back line. The closest the home team came to a tying goal were a pair of free kicks from the top of the area in the 83rd and 85th minutes. Bobby Warshaw took the first. He hammered a rising shot on goal, but Sean Johnson read it well and tipped the ball over the crossbar. Perez took the second. He hit a bending shot which just shaved the outside of the right post.
DAL - Andrew Jacobson (Fabian Castillo) 15
USA - Ike Opara (Freddy Adu) 19
USA - Brek Shea (Adu) 51
FC Dallas - Kevin Hartman (Chris Seitz 69), Jair Benitez (Jonathan Top 75), Ugo Ihemelu (Matt Hedges 72), Hernan Pertuz (Christian Ibeagha 72), Zach Loyd (Castillo 81), Carlos Rodriguez, Daniel Hernandez (Bobby Warshaw 64), Andrew Jacobson (Alex Lee 64), Andrew Wiedeman (David Ferreira 36, Daniel Osorno 58), Blas Perez, Fabian Castillo (Dogba 58).
U.S. Under 23s - Bill Hamid (Sean Johnson 45), Ike Opara (Greg Garza 45), Kofi Sarkodie, Zarek Valentin, Jorge Villafana (Perry Kitchen 45), Amobi Okugo, Juan Agudelo (Michael Stephens 45), Jared Jeffery (Dilly Duka 45), Brek Shea, Freddy Adu (Bunbury 67), Teal Bunbury (Tony Taylor 45, Villafana 76).
The 2013 Boys class is about to enter the heaviest of seasons when it comes to their recruiting process. While some top players are already committed, a number will be looking to make their final decisions this spring and summer, and college coaches are vying for those prized commitments.
So it is an important time as we provide our first update of this class's Players To Watch Top 100 national ranking. Many of the names have been ranked for a while, but new players continue to crack the list, as others drop off. Through all of this we continue to look around the countryside for the best soccer talent in the land, class by class.
After a months-long layoff to reconfigure and examine the entire player pool, we resume the process with a final visit to the graduating seniors. Our rankings are made after an examination of national and regional honors among players in the top competitive leagues in the country, as well as selections to youth national teams and other top honors awarded across the nation. Further investigation includes the consulting of coaches at various levels throughout the country.
It should be noted that while a growing number of young men are choosing the professional option, they remain eligible for our Top 100 ranking through the time their high school class would have graduated.
After we complete our February updates of national 2013 rankings (2013 Girls are next week), the rankings will expand to four age groups, 2013 through 2016 (both genders), with the top 150 being selected for each. The work on these rankings has been going on for some time and will begin being released in March. Each of the top 150 lists will be updated quarterly.
Regional lists will from this point be shorter reflections of the national list only, with minimal additional players added. So we hope you enjoy the rankings and somehow manage to remember, it's impossible to get complete agreement on so massive a task as to ranking all players in high school age groups nationwide. If you have a different opinion, you are certainly entitled, but please don't think of this as life and death stuff - we don't. Click here to see the 2013 boys Top 100 Rankings.
U.S. Under-20 Women's National Team head coach Steve Swanson has named the 20-player roster for the 2012 CONCACAF U-20 Women's Championship to be held in Panama City, Panama, from March 1-11.
The U.S. will kick off Group B play against Guatemala at 5 p.m. ET on Friday, March 2. The USA will then face Cuba at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 4, and wrap up group play against host Panama at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 6. The winner of Group A will meet the Group B runner-up, and vice versa, in the semifinal matches on Friday, March 9.
The finalists and the winner of the third-place game qualify for the 2012 FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup in Japan. The third-place game and title games will take place on Sunday, March 11 with the championship kicking off at 9 p.m. ET. All matches will be played at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama.
Group A, which consists of Mexico, Haiti, Canada and Jamaica, will kick off the tournament on Thursday, March 1.
Lindsey Horan"We are excited about the challenge that the qualifying tournament presents for us at this point in time," said Swanson. "We have prepared extremely hard these past two camps in order to be ready for what we know will be a strong field and a difficult environment in Panama."
The U.S. team is coming off an impressive sweep of three matches at the Four Nations Tournament in La Manga, Spain, where it defeated the U-20 sides of Switzerland (10-0), Germany (1-0) and Norway (2-0).
Swanson, who became head coach of this age group last August, will be coaching in his first qualifying tournament and has chosen a roster chock full of collegiate stars, as well as some of the top high school-aged players in the country. Fifteen players on the roster have at least one college season on their resumes while the remaining five are high school seniors.
"This qualifying roster is a testament to all the coaches at every level who have helped develop these players over the years," said Swanson. "We feel strongly in the ability of all these players technically, tactically, physically and mentally but what makes this group really special is how well they can play together."
Leading the way are four members of the U.S. team that participated in the 2010 FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup in Germany. North Carolina defender Crystal Dunn, who also started for the USA in the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand, is joined by three other youth World Cup veterans in Penn State forward Maya Hayes, UCLA midfielder Sam Mewis and Duke defender Mollie Pathman, who has been captaining the team. Mewis, the younger sister of U.S. Women's National Team player Kristie Mewis, also started for the USA in New Zealand.
Six players on the roster were key members of the U.S. U-17 team that failed to qualify for the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup despite out-scoring its opposition 38-0 during the qualifying tournament in Costa Rica. A dominant U.S. team fell in penalty kicks in the semifinal to Canada, giving those half dozen players an even bigger chip on their shoulders heading to Panama. Two of the players who were in Costa Rica are goalkeepers: Bryane Heaberlin, who has enrolled early at North Carolina, and Abby Smith, who plays for the Dallas Texans.
Rounding out the group of defenders are the versatile Stephanie Amack, the youngest player on the team, who plays for Mustang Blast in Northern California, Florida State center back Kassey Kallman, who has been anchoring the defense, Olivia Brannon, an excellent individual defender from Virginia and high school senior Cari Roccaro. Brannon and Roccaro were also on that U-17 qualifying team.
The U.S. midfield is a talented one, featuring Morgan Brian, who was the Soccer America Freshman of the Year for Virginia and also the Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year as a senior, as well as the youngest member of the U.S. U-17 Women's World Cup Team in New Zealand. Vanessa DiBernardo, who had a fine season for Illinois this past fall while scoring 17 goals, is the daughter of former U.S. international Angelo DiBernardo, who earned 20 caps from 1979-1985.
Julie Johnston is a two-way defensive midfielder from Santa Clara, while Sarah Killion was perhaps UCLA's best freshman this past season. Mandy Laddish, another veteran of the USA's 2008 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Team, has showed her skills and attacking ability for Notre Dame the past two seasons.
The U.S. team will bring speed and strength in its group of forwards. The attacking corps features the savvy Micaela Capelle of Portland, Hayes (who scored an astounding 31 goals last season for the Nittany Lions), Lindsey Horan, the USA's leading scorer for the U-17s two years ago and perhaps the nation's top high-school aged striker, the blazing Kealia Ohai, who scored six goals with six assists for UNC this past season, the powerful and skillful Katie Stengel, who scored 19 times for Wake Forest and dynamic dribbler Chi Ubogagu, who scored 10 goals with 10 assists in helping Stanford to the NCAA title.
"We are coming off some quality performances in Spain against three teams that have already qualified for the Finals in Japan, which has given us some confidence," said Swanson. "We still have some fine tuning to do, but at this point in time the team has worked very hard to understand their roles and the way we want to play on both sides of the ball."
U.S. Under-20 Women's National Team Roster by Position:
DEFENDERS (6): Stephanie Amack (Mustang Blast; Pleasanton, Calif.), Olivia Brannon (Virginia; Troy, Mich.) Crystal Dunn (North Carolina; Rockville Centre, N.Y.), Kassey Kallman (Florida State; Woodbury, Minn.), Mollie Pathman (Duke; Durham, N.C.), Cari Roccaro (Albertson Fury; East Islip, N.Y.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Virginia; St. Simmons Island, Ga.), Vanessa DiBernardo (Illinois; Naperville, Ill.), Julie Johnston (Santa Clara; Mesa, Ariz.), Sarah Killion (UCLA; Fort Wayne, Ind.), Mandy Laddish (Notre Dame; Lee's Summit, Mo.), Sam Mewis (UCLA; Hanson, Mass.)
FORWARDS (6): Micaela Capelle (Portland; Gresham, Ore.), Maya Hayes (Penn State; West Orange, N.J.), Lindsey Horan (Colorado Rush; Golden, Colo.), Kealia Ohai (North Carolina; Draper, Utah), Katie Stengel (Wake Forest; Melbourne, Fla.), Chi Ubogagu (Stanford; Coppell, Texas)