U-17s: Boca Juniors starlet Joel Sonora a mystery man for Richie Williams' US team
When Richie Williams on Tuesday announced his US Under-17 national team squad for U-17 World Cup qualifying, one name stood out from the rest: Joel Soñora.
The midfielder, who is currently part of the academy system at Argentine giants Boca Juniors, is the only name among the 20 who didn't come from the U.S. Soccer U-17 Residency program. Because of his background and his pedigree – he's the son of Boca legend Diego “Chiche” Soñora, who was also a three-time MLS All-Star – he brings a little something different to Williams' squad.
“He is a player with excellent technique and great projection,” Boca Juniors Academy coordinator José Maello told FutbolMLS.com by phone from Buenos Aires on Friday. “[He] reads the game very well and has the ability to make quick decisions. He’s a kid who can play as a No. 10 or as a holding mid.”
Though he was born in Dallas during his father's time with the Burn, the 17-year-old Soñora has been part of the Boca Academy for almost a year-and-a-half, and has participated in several international competitions, including the Al-Kass Cup youth tournament in Qatar this past January. Soñora excelled there, according to Maello, especially in the third-place match against the Inter Milan U-18s, which he helped Boca win in a penalty shootout.
“I took him to Qatar and did very well, sometimes as a starter, others coming in as a sub," Maello said. "When he played Inter, he showed he is a player who can create attacking options, assists his teammates and is always dangerous near the box."
Maello also adds that because Soñora has never been contacted by the Argentinean federation, his call-up for the US “comes as a great opportunity for a player who is well-seasoned and who fights constantly for the ball."
The US kick off their CONCACAF U-17 Championship on Sunday against Haiti (6:30 pm ET), then face Guatemala next Thursday, April 11, to close out their group stage in Panama. The four semifinalists of the tournament qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which kicks off in October in the United Arab Emirates.