U-17s: After World Cup failure, US coach Richie Williams says "one game won't define their careers"
It may have been an occasion to forget for the US Under-17 national team, but the attitude surrounding the team following Sunday's surprising loss was to move on to new challenges.
The United States fell to Honduras 3-1 in the quarterfinal round of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, and as a result of the loss, will not be competing in the upcoming U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Although the initial reaction to come out of the loss has been shock and a desire to re-examine the youth national team structure in the wake of the team failing to qualify for a World Cup for the first time ever in the age group, the coaches and players stressed the need to take the positives and learn from the experience.
"Obviously we’re extremely disappointed [about the result]," said US U-17 head coach Richie Williams. "The players have put so much into this preparation over the last 16 months with us and our goal was to get to the World Cup, and that’s not going to happen now."
Williams explained that while he thought the US gave a good effort, they simply did not play well enough to get the result over a good Honduras side.
"For the most part, I thought we did OK," he said. "They had the goal and then we came back with another goal to go even at halftime. We made a couple mistakes in the second half, and at the end of the day we couldn’t take our chances. That’s soccer at times."
Following the match, the players emphasized the experience and the lessons they can take from their attempt to qualify.
“Tonight was a tough loss," said defender Shaq Moore. "After the game [Williams] just preached to keep our heads up. It’s not the end of the world. We can still bounce back from it, even though it’s a tough loss, and stay positive after everything that happened.”
For his part, goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell blamed himself for "letting the team down partially," but tried to look at what was gained out of the experience.
“We all worked really, really hard and put in 100 percent for a very long time," he said. "We all got better. At the end of the day, we just didn’t get it done tonight. It stinks. We’ll all have learned from this and it’ll make us better players and better individuals. It’s something tough and we’ll have to get stronger and get on with it.”
On that count, the head coach agrees.
"We’re extremely proud of our players," Williams said. "We believe they have great futures ahead of them. One game is not going to define their career. You could see over the last 16 months working with them how they’ve developed, how they’ve become better soccer players and better people. They have great futures ahead of them. It’s unfortunate sometimes when it comes down to one game."