Hard work pays off for U-17 World Cup-bound Piña

After two years of hard work and dedication, one of Fernando Piña’s goals was accomplished on Thursday: He made the US U-17 World Cup roster.

“The feeling is hard to describe,” Piña told MLSsoccer.com by phone shortly after getting the call. “It’s good that after two years of hard work and sacrifice and all the training to be going to the World Cup in Mexico. I’m just happy that it’s here.”

A top goalkeeper for Wilmer Cabrera’s group for most of the past two years, the Houston Dynamo Academy product has been a staple in the US lineup in most major matches.

However, the standout ‘keeper was forced to sit out of the CONCACAF qualifying finale against Canada after earning a straight red card for a challenge against El Salvador’s Diego Galdamez. Piña made four saves in the match and was an important part of the US drive to qualify for the World Cup.

“It was tough but I got over it in the weeks after and it helped to get back to training hard in the next few sessions,” Piña said. “I’ve tried my hardest to come back and get into the starting 11, but when you know you let the team down in the last minute, it was rough.”

Piña’s work seemingly paid off and earned him the starting nod in both of the team’s April friendlies against Mexico — the U-17s dropped both matches 2-0 and 1-0, respectively — but is expected to battle San Jose Earthquakes Academy prospect Kendall McIntosh for the No. 1 spot during the tournament.

After qualifying and a trip to Mexico that got the young group acclimated to their surroundings, Piña is ready to get the competition started. That trip, he said, will was important for the squad as it attempts to get over the nerves that come with representing your nation on the world stage.

The US start off their participation in the U-17 World Cup with a crucial match against fellow group favorite Czech Republic on June 19.

“The most important thing is to get the first three points,” Piña said. “The way we’ve been playing, it feels like things are going to go well in our first game.”

While Piña aims to be manning the net for the US against the Czech Republic, the young Dynamo is happy to simply get the chance to show his skill on the grand stage in Mexico.

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.