Red Bulls Academy trio gains experience at US U-17 camp

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The US Under-17 men’s national team wrapped up their training camp on Tuesday and, while not every player on the 20-man roster took part in their camp-closing friendly, the only youth club to have more than one player represented on the gameday roster was the New York Red Bulls.

Goalkeeper Evan Louro, midfielder Christopher Lema and forward Wesley Wade were all were selected for the most recent US U-17 camp held in the Midwest and each saw playing time in at least one of the national team’s two games. The camp proved to be a learning experience for the three youngsters for a number of reasons, not least of which is due to head coach Richie Williams’ implementation of a new formation.

“He was stressing a lot possession-wise,” the 16-year-old Lima told MLSsoccer.com of his US coach (above), a former Red Bulls assistant. “We tried a new formation, 4-4-2 with a diamond in the middle. We gave that a shot, we tried to play possession within our midfield and from there on just find our ways to our forwards. ... It hasn’t been such a great success but we’re just getting used to the new formation. That’s what he wanted us to focus on.”

While getting used to playing in a new formation may have been difficult, the three Red Bulls academy players benefitted from having each another to lean on, on and off the field.

“It’s a lot better having your teammates from back home here,” said the 15-year-old Wade. “It just makes it easier on the field, just playing with them. You know each other and what to do.” 

Wade and Lima played in the US’ 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew academy team at the Ohio State University’s campus on chilly Tuesday night, while Louro watched from the bench after having played against SLSG Missouri two days earlier.

None of the trio enjoyed a flawless performance in the two friendlies, but Williams was nonetheless pleased with what he saw in the matches and by what they brought to the camp.

“Evan played the other night, made some good saves, made a couple mistakes, but he’s been in the program for the last year,” said Williams. “Chris Lima, he didn’t play the other night, he played tonight, but he’s a guy that’s kind of stuck behind Junior [Flores]. We’ve seen an improvement and he’s done really well and he kind of plays the same position as Junior but he’s been in our squad for the last year.

“Wesley’s done well, too. He’s still got to work on his finishing but all [are] good guys who work hard and are improving and trying to get better, and we’re happy with them.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.