The Chivas USA U-18 Team traveled this morning to Guadalajara to participate in the prestigious annual 'Copa Chivas Internacional', a tournament for the top Youth Teams in the world. A handful of players in the Chivas USA first team are veterans of this tournament, including Jorge Flores, Gerson Mayén, and Cesar Zamora.
Under the command of Under-18 Head Coach Sacha van der Most, the young players arrived on Thursday afternoon to Guadalajara ready to play, and will debut on Friday against none other than that Mexican U-18 National Team.
The Red-and-White are in Group A, along with the Mexican National Team, as well as Universidad Católica of Chile, Estudiantes Tecos and Santos Laguna of Mexico, and F.C. Tokyo. After a round-robin group stage of five matches, the top two teams from the group, as well as the best two third-placed teams from all the groups, will pass to the Quarterfinals.
The Chivas USA U-18's play their league schedule in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, a national league that includes more than 70 of the best youth programs in the country. While the team has had a difficult season in the Academy, the Copa Chivas gives the group a chance to prove themselves on an international level.
"First of all, to start the tournament against the Mexican National Team tells you about the level of competition in this tournament," said Sacha van der Most about the Mexican selection, who he sees as the favorite to win Group A. "They just won a big tournament in Uruguay. We know that they play with an attacking style, but we have quick players and we can be dangerous in the counter-attack."
The other groups at the Copa Chivas, the U-18 National Teams of Brazil, the U.S., and Japan are all featured. There are also top youth teams from across the world, including several from the U.S. and Mexico, like Morelia, América, and Atlas, as well as the Houston Dynamo.
The Copa Chivas takes place on soccer fields around the city of Guadalajara, including the Estadio Jalisco, Colegio Once México, Chivas Verde Valle, and Chivas San Rafael. It begins on Friday and runs until Saturday, Jan. 30, and starts with three matches in three days, a day off, and then the two final group stage matches.
Chivas USA starts against Mexico and then faces FC Tokyo on Saturday, Estudiantes Tecos on Sunday, Católica on Tuesday and Santos Laguna on Wednesday.
"Mexico will definitely be the toughest team in the group stage, but we're not underestimating any of the teams in this tournament," said van der Most. "They're all able to compete on the international level, and so we all have to give our best."
The coach also said that advancing to the second round of the Copa Chivas is this year's goal for the team, since in the two previous years the team has played, they have fallen short of advancing. This tournament could be different for the Red-and-White, now that they have more preparation and experience.
"Based on previous years, I think we've learned how to be better prepared," said van der Most. "If we can have a good match against Mexico, we can advance and compete with any team. This year, we're more disciplined and the team has more depth."
Some players to watch on the team include César Castillo, an attacking midfielder, Bryan de la Fuente, a forward who is bringing confidence to the team. Luis Martir, a player from the Chivas USA U-16 Team, has moved up for the tournament. The club will also look to midfielder Edson Lemus, who has experience on the U.S. National Team.
For more information, or to follow the tournament's results, visit www.eventoschivas.com.mx.
Chivas USA U-18 Team: Colt Reichl, Adrian Garcia, Carlos Torres, Alexis Flores, Jaime Cano, Clayton Eaton, Christoper Santana, Mario Guerrerro, Bryan de la Fuente, Cesar Castillo, Angel Cholico, Jake McGuire, Luis Martir, Edson Lemus, Ian Hines-Ike, Ivan Delgado, Ruben Gonzalez, Conrad Ange, Javier Alvial. DT. Sacha van der Most.