It’s been quite a week for Pateadores forward Jose Villareal.
The 17-year-old old fired his Orange County, Calif.-based club to the Under-18 national title at USSF Development Academy Finals Week last Friday, a 2-1 win over FC Dallas. The day before, he learned that he would be joining the US U-18 side that will compete at the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland next week.
Club coach Todd Saldana, who dropped Villareal (above) and teammate Javan Torre off at the airport earlier this week to begin their overseas adventure, is excited for his players’ achievement.
“These are two guys that are worthy and they really proved that through the season,” Saldana told MLSsoccer.com over the phone.
When the initial Milk Cup roster was released last week, Villareal wasn’t listed. However, the day before the final game against FC Dallas, US Soccer informed Saldana he would be added, replacing University of Maryland-bound Alex Shinsky.
Not wanting to tamper with his star’s mentality before the match, Saldana mulled whether or not to inform talented attacker until after the final. He went ahead and sat down with Villareal to let him know the day before.
“He was thrilled, but I have to give him credit for keeping his head,” Saldana said.
Villareal responded by scoring a brace, leading Pateadores to a come-from-behind win over a FC Dallas squad boasting full-time professionals, including Jonathan Top, Victor Ulloa and Bryan Leyva. It capped a tremendous season for him in the Development Academy League, as he scored 20 goals and asserted himself as a possible professional prospect.
“He’s ready to perform at that next level,” Saldana said of Villareal. “This is his dream, to see the world of soccer and be in a country, in a tournament that is known.”
But Villareal won’t be the only Pateadores representative on the Milk Cup roster. Joining him on the roster is Torre, an athletic left-footed defender. With the ability to play as a left back and in the middle, he’ll be fighting against MLS Academy players like Michael Ambrose, Bryan Gallego and Boyd Okwuonu for time along the back line.
Torre and Villareal will be in the minority on the Milk Cup roster as two of only three players who aren’t tied to a professional team or American university, and both will look to use this experience to become noticed by US Soccer and clubs around the world.
However, Saldana doesn’t think his prized pair will have any trouble meshing in with the group.
“I feel like I’ve seen the guys that are in that Under-18 pool, and even some of the ones that have some professional experience, and I think [Jose and Javan] fit in really well.”
They’ll certainly get their chance this week, as they’ve been in Northern Ireland the past few days, looking to catch the eye of US U-18 coach Mike Matkovich and earn a starting berth in the US team’s opener on July 25 against Israel.
Everton U-18s defeat Union Academy
While Philadelphia Union Academy player Christian Hernandez fired home the club’s winner in a 1-0 friendly win against Everton on Wednesday night, Everton’s U-18s defeated a Union U-18 side, 2-0 at PPL Park, before the marquee matchup.
Two goals from Everton’s Christopher Long were enough to make the difference, as Connor Maloney created one of Philadelphia’s best chances in the 72nd minute, only to hit the post.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.