US soc­cer starts youth move­ment af­ter World Cup flop

West Hawaii Today - - Sports - BY RON­ALD BLUM

Josh Sar­gent re­called when coach John Hack­worth greeted the U.S. Un­der-17s at break­fast in In­dia last month and told play­ers the Amer­i­can na­tional team failed to qual­ify for next year’s World Cup.

“Everybody thought he was jok­ing,” the-17-year-old for­ward said. “We all like gig­gled and were like, yeah, OK, what was the score? What re­ally hap­pened? He was like, no, I swear, ev­ery­thing that could have pos­si­bly went wrong went wrong, and we’re not in qual­i­fy­ing. And everybody was just com­pletely shocked. And I don’t think any­body said one word in that break­fast.”

Fol­low­ing its Caribbean col­lapse, the U.S. over­hauled its ros­ter for Tues­day’s ex­hi­bi­tion against Por­tu­gal in Leiera. Coach Bruce Arena quit and was re­placed for this game by his top as­sis­tant, Dave Sarachan.

Sar­gent could be­come the first to play for the U.S. Un­der-17, Un­der-20 and na­tional team in the same year. He is among five play­ers who could make their na­tional team de­buts, joined by de­fender Cameron Carter-Vick­ers (19), mid­field­ers Tyler Adams (18) and We­ston McKen­nie (19), and goal­keeper Jesse Gon­za­lez (22).

Twelve of the 21 play­ers have made three in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances or fewer.

“I think all the young play­ers here have a lot of po­ten­tial and could go on to big things in the ca­reers,” said Carter-Vick­ers, a son of for­mer NBA player Howard Carter.

Still, Sarachan thinks change should be tem­pered.

“I don’t think it’s a sit­u­a­tion where we at U.S. Soc­cer now have to blow up the tem­plate and start from scratch,” he said.

Chris­tian Pulisic , the 19-year-old mid­fielder who played a role in 12 of the 17 U.S. goals dur­ing the fi­nal round of qual­i­fy­ing, was given time to rest. He was not in­cluded on the ros­ter and most veter­ans were dropped, in­clud­ing

all whose teams reached the semi­fi­nals of Ma­jor League Soc­cer’s play­offs. MLS play­ers fig­ure to dom­i­nate the ros­ter for a train­ing camp ahead of the next match, an ex­hi­bi­tion against Bos­ni­aHerze­gov­ina on Jan. 28 at Car­son, Cal­i­for­nia.

It has not been de­cided whether the U.S. will hold its an­nual Jan­uary train­ing camp in Car­son, Cal­i­for­nia, a process that started in 2004.

A na­tive of O’Fal­lon, Mis­souri, Sar­gent scored five goals at the Un­der20 World Cup, agreed to sign with Werder Bre­men when he turns 18 on Feb. 20, then had three goals at the Un­der-17 World Cup.

“It’s been a crazy year,” he said. “Very sur­real. I un­der­stand that I’ve been per­form­ing well, but the fact that it’s gone from the 17s to the 20s to the first team now, it’s been hap­pen­ing so fast I can’t even keep up with it.”

McKen­nie left FC Dal­las’ youth academy last year to sign with Schalke, made his de­but May 20 as a 77th-minute sub­sti­tute on fi­nal day of the sea­son, and has made six starts and four sub­sti­tute ap­pear­ances this sea­son. The U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion posted a photo Fri­day of a 7-yearold McKen­nie meet­ing Lan­don Dono­van and Car­los Bo­cane­gra be­fore a March 2006 ex­hi­bi­tion against Poland at Kais­er­slautern, Ger­many, where McKen­nie was liv­ing when his fa­ther was sta­tioned at Ram­stein Air Base.

“It’s been ex­cit­ing, get­ting to meet some of the play­ers I watched and have seen play and that you hear about on TV and so­cial me­dia,” he said. ‘I’ve al­ways wanted to play for the se­nior na­tional team. To get my first cap would be a big step­ping­stone in my fu­ture.”

Carter-Vick­ers trained with the na­tional team in Novem­ber 2016, when a home loss to Mex­ico and a de­feat at Costa Rica cre­ated a deficit in qual­i­fy­ing the Amer­i­cans could not over­come. Part of Tot­ten­ham’s academy since he was 10, he played in four cup matches for the first team in 2016-17, but could not be­come a reg­u­lar. Spurs lent him to sec­ond-tier Sh­effield United this sea­son, and he’s played in eight matches.

“It’s def­i­nitely colder than London, but it’s been good,” he said. “It’s a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for me. I never re­ally lived any­where that far away from London be­fore.”

Gon­za­lez, who rose through FC Dal­las’ academy to make his first­team de­but in 2015, be­came the team’s reg­u­lar this year. He was a re­serve for the knock­out stage of this year’s Gold Cup af­ter his switch from Mex­ico to the U.S. was ap­proved by FIFA. He’s com­pet­ing for this week’s start­ing spot with 26-year-old Bill Hamid, who has three in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances over five years, and 22-year-old Ethan Hor­vath, whose lone ap­pear­ance was an ex­hi­bi­tion against Cuba in Oc­to­ber 2016.

Adams, from Wap­pingers Falls, New York, joined the Red Bulls academy in 2011, started get­ting play­ing time for Red Bulls II in the third-tier United Soc­cer League in 2015, and scored for the first team in an ex­hi­bi­tion against Chelsea that sum­mer. He made his Ma­jor League Soc­cer de­but in April 2016 against San Jose, then be­came a reg­u­lar this year, ap­pear­ing in 24 of 34 league matches.

“There’s a lot of op­por­tu­nity on the ta­ble for the peo­ple that have got­ten called into this camp,” he said. “I think that a lot of the guys that you might see in this camp right now could play a big role in the fu­ture.”


CHICAGO — The re­tool­ing U.S. soc­cer team will open its 2018 sched­ule with an ex­hi­bi­tion against Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina on Jan. 28 at Car­son, Cal­i­for­nia.

The match, an­nounced Mon­day, will fol­low the an­nual Jan­uary train­ing camp the Amer­i­cans have held since 2004. The ros­ter fig­ures to be drawn mostly from play­ers in Ma­jor League Soc­cer.

The U.S. failed to qual­ify for next year’s World Cup, end­ing a streak of seven straight ap­pear­ances at soc­cer’s top event that started in 1990.

Bruce Arena quit as coach af­ter the Amer­i­cans were elim­i­nated with a 2-1 loss last month at Trinidad and Tobago. His top as­sis­tant, Dave Sarachan, is coach­ing the team for Tues­day’s ex­hi­bi­tion at Por­tu­gal. No longterm suc­ces­sor has been cho­sen.


MI­LAN — Four-time cham­pion Italy failed to qual­ify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades af­ter los­ing its play­off to Swe­den 1-0 on ag­gre­gate.

They played to a goal­less draw in a quiet San Siro on Mon­day.

It could have been worse for Italy, as Swe­den was de­nied what looked like two clear-cut penal­ties for hand­balls, first from Mat­teo Darmian and then from An­drea Barza­gli.

Italy had a penalty ap­peal of its own waved off by ref­eree An­to­nio Ma­teu La­hoz when Marco Parolo was tripped from be­hind by Lud­wig Aug­sustins­son.

But the Az­zurri strug­gled to carve out clear chances against a solid Swe­den side, and re­ally tested goal­keeper Robin Olsen only once.

The last ma­jor com­pe­ti­tions Italy missed were the 1984 and 1992 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships. It has par­tic­i­pated in ev­ery World Cup since fail­ing to qual­ify for the 1958 tour­na­ment.

It would be easy to lay the blame squarely on Gian Piero Ven­tura. The Italy coach will nat­u­rally take the lion’s share but the Az­zurri’s prob­lems run much deeper.

The rot started long be­fore Ven­tura took charge.

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