Morning Update

U.S. U-17 preview with key players to watch, plus Pomykal & Holmes updates

ASN's Brian Sciaretta previews the U.S. U-17 team on the eve of World Cup qualifying - with a list of the players to watch. Also, there are big updates on U.S. U-20 and FC Dallas star Paxton Pomykal and Derby County playmaker Duane Holmes. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 01, 2019
10:00 AM
THE MIDDLE of the week has arrived and there is some rather important news to report that affects important club matchups as well as United States youth national teams.

Here is a look at some important news to kickoff your day.

U.S. U-17s set for Canada

The United States U-17 national team will open the 2019 CONCACAF Championships on Thursday, May 2 at 6:00pm ET (You can watch on Univision Deportes Network or CONCACAF’s Facebook page). It could be the team’s toughest test in the group stage with other opponents being Barbados and Guatemala.

To qualify for the U-17 World Cup, the U.S. team must advance out of its group (the top three in every group advance) and then win two consecutive knockout stage games to earn a spot in the semifinals.

For those just starting to follow the team, here are some of the important players to watch in the weeks ahead.

Giovanni Reyna: The son of former U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna, Giovani Reyna is heading to Borussia Dortmund to begin his professional career. Reyna is an exciting player and will attempt to elevate all the players around him although the big concern is his lack of minutes in recent months as he has moved from New York City to Borussia Dortmund.

“We all know Giovanni, he has a lot of talent,” Wicky said. “Giovanni hasn't had a lot of minutes over the past four to five months as he didn't play for New York City.”

“Having him in minicamp, he was very excited to be here,” Wicky continued about Reyna. “He was good and he is very, very talented. We had a game in that minicamp against Monteverde Academy in Florida and he played 60 minutes - which was good for him. As far as I know, he went back to his club and trained in between the last two weeks and came back where he is in full training with our team. He is very important for this group. I think a player like him [tactically] needs to be involved as much as possible in the game. He has a lot of talent and makes the other players look better. He makes things easier for the other guys.

“I would like to have him as much as possible in the center of the field somehow,” Wicky added. “I don't think the position he has when we have the ball is important. I think it is more that he knows that I want him in the center - so he can start on the wing and come inside. He can start as a No. 9 and drop down a little bit. He can start as a No. 8 or No. 10. There are a lot of different variations for him but I want to put him in positions where he touches the ball a lot because he has the potential and quality to create chances.”

Gianluca Busio: The Sporting Kansas City attacking midfielder has become a regular with SKC’s first team and has scored three big goals on the young season. He looks completely comfortable playing against full professionals and that should translate well as he downshifts to the U-17 level.

“I am very happy to have Ginaluca Busio here, obviously,” Wicky said. “I have followed him and I have seen he has regular minutes in MLS - which is amazing at that young age. He wasn't here at the minicamp in April because he was playing for Sporting Kansas City. But I was always in touch with him. He is happy to be part of the group. He is excited to play in this tournament and help this team. I know through his personality that he needs to be part of a team and that, even if he has regular minutes, he is not going to win the game alone. It the team, and he is aware of that.”

Ricardo Pepi: The center forward will be the most important goaler on the team and perhaps among all the teams at the tournament. He has numerous skillsets which will be tough for opposing defenders to mark. In his first two USL games for North Texas SC (the affiliate of FC Dallas), he has four goals in two games. As a dual national with Mexico, Pepi’s involvement is important for U.S. Soccer.

“I only saw Ricardo in footage first and then I met him at the minicamp as well like a lot of the other players,” Wicky said. “I think with him and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, we have really good strikers. They're different and aren't the same kind of strikers. Ricardo is a No. 9 who is really clinical in the box. He's a finisher but he also has a certain size which brings a good aerial game.”

“There is room for progress but at his age [he turned 16 in January], he has a good aerial game as well,” Wicky said on Pepi. “I feel he is quite mature on the field. His decision making is actually quite mature for such a young kid. I am happy he is here and I think he is happy to be here - that is what I feel. I am sure he is going to be very important for this team in this competition and further on as well.”

Damian Las: Las is one of the better goalkeeping prospects in recent years for U.S. Soccer and this will be a big showcase for him. He recently stood out for the Chicago Fire’s youth team at the GA Cup and has the talent to come up with game-changing saves.

Daniel Leyva: A late emerging player in the U-17 cycle, Leyva only earned his first U.S. U-17 call-up in April for Wicky’s first camp in charge of the team. Leyva recently won the MVP of the GA Cup as Seattle Sounders won the tournament with huge wins over Flamengo, River Plate, West Ham, and Valencia. He has a ton of momentum coming into this camp.

“After the minicamp I went for a week to the GA Cup,” Wicky said. “I saw almost all of their games and they did really, really well. I am convinced they will be very important for our team.. Daniel just had an amazing experience being on the bench for the first team which hopefully give him even more rings to fly and help the team.”

Joseph Scally: The New York City right back was solid at the Nike Friendlies with the U.S. U-17 team and should be one of the anchors at the CONCACAF Championships.

“Joseph Scally is part of our plans to be normally the right defender - one of our right defenders,” Wicky said. “He is a very important player for this team and has been in the recent games. His personality, his fighting spirit, his mentality to work for the team is really, really good. I am really happy to have him here.”

Tayvon Gray: The New York City defender is particularly interesting for the U-17 team because his versatility to play numerous positions will give Wicky options as the numerous games played over a short span will test the team’s depth. The coach discussed this on Tuesday.

“Tayvon Gray is actually a really, really interesting player for every coach because he actually covers three to four different positions which helps me a lot when you have to choose a roster with limited numbers you can pick,” Wicky said. “Teyvon can play centerback, he can play in the central midfield, he can play right or left fullback. That gives me a lot of different options. He's a real team player.”

Pomykal out two weeks

In addition to the U-17 team, this is a very important time for the U.S. U-20 team as head coach Tab Ramos will name his World Cup roster on May 10. Right now, all the players are trying to either build their case to be part of the team, or work on their form to have momentum heading to Poland.

Attacking midfielder Paxton Pomkal, 19, is one of the best players on the U-20 team but he was forced out of FC Dallas’ game on Saturday at halftime. Today, Dallas announced that Pomykal will miss two weeks and the team is doing everything it can to make sure Pomykal is ready for the World Cup.

In the piece by 3rd Degree, Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez had this to say.

"That's important for us. Anybody selected to the national team at different levels in ages in a real FIFA competition, we're a club that wants to support that," Gonzalez said. "We want him healthy for FC Dallas, for his teammates, and representing the national team at different levels when given the opportunity. All that's important for us."

FC Dallas continues to do a great job working with its talented group of young players. Not only giving them important minutes, but also prioritizing important youth national team tournaments. In this case, resting Pomykal so he is fully fit for the U-20 World Cup in Poland later this month

Holmes returns for Derby

Derby County is in a dogfight to make the promotional playoffs in the English Championships. American attacker Duane Holmes, 24, has been one of the team’s best players since the Christmas/New Years slate of games.

The Georgia-born Holmes hasn’t played for Derby since April 9 due to injury but will be available for Wednesday’s big game against Cameron Carter-Vickers and Swansea City. Derby currently in sixth place in the Championship and occupies the last playoff position by goal differential over seventh place Middlesbrough (both on 70 points). It is ahead of eighth-place Bristol by just a point.

Derby has just two games remaining before the playoffs and the return of Holmes is welcome news.

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