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U-17 CONCACAF Championship

U-17 Squad Ready for the CONCACAF Championship

Promising midfielder Junior Flores hopes to help Richie WIlliams' side in the regional championship with a place in the 2013 World Cup on the line. Josh Deaver previews the action.
BY Josh Deaver Posted
April 05, 2013
2:46 PM
On Sunday, the United States U-17 squad battles Haiti (Fox Soccer, 6:30 p.m. ET) to kick off the 2013 CONCACAF Championship. The Americans need to advance to the semifinal round to secure qualification for the World Cup held this year in the United Arab Emirates.

Captain Shaquell Moore and 2012 U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year Rubio Rubin lead Richie Williams' team. A majority of the players attended a February training camp in Panama to help prepare and the vast majority of the squad consists of familiar faces. Nineteen of the 20 players are currently enrolled in the U.S Soccer residency program in Bradenton, Florida. The only outlier of the group is Argentine-American midfielder Joel Sonora, who plays in the Boca Juniors youth academy. He was a late addition to the U-17 roster for the squad’s trip to South America in October, making substitute appearances against Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, but has not featured since due to club commitments.

National team supporters will want to keep a keen eye on the U.S midfield for future Borussia Dortmund starlet, Junior Flores who has gone through a rough patch recently. Battling issues of form and consistency, he has been in and out of Williams’ lineup. The coach has also experimented with the midfielder's deployment of late, featuring him out wide instead of in his customary central attacking role. This could be the chance for Flores to break out of his mini-slump and hopefully regain the form he displayed in the 2011 Nike International Friendlies, the tournament that put his name on the U.S. Soccer map.

The experienced U.S. midfield will also feature Corey Baird (30 caps), Angel Heredia, and Christopher Lema (19 caps each) along with Elijah Martin (15 caps). Tyler Turner, who has not appeared for the U-17’s since October due to some lingering injuries, is also included.

Perhaps the most glaring absence in the roster is New York Red Bulls academy product Wesley Wade. Wade has been a stalwart, having missed only one U-17 camp dating back to late 2011. However, he has fallen down the depth chart in recent months and has the distinction of being the most capped player to be left off the squad. A pair of young strikers, Sebastian Elney and Minnesota-native Mukwalle Akale, hope to replace his production. Akale is listed at 5’3 and a scant 108 pounds, but he has turned heads with his technical acumen and creative flair. In a tune-up friendly against Barbados earlier this week, he registered a hat trick and picked up an assist on the way to an 8-0 victory.

The backline is young with defensive trio Justen Glad, Peter Schropp, and Tommy Redding three of the five '97s on the roster, but there exists a real continuity in the core as well. Fullbacks John Requejo Jr. and captain Moore each have 33 caps, and starting center back Conor Donovan boasts plenty of experience as well.

In a recent interview, head coach Richie Williams tipped his hand in regards to his starting XI, and will look to deploy in a 4-3-3 formation when taking on Haiti on Sunday. Williams indicated scouting info has been sparse on the Haitians but, through consolation with U-20 head coach Tab Ramos, he remains confident they will be able to thwart the athletic side. “We feel it’s kind of the same group of coaches that coached Haiti’s Under-20s will be with the Under-17s, so they’ll probably end up playing the same way,” Williams said.

He closed his press conference with the familiar refrain of CONCACAF competition: “There are not going to be any easy games. We have to be physically ready and mentally ready to compete with those teams.”

Caldwell; Requejo Jr., Redding, Donovan, Moore; Baird, Martin, Lema ; Winn, Selemani, Rubinn

GOALKEEPERS: Jefferson Caldwell (North Carolina Fusion; Todd, N.C.), Evan Louro (New York Red Bulls; South River, N.J.)
DEFENDERS: Conor Donovan (NC Alliance; Fuquay Varina, N.C.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake AZ; Tucson, Ariz.), Shaquell Moore (Unattached; Powder Springs, Ga.), Tommy Redding (FC America Premier; Oviedo, Fla.), John Requejo Jr. (Real So Cal; Carpinteria, Calif.), Peter Schropp (Omaha FC; Omaha, Neb.)
MIDFIELDERS: Corey Baird (San Diego Surf; Escondido, Calif.), Junior Flores (Unattached; Manassas Park, Va.), Angel Heredia (San Jose Earthquakes; San Jose, Calif.), Christopher Lema (New York Red Bulls; Ridgefield, N.J.), Elijah Martin (Unattached; Fresno, Calif.), Joel Soñora (Boca Juniors; Buenos Aires, Argentina), Tyler Turner (South Central Premier; West Haven, Conn.)
FORWARDS: Mukwelle Akale (Minnesota Thunder; Minneapolis, Minn.), Sebastian Elney (Boca United; Lake Worth, Fla.), Rubio Rubin (Unattached; Beaverton, Ore.), Ahinga Selemani (CSA Wolves; Ann Arbor, Mich.), Alan Winn (Solar Chelsea FC; Garland, Texas)

Josh Deaver is a former academic turned soccer obsessive. Follow him on Twitter.

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