SUM U-17 Cup: Group A preview

Chicago-D.C. rematch highlights Group A; Rogers could help Colorado crash the party

The Dynamo, Soccer United Marketing, and adidas are hosting the 2010 SUM U-17 Cup in the Greater Houston Area, with group stage matches at Centennial Park in Friendswood.

Throughout the tournament, updated information will be available at the SUM Cup homepage.

HoustonDynamo.com is previewing each of the four groups, which include the youth teams from four MLS clubs.

Group A appears to be top-heavy, with two-time champion D.C. United leading the way. D.C. won
last year’s tournament over Dallas
on penalty kicks and has seen two home-grown players make impacts with the
first team in goalkeeper Bill Hamid and midfielder Andy Najar, part of last
year’s cup-winning team.

United’s U-16 team made it to the USSF Development Academy
Finals Week in California,
finishing eighth nationally. Forward Julian Griggs, who missed Finals Week due
to a bout of mononucleosis, should be back for the tournament, and midfielders
Cody Albrecht and midfielder Tyler Rudy are also among the returnees from last
year’s championship team.

Despite the pedigree, D.C. United might not be the favorite
in Group A. The Chicago Fire is
looking to win its second championship of the summer after winning the USSF
Development Academy U-16 title
just last week. Many of the players that played
in the U-16 tournament will be returning for the SUM Cup, including goalkeeper
Sam Euler, who saved a penalty kick in the Fire’s shootout win in the U-16
championship.

The Fire roster includes another nine contributors from the
U-16 final: Keaton Albert, Luis Barajas, David Caban, Andrew Conner, Peter
Beasley, Jesus Medina, Luis Medina, Anthony Torres, and Manny Rios. Chicago beat D.C. United
2-0 at Finals Week, so the teams’ matchup on opening night Friday should be one
of the games of the tournament.

The Colorado Rapids
are coming in hoping to make a name for themselves after finishing in last
place in 2009 with a 1-3 record despite playing at home. If their leading man
is any indication, they have a great chance. Forward James Rogers scored seven
goals in five games to lead Real
Salt Lake
to the 2008 SUM Cup title. The Sierra Leone
refugee has since moved to Colorado
with his legal guardian
and scored 12 goals in 26 games at the U-18 level for
the Rapids this year in USSF play.

Colorado also boasts
midfielder Santiago Velez, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the Colorado state 4A championship last fall, and his Niwot High
School teammate, Chris Gurule. Other key players to watch are forward Isaac Martinez and playmaker Ricardo Perez. The Rapids have
two strong goalkeepers in Alex Chapin and Andrew Epstein and also brought in
three players from the Las Vegas Soccer Club for the tournament.

The San Jose Earthquakes
are playing in the tournament for the first time, trying to prove themselves as
a formidable new team in the pool. Still without a Development
Academy team, the Earthquakes have
assembled a competitive group of players from northern California, including two top 15-year-olds
in midfielder Cristian Cruz and forward Cesar Mendoza.

Defender Travis Pillon
and forward Nicholas Lima have also earned recognition with select teams at
USSF showcase events. Attacking midfielder Juan Guerrero joined the club in April as part of an Amway Global scholarship.

Group A schedule
Centennial Park, 2200 South Friendswood Drive, Friendswood TX
July 23, 6:30 p.m.  D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire
July 23, 8:00 p.m.  Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes
July 24, 6:30 p.m.  D.C. United vs. Colorado Rapids
July 24, 8:00 p.m.  Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes
July 26, 6:30 p.m.  Chicago Fire vs. Colorado Rapids
July 26, 8:00 p.m.  San Jose Earthquakes vs. D.C. United