Youth development has been a hot-button topic in the U.S. soccer scene recently. The U.S. U-17 team and Dynamo Academy goalkeeper Fernando Piña will surely be a big part of the conversation this week when they begin a whirlwind friendly tour of Europe.
Wilmer Cabrera’s charges are due to arrive in England on Friday. They will train at Manchester City’s academy facility and then play friendlies against Manchester City (April 20) and Wigan Athletic (April 22).
Next week, the team travels to Italy to take part in the 23rd International Tournament of Gradisca. The centerpiece match for the U.S. is the April 25 opener against fellow CONCACAF giants Mexico. The last time the U-17s faced Mexico, in February, the U.S. thumped their rivals 4-1.
The U.S. will finish up group play against Romania and Croatia on April 26 and 27, respectively. If the U.S. advances, the semifinals are April 28, and the final is April 30.
The squad Cabrera chose includes Piña, who entered the U-17 residency program in September after traveling on the Dynamo's European tour last August. It also includes Kellen Gulley, Alejandro Guido, and Marc Pelosi, all of whom scored against Mexico in February.
The most interesting inclusion is Matt Dunn, who joined the youth academy of Bundesliga club FC Köln last year. The skillful central midfielder has been playing semi-regularly for the club’s U-16s, and gotten onto the scoresheet now and then, including notching a goal in a 3-0 trouncing of Borussia Dortmund last month.
Here is the full squad:
GOALKEEPERS: Wade Hamilton (Murietta, Calif.; Arsenal FC), Fernando Pina (Houston Dynamo Academy; Houston, Texas)
DEFENDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas Juniors; Plano, Texas), Holden Fender (Marietta, Ga.; North Atlanta SA), Riggs Lennon (Sereno SC; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Alessandro Mion (Miami FC Kendall; Miami, Fla.), Marc Pelosi (De Anza Force; Sunnyvale, Calif.), Nathan Smith (Cal Odyssey; Clovis, Calif.), Andrew Souders (Columbus Crew Academy; Amherst, Ohio)
MIDFIELDERS: Joe Amon (South Carolina United; Summerville, S.C.), Matt Dunn (FC Köln; Boulder, Colo.), Alejandro Guido (Aztecs FC Premier; Chula Vista, Calif.), Nico Melo (Florida Rush; Kissimmee, Fla.), Tarik Salkicic (Strictly Soccer; Pinellas Park, Fla.)
FORWARDS: Nicko Corriveau (Bethesda SC; Potomac, Md.), Kellen Gulley (MS Chicago Fire Juniors; Clinton, Miss.), Takuya Okada (Aztecs FC Premier; San Diego, Calif.), Andrew Oliver (Westside United; Indianapolis, Ind.), Esteban Rodriguez (LAFC Chelsea; Palmdale, Calif.), Mario Rodriguez (Central Aztecs; North Hollywood, Calif.)