Houston Dynamo

SUM U-17 Cup: Group C preview

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 C figures to be one of the more wide-open in the tournament. The host Dynamo finished fifth in 2009, but last year’s tournament did not include Chivas USA or New England, who join Houston and Toronto FC (8th in 2009) in Group C.

The Houston Dynamo struggled at the U-16 level in league play last year, finishing last in the Texas Division, but the Dynamo had many of their talented 1993 birthdays and even some 94s playing up at the U-18 level. When they all came together at the Dallas Cup in March, Houston ran off a 4-0-1 streak and took the U-16 title.

The Dynamo have the added benefit of one of the U-17 national team’s top goalkeepers, Fernando Piña, who is expected to start in goal, but Houston’s other U.S. national team player, midfielder Bryan Celis, will miss the tournament due to injury.

Two veterans of Houston’s U-18 squad, Sebastian Karpen and Leo Ayala, should lead the way in midfield and at the back, respectively. Up front, the Dynamo will rely on the talented trio of Manuel Chavez, Isaiah Noreiga (a Trinidad & Tobago U-17 prospect and hero of the Dallas Cup run), and Bryan Salazar. The three forwards combined for 14 of Houston’s 24 goals in league play.

Toronto FC is somewhat of an unknown because its teams do not participate in the USSF Development Academy league, but the Reds participated in the Dynamo Academy College Combine in February and should be familiar with the surroundings.

One player who will not be intimidated by the pressure of the tournament is 15-year-old Sergio Camargo, who dressed for the senior team’s Canadian Championship match against Vancouver on June 2. A dual Colombian-Canadian citizen, Camargo has earned praise for his quickness and creativity and scored in last year’s tournament.

Another player worth watching is goalkeeper Chad Bush, a native of Ottawa, who is living in Toronto in order to train with TFC. Eric Ngo scored twice in last year’s tournament and is another of the experienced Toronto players.

The New England Revolution had a great season at the U-16 level of the USSF Development Academy last year, going 8-2 in their division and going unbeaten in their playoff group but failing to advance after notching only one win.

The Revolution had not one, but two players who notched 20 goals apiece for their U-16 team. Midfielder Diego Fagundez was named to the national best 11 at the U-16 age group, while forward Felix DeBona was named to the all-Eastern Conference team.

15-year-old defenders Christian Sady and Mitchell Taintor, who stands 6-foot-2, are two of the stalwarts at the back. Both Fagundez and Sady have been called to national team camps. Goalkeeper Ryan Simpson, born on New Year’s Day 1993, is tied for being the oldest player in the tournament.

Rounding out the group is Chivas USA, whose U-16 team qualified for the USSF postseason but went winless in Greensboro. The team seems to be built from the back, led by Alexis Flores, honored as part of the national best 11 at the U-16 age level. He is joined by all-Western Conference defender Marcial Cazares, sizable Ivan Delgado, and Nicholas Ledesma, among others.

Elsewhere, midfielders Jake McGuire (went to Copa Chivas with the U-18s as a 15-year-old), Steve Palacios (U-18 national team camp), and Chayanne Santiago (dynamic playmaker, second leading U-16 scorer) will try to control the tempo of games. Newcomer Kevin Lichtenwalter arrives from LAFC, where he was named to one of the select teams at the 2009 USSF Winter Showcase. Another select player, Sergio Cervantes, is one of the go-to options up front.

Group C schedule
Centennial Park, 2200 South Friendswood Drive, Friendswood TX
July 23, 6:30 p.m.  New England Revolution vs. Chivas USA
July 23, 8:00 p.m.  Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC
July 24, 6:30 p.m.  Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution
July 24, 8:00 p.m.  Chivas USA vs. Toronto FC
July 26, 6:30 p.m.  Houston Dynamo vs. Chivas USA
July 26, 8:00 p.m.  Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution