SUM U-17 Cup: Group A 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. 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