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 D appears to be a wide-open group, with several strong sides battling for a semifinal berth.
One of five teams that did not compete at last year’s SUM Cup, the New York Red Bulls enter the tournament with perhaps the most talent in Group D. The Red Bulls’ Juan Agudelo, signed by the first team at the beginning of the 2010 season, played in the SUM U-17 Cup in 2008, so players from New York and New Jersey will be looking to follow in his footsteps.
New York, with strong programs at several different age levels, boasts no fewer than three members of the U.S. U-17 residency program. Midfielders Russell Canouse and Adam Najem will look to control possession, while goalkeeper Santiago Castano will anchor the defense. They replace three players missing while with the U.S. U-18 team.
Big things are expected from attacking midfielder Oscar Gonzalez, a veteran of the Red Bulls’ U-18 team; Boston College commit Christian Johnson; and new recruit Brandon Allen, who scored 25 goals in U-16 play for PDA Soccer in South Jersey last year. Major contributors from regular season play include Bolu Akinyode, Diego Ceron, and Luis Munoz. The Red Bulls will also welcome a number of players from their pre-academy team, breaking them into competitive play before the fall season begins.
Real Salt Lake is no stranger to elite competition, having won the SUM U-17 Cup in 2008 and having made an impressive showing in 2009 with a third-place finish despite not losing a match. A recent entry in the USSF Development Academy league, RSL meshes together its squads from Utah, Arizona, and Florida for the SUM Cup each year.
This year’s team appears to include 11 players from Utah, nine from Arizona (although one lives in El Paso), and three from Florida. Goalkeeper Carson Elliot backstopped RSL at last year’s tournament, with defender Phanuel Kavita and midfielder Richard Velasco among those playing in front of him.
United States national team prospects Antonio Murillo (Arizona) and Matt Gay (Utah) are also on the roster, while talented midfielder Maikon Orellana also returns from last year’s squad. Cole Nagy, another Arizona prospect, and Aaron Caprio are among the RSL standouts.
Another traditional power, the Los Angeles Galaxy will look to be competitive in Group D after a sixth-place finish in 2009 despite going 1-0-2 in the group stage. Forward Dyllan Stevens led the Galaxy’s U-16 Academy team with 15 goals in 24 games last season and will likely be paired with Neil Ignacio, who split time between the U-16s and U-18s during the season. With those two up front, the job of creating will fall to midfielders Grady Howe, Juan Mendoza, and Eric Gonzalez, a member of the U.S. U-17 national team residency program.
The Galaxy also bring a tradition from south of the border with them, with their players’ numbers ranging from 40-85. More importantly, they bring at least three players with prior national team experience – Gonzalez, goalkeeper Josh McNeely, and defender Mykal Riley – and several who have already committed to playing Division I soccer, including UCLA commit and midfielder Grady Howe. Forward Jack McBean, a scoring sensation in California ranks as a freshman, has reportedly been invited into national team residency as well.
The Galaxy head to Houston with a roster that is supplemented by a number of players from Arsenal FC, a top seed in the most recent U-16 Development Academy Playoffs and the winners of the U-16 SoCal Division. If the wealth of talent between the two sides can mesh quickly, the Galaxy should have enough talent at their disposal to make a run at the two more successful sides, historically speaking, in the group.
The Kansas City Wizards are probably the underdog of Group D after finishing ninth in last year’s tournament and third in the Frontier Division during the USSF regular season. The Wizards did reach the playoffs, where they went 2-1 in group play but failed to advance to Finals Week.
Forward Jordan Rideout, son of former Everton player and current Wizards Juniors coach Paul Rideout, provided 40 percent of the Wizards U-16s’ offense, netting 14 goals in 29 games. Goalkeeper Jon Kempin could be a key for the Wizards; he was called up to the U-18 national team three times this year, was named to the all-Central Conference starting 11, and has already committed to South Florida.