U.S. U-17 Preview: Argentina vs USA

Two days after beating Bolivia in a friendly, the US U-17s prepare to play Argentina on their own turf.

When: 2:30 pm ET
Where: Deportivo Italiano, Buenos Aires, Argentina

By Tim Sturtridge

BUENOS AIRES--The meat in the sandwich of the US under 17’s tour of Buenos Aires arrives on Wednesday when they play Argentina

After recording a 2-1 win over Bolivia on Monday Wilmer Cabrera’s squad get a chance test themselves against one of the best sides in the world. 

It is a fantastic opportunity for the squad to see exactly where they are at before they head off to Mexico in April for their crucial World Cup qualifiers. 

The US are hoping to make their 13th consecutive appearance at the World Cup finals when they kick off in Nigeria later this year. 

Qualification is first and foremost in head coach Cabrera’s mind and he is using this tour to iron out any problems he sees in his side’s play. 

“I’m really happy with them, the communication and the adjustments,” he said after the win over Bolivia. “Sometimes we were not moving the ball so well but we adjusted really quickly, fixed the problems and moved the ball much better.” 

Should he choose to attack Argentina from the outset as the US did on Monday he will need his squad to be in good shape despite playing Bolivia 48 hours beforehand. 

“The players are in very good condition fitness wise,” the Colombian born coach said. “They need to be sharp and try to pick up the pace to see how good they really are.” 

Man of the match against Bolivia, Marlon Duran is excited about pitting himself against the Argentines. Duran’s role to shielding the back four and linking defence and midfield means he will be in for a busy afternoon. 

“I’m looking forward to the game against Argentina,” said the combative midfielder. “The standard is definitely going to go up.” 

One man Duran and the rest of the US team will have contain is River Plate’s 16-year-old sensation Erik Lamela. 

When he was just seven Lamela was snapped up by La Banda’s academy and five years after that Barcelona came sniffing around. Barca and Nike tabled a deal worth $150,000 a week to the kid’s family but the Argentine football authorities stepped in and the deal disappeared. 

Now Lamela, who can play anywhere across the midfield, is focused on breaking into the River Plate first team even though he supports city rivals Boca Juniors. 

“This is a dream but I’ll take it easy, I’ve still not done anything. I really want to learn,” said the youngster. “I really want to show everyone that the talk about me is not a lie.” 

Right now the player hopes to emulate current Argentina internationals such as Carlos Tevez, Esteban Cambiasso and Juan Sebastian Veron who all shone at under 17 level. 

Even though Argentina have never reached the final of the under-17 World Cup they have reached the semis four times. 

The US also has a proud history at this level and is the only country to have participated in all 12 World Cups since the tournament’s inception in 1985. 

Landon Donovan won the MVP award in New Zealand in 1999 as the US finished fourth and Freddy Adu was only one goal shy of collecting the Golden Shoe prize in 2003. 

With Wilmer Cabrera focused on qualification a good performance against Argentina in their own backyard on Wednesday will be a victory for the States.

USA: Earl Edwards (La Jolla Nomads SC); Jared Watts (North Meck Storm); Tyler Polak (Capital Soccer Academy); Perry Kitchen (Chicago Magic); Marlon Duran (Latino Americana); Eriq Zavaleta (FC Pride); Stefan Jerome and Zachary Herold (West Pines United FC); Charles Renken (Scott Gallagher); Hassan Saad (Vardar SC); Luis Gil (Pateadores); Carlos Martinez (Wilmington Jr.); George Malki (SC Delsol Extreme);   Joseph Shinsky (Super Nova FC); Nicholas Palodichuk (Washington Premier); Julio Arjona (DC United); Sebastian Lletget (Santa Clara Sporting); Spencer Richey (Crossfire Premier); Juan Agudelo (NY Red Bulls); Dominick Sarle (BW Gotschee)

Argentina: Walter Arce (Vélez Sársfield); Esteban Orfano, Leandro Marín and Sergio Araujo (Boca Juniors); Eduardo Rotondi and Rodrigo Díaz (Argentinos Juniors); Benjamín Rosales and Jorge Balbuena (Lanús); Diego Martínez, Leandro González Pirez, Esteban Espíndola, Gonzalo Olid Apaza, Juan Montero, Eric Lamela,  Ezequiel Cirigliano and Daniel Villalva (River Plate); Damián Martínez, Lucas Krupszky and Juan Sánchez Martínez (Independiente); Ignacio Arce (Unión de Santa Fe); Nicolás Tagliafico (Banfield); Lucas Petrich (Rosario Central); Fernando Ledesma (Newell's Old Boys); Adrián Martínez and Sebastián González (San Lorenzo de Almagro); Brian Risso (Racing Club); Guido Dal Cason (Quilmes); Ignacio Ameli and Alexis Quintulen (Sporting de Lisboa).

Tim Sturtridge is a Buenos Aires-based sports correspondent from Devon, England, who reports on soccer in Latin America.