Atlanta United teammates Andrew Carleton (left) and Chris Goslin are expected to play key roles for the USA in the 2017 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship. (Photo courtesy of Atlanta United)
BRADENTON, Florida -- On a cool evening in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on February 27, 2011, the United States won its last CONCACAF Under-17 Championship title, earning a 3-0 win over Canada in the final, with all the goals coming in extra time.
Current Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera guided the young Americans that day. Six years later, though, it’s John Hackworth, who leads the squad as it prepares for the 2017 version of the biennial competition that will be played April 21-May 7 in Panama.
“For this group of players it is an opportunity for them to win their first title and progress in their young, budding careers,” said Hackworth. “We are focused and our aim is solely to win this title. Of course, the first aim is to get to the U-17 FIFA World Cup in India, but in addition to that, winning the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Panama is the aim.”
Hackworth has history of success coaching at this level, previously directing the US in the 2005 and 2007 U-17 World Cups. On both occasions, the squad progressed beyond the group stage.
This time around, the 47 year old admitted that selecting a roster was a demanding task.
“The depth of the player pool in this age group is as competitive as we have ever seen,” Hackworth noted. “Thus, our decisions in selecting the final roster were extremely difficult. We have players in Europe, in North America, so it was an interesting mix putting everything together, but I am confident this crop has enough to get off on a good foot against Jamaica and eventually go and win the tournament.”
Key to those aspirations are Major League Soccer professionals Chris Durkin (midfielder, D.C. United) and Atlanta United teammates Chris Goslin (midfielder) and Andrew Carleton (forward). Hackworth is looking for that trio to provide leadership, talent and the intangibles.
“The experiences that these players have gained playing in MLS teams I am sure will help them develop and make our team better,” commented the former Philadelphia Union manager. “My hope is that it will rub off on the rest of the team, so they can achieve what these three guys have done and earned pro deals. As we head to Panama, these three guys are assets to my team and I believe they will be key in how we play and how many chances we create.”
The United States will look to start the CONCACAF event on the right foot, when it opens against Group C rival Jamaica on April 23.
“We played them in the fall and know that they are a talented, well-coached team so it won’t be an easy game,” Hackworth finished. “But I do feel once we can continue our good performances then we can get off to a good start in this tournament.”
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