July 20, 2012
Spain's bright future; U.S. U-20s; high school vs. club

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)

Two weeks after Spain routed Italy, 4-0, to win Euro 2012 – following up on its 2010 World Cup and 2008 Euro titles – came a sign that Spanish dominance could have a long future.

Spain lifted its second straight European Under-19 Championship with a 1-0 win over Greece last weekend and has now won six U-19 Euros in 11 years.

The Spanish U-19s scored 11 goals in their five-game run to the 2012 title. Jesé Rodríguez won the Golden Shoe with five goals and scored the winner against Greece in the final. A Canary Island product -- like David Silva -- Rodriguez joined Real Madrid at age 14 and last summer made his first-team debut for Coach Jose Mourinho as a 64th-minute sub in a 4-1 friendly win over the Los Angeles Galaxy. Rodriguez has been playing with Real Madrid’s second division team but saw his first 10 minutes of La Liga last season.

Also worth keeping an eye on is winger Gerard Deulofeu, who joined Barcelona at age 9 and made one La Liga appearance last season. Deulofeu set up Rodriguez's gamewinner in the final. He scored twice in the 3-3 semifinal against France and struck the decisive penalty kick in the shooutout tiebreaker. Deulofeu played two La Liga games for Barcelona last season.

... Spain also won the last U-21 European Championship, in 2011, which qualified it for this summer's Olympic soccer competition, a U-23 tournament at which teams can field three overage players. Spain last qualified for the Olympics in 2000, when it beat the USA, 3-1, in a semifinal that included Xavi, Carles Puyol, Landon Donovan and Brad Friedel. Spain settled for the silver medal after losing the final in a PK tiebreaker to Cameroon.

... Spain's women reached the final of this year’s the U-19 European Championship, falling, 1-0, to Sweden in overtime.

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U.S. MEN'S U-20s QUEST. The USA failed to qualify for the 2011 U-20 World Cup, missing the biennial tournament for the first time since 1995. Charged with putting the American U-20s back on track is Coach Tab Ramos, who represented the USA at the 1983 U-20 World Cup, the 1988 Olympics, and World Cups in 1990, 1994 and 1998.

Ramos took charge in October and to prepare for 2013 U-20 World Cup qualifying that begins in February is taking the team to Northern Ireland’s Milk Cup, where the Americans start off against Denmark on July 21 and Turkey two days later.

“We’re certainly going to Milk Cup hoping to win every game,” said Ramos. “At the same time, we’re in the middle of our evaluation process and we do believe we have a competitive group. We have a few players who have not been with us before, but I think they’re very good players and that they’ll contribute. (Read Ramos’ USSoccer.com interview HERE.)

Holden Fender (Marietta, Ga.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara, Calif.), Mario Rodriguez (North Hollywood, Calif.) and Dillon Serna (Brighton, Colo.) are the first-time U.S. U-20 selections on the Milk Cup-bound team. For the entire roster, go HERE.

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U.S. WOMEN'S U-20s WORLD CUP PREP. Coach Steve Swanson is holding his final camp with the U.S. U-20 women before the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan that kicks off Aug. 19. Swanson is using the July 15-30 in camp in Bradenton, Fla., to pare down his 24-player roster to 21 players.

The USA won the inaugural U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2002 and the fourth edition in 2008. It fell Nigeria on PKs in the quarterfinals in 2010.

“There’s also a lot of spirit in the team,” says Swanson, whose team was drawn into a formidable group with Ghana, China and Germany. “I think we’ve worked very hard at cultivating a strong team on the field, but a united, trusting and respected team off the field. It’s going to be a challenging environment in Japan. We play some awfully good teams, some teams that have equally strong preparations like we have.”

Read Swanson’s USSoccer.com interview HERE and check out the roster HERE.

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HIGH SCHOOL vs. CLUB. Jeff Hartsell of South Carolina’s Post and Courier spoke with players, parents and coaches about the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s banning players from high school ball.

Player Christian Jablonski is skipping his senior year of ball at Wando High School play for the the S.C. United Battery after doing both for three years: “What hurts the most is knowing that I won’t be able to have a senior season at Wando. It’s hard to give that up. ... With our academy, I get a chance to be in a very professional and elite environment every day, and that’s what I love. I want to be in that environment all the time."

Christian’s father Richard said, “I truly wish the adults could arrive at an accommodation that would allow the kids to do both, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Kids face divided loyalties between programs and coaches they love and respect. It’s an unfair burden to place on kids, the vast majority of whom will never play a minute for the U.S. national team.”

Battery executive director Clark Brisson said his club S.C. had “zero input” in the U.S. Soccer decision: “They are trying to improve the level for the elite player, that’s the goal. Whether we agree on how they are going about it or not, it doesn’t really matter at this point. … I don’t see why the two can’t co-exist. But that’s for higher-ups to make that decision.”

Read “Top soccer players forced to choose between high schools, elite clubs” HERE. ...


... Parents brawl after girls U-17 game in Greece, N.Y. 13WHAM.com

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(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for Bay Oaks/East Bay United SC in Oakland, Calif. He is the co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper, and More Than Goals with Claudio Reyna. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)