December 17, 2015
Reggae Girlz get boost from U.S. coaches and players, and Cedella Marley

By Mike Woitalla

In his day job, Lorne Donaldson is the director of
Real Colorado, the club in the news most recently for spawning teen
star Mallory Pugh, several other girls in the U.S.
youth national team program, and goalkeeper Ethan
, the 20-year-old whose Europa League play with
Norwegian club Molde earned him the starting job with the U.S.
men’s U-23 team that’s aiming to qualify for the 2016

In his spare time, Donaldson has been helping out another nation -- his native Jamaica, which he left in 1979 for the USA to play college ball at Denver’s Metropolitan State. Girls did not play competitive soccer when he was growing up on the island.

“Oh no, girls just started playing soccer competitively about a decade ago,” said Donaldson, who is head coach of Jamaica’s U-17 girls national team and assistant of its women’s U-20s and full national team.

In 2008, the Jamaican federation cited a lack of funds for scrapping its women’s national team program. The recent revival, which led to the recruitment of Donaldson, came thanks to Cedella Marley, the daughter of reggae star Bob Marley.

Bob Marley, when he toured with his band the Wailers, required access to a nearby soccer field for them to play and explained his enchantment with the sport like this: “Football is a whole skill to itself. A whole world. A whole universe to itself. Me love it because you have to be skillful to play it! Freedom! Football is freedom.”

Marley died in 1981, 17 years before the Jamaican men qualified for their first World Cup. His love for the sport had an effect on Cedella: “I grew up watching my father and brothers play soccer.”

Cedella’s efforts to make soccer a game for girls to play, and not just watch, include a fund-raising campaign for which she and her brothers, Damian and Stephen Marley, recorded the song, “Strike Hard.”

In the quest for a Jamaican women's team to qualify for a World Cup, the Jamaican federation (JFA) has looked for guidance from Jamaicans in the USA. The JFA hired Hue Menzies, director of the Central Florida Kraze Krush, as technical director and enlisted Donaldson, who before his two decades in the youth game coached the Colorado Foxes in the APSL, the top tier of U.S. men's soccer before MLS’s launch in 1996.

Lorne Donaldson and U.S. U-20 captain Mallory Pugh.

“For girls, soccer is at the bottom of the sports list in Jamaica,” says Donaldson. “If it was track & field, everything would be good. Girls soccer is kind of taboo in Jamaica a little bit. We’re trying to change that culture.”

Donaldson cites Jody Brown, a 14-year-old who plays on the Jamaica U-17s.

“If we can get her a good situation to play, I think she’d be top 5 in the world in her age group,” he says. “She’s an unbelievable player who plays with boys right now. But there’s a rule in Jamaica when you get to a certain age, they can no longer play with boys. She has no place to play. There’s no girls team in her town.”

The hope is that if a Jamaica girls or women’s team qualifies for a world championship, it will popularize women’s soccer on the island. To that end, Menzies and Donaldson have recruited girls from the USA with Jamaican descent to complement island talent.

Donaldson’s U-17 Jamaica team that he took to the Caribbean championship included seven U.S. products. He didn’t have a chance to train the team before they showed up for the Puerto Rico-hosted tourney, but says they had no problem meshing.

“I didn’t know some of the girls and the girls didn’t know each other,” Donaldson said. “By the second and third day, they started coming along as a group. They get along very fine.

“Most of the U.S. girls have been to Jamaica with their family and most of them really do like the culture. So it’s not like a hard adjustment to be a part of it. Their families still cook Jamaican food. They still talk Jamaican. Some of them, especially ones from Florida, grew up in a Jamaican environment.”

The bigger challenge was for the Jamaica-raised girls who had no experience with travel soccer.

“It’s more difficult for the Jamaican kids when they travel trying to eat different food,” Donaldson said. “They don’t like pasta. They want jerk chicken and curry chicken and whatever. We have to change their mentality on food.”

Jamaica came up short in qualifiers for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. At the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament in December in Honduras, Jamaica beat Trinidad & Tobago (6-1) and tied host Honduras (2-2), but a 7-0 loss to Canada ruined the goal difference it needed to reach the semifinals. Several Jamaica starters, U.S. collegians, were unavailable because the tournament fell during finals time. The USA, captained by 17-year-old Pugh, who scored a Golden Boot-winning seven goals, finished first.

In November, the U-17 Jamaica team coached by Donaldson beat Trinidad & Tobago in the semifinals and Haiti in the final to win the U-17 Carribbean championship. That takes the Reggae Girlz to the next step, the Concacaf qualifying tournament for the 2016 U-17 World Cup March 3-13 in Grenada.

Jamaica celebrates U-17 women's 2015 Caribbean title.

The Reggae Girlz will be competing for one of the region’s three spots at the World Cup against seven other teams, including favorites USA, Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica -- the four countries from Concacaf that have qualified for the U-17 Women’s World Cup.

December 10, 2015
Christian Pulisic 'on a really good path' at Borussia Dortmund

By Mike Woitalla

Last weekend, Christian Pulisic, the 17-year-old
Pennsylvania product, scored his third goal for Borussia Dortmund's
U-19 team.

Pulisic spent much of 2015 with the U.S. U-17 national team, for which he played in 24 games, including three at the U-17 World Cup in Chile. Still, Pulisic managed to play eight games for Dortmund’s U-17 team -- scoring six goals as it won the 2014-15 German U-17 national championship – and six games for the U-19s, who are undefeated with nine wins and one tie in the U-19 Bundesliga West.

“Christian normally plays in the No. 10 position or on the wing,” says Dortmund’s U-19 head coach Hannes Wolf. “His strengths are his mentality, his speed, and his skills. He is a team player and strong in every part of the game.”

Pulisic is one of a few youth players who practices with the first team when Borussia Dortmund’s stars are on national team duty. Eight Dortmund players have been capped by Germany, including 2014 World Cup winners Mats Hummels and Kevin Grosskreutz, and Marco Reus. Other national team players include Serbia’s Neven Subotic, who represented the USA at the U-17 level, Japan’s Shinji Kagawa, Turkey’s Nuri Sahin and Colombia’s Adrian Ramos.

“It was, and still is, a big adventure for him to live in Dortmund,” Wolf says. “Christian learned German very fast and is deeply respected by his teammates, because of his personality and quality. We hope for Dortmund to be a second home for him. ...

“He works hard every day. If Christian goes on like this, he is on a really good path.”

Borussia Dortmund's U-19 team. Christian Pulisic is in the front row, second from the right.

Win over Dutch highlights new U.S. U-17s’ first competition

Two years ago, at the Nike International Friendlies, Pulisic got foreign scouts’ attention when he was named MVP as the USA beat Brazil, 4-1, and England, 5-1.

This year’s Nike Friendlies, a year-end event for more than a decade, was contested by players born in 2000 (currently U-15s), whose ultimate aim is the 2017 U-17 World Cup.

The Americans were coached by U-15 national team coach John Hackworth, an indication that Richie Williams, the U-17 coach for the last two cycles, is being replaced. Williams had failed to qualify the USA for the 2013 U-17 World Cup and it exited this year’s U-17 World Cup with a tie and two losses.

The USA opened this year’s Nike Friendlies with a 3-2 loss on a stoppage-time goal to England before beating the Netherlands, 2-1, on a last-gasp goal by Josh Sargent of Scott Gallagher Missouri. The Portland Timbers’ Adrian Villegas opened the scoring when his shot deflected into the net off the legs of Dutch keeper Terence Meuwese.

Against England, the USA came back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to take 2-1 lead, on goals by the Georgia United duo of Chris Goslin and Andrew Carleton early in the second half. But England’s Jadon Sancho equalized on a penalty kick and scored the winner in stoppage time.

According to the Daily Mirror, Manchester City paid Watford a $100,000 transfer fee for Sancho last March that could rise $750,000 based on appearances. Sancho also scored in a 2-2 tie with the Netherlands that clinched the Nike Friendlies' title for England, which had beaten Brazil, 2-0.

With the loss to Brazil, the USA finished tied on points with Brazil but with an minus-3 goal difference to Brazil’s minus-2, while the Dutch finished runner-up.

Dec. 6 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
USA 0 Brazil 3. Goals: Brenner Souza (Marco Antonio) 20, Andrade (Brenner Souza) 22, Helio Junio (Marco Antonio) 63.
USA -- Budnik; Cornfield-Saunders, Durkin, Arteaga, Lindsey (Perez, 57); Carleton, Goslin, Villegas, Weah (Temple, 41; Vasquez, 67); Sargent, Akinola (Acosta, 57).
Brazil -- Lucas Alexandre (Victor Hugo, 72); Rhuan, Hiago, Eduardo, Matheua Miranda; Dimitri (Helio Junio, 55), Leonardo Ribeiro (Douglas Bohm, 79), Wallace, Andrade (Nathan Soares, 72); Marco Antonio, Brenner Souza (Leonardo Franco, 79)
Referee: Greg Dopka (USA)


Dec. 4 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
USA 2 Netherlands 1. Goals: Villegas (Sands) 4, Sargent 80+4; Familia-Castilo (pen.) 61.
USA -- Garces; Vaughn (Cornfield-Saunders, 65), McGann, Arteaga, Lindsey; Sands, Vasquez, Villegas (Sargent, 65), Ferri (Carleton, 52); Temple (Weah, 65), Akinola (Goslin, 77).
Netherlands -- Meuwese; Aberkane (Kusi,76), Jacobs, Botman, Smeulers (Pierie, 41); Huygen (Ekkelenkam, 41), Koopmeiners (El Bouchataoui, 41), Familia-Castilo, Mallahi (Redan, 41); Van Hoeven, Buitink (Kone, 68).
Referee: Rubiel Vazquez (USA)

Dec. 2 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
USA 2 England 3. Goals: Goslin 46, Carleton (pen.) 51; Loader (Sessegnon) 25, Sancho (pen.) 64, Sancho (Guehi) 80+3.
USA -- Budnik, Perez, Cornfield-Saunders, Lindsey, McGann (Akinola; 41), Durkin, Weah (Temple, 61); Goslin (Sands, 75); Sargent, Acosta (Villegas, 61); Carleton.
England -- McGill, Guehi, Sessegnon, Oakley Booth (Skipp, 72); Panzo, Rosler, Kirby (Poveda, 60); Loader, Gomes, Sancho, Eyoma.
Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr. (USA)

2015 Nike International Friendlies
Dec. 2
Netherlands 3 Brazil 0
USA 2 England 3
Dec. 4
England 2 Brazil 0
USA 2 Netherlands 1
Dec. 6
England 2 Netherlands 2
USA 0 Brazil 3