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U17 September 2023 Jezek Cup Recap

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September 2023
The United States U17 team finished their second to last tune up before the U17 World Cup at Vaclav Jezek Cup in Czech Republic. The United States beat Ukraine 3-2, lost to Switzerland 3-1 and lost to Czech Republic 2-0.

From a results standpoint, the staff and team will be disappointed. They came back to beat Ukraine with two late goals from Nimfasha Berchimas. They fought hard to come back against Switzerland and played well against a very good team. The final match was a let down where they lost to a less talented team and lacked precision in the final third.

The main goal of this tournament was to build chemistry and give coach Gonzalo Segares some new information to help him decide on a final roster.
Noahkai Banks, center-back for FC Augsburg

Tournament analysis

It was a very mixed bag from my perspective. I appreciate the resilience that was shown in the first two matches, but it seemed like the team expended all of their energy in those efforts and didn't have a lot left in the tank in the third match. From a run of play and talent perspective, I thought the United States should have handled both Ukraine and Czech Republic — a more ruthless side would have. Switzerland was an excellent test because their press was intense and organized and they had very good athletes. The United States dominated the ball for large portions of that match and created a lot of good chances, but the match came down to the U.S. making more critical errors and Switzerland punishing them and Switzerland making less drastic mistakes and the U.S. didn't punish them for it.

From a roster construction perspective, I thought that some of my concerns with how this roster was built impacted what the team was able to do. The team lacked pace and ball winners in the midfield, which showed against Ukraine. They also lacked a true center-forward and that was a challenge all tournament. Ramos and Burton were very ineffective.

I am not convinced there is a box to box midfielder that is an obvious choice for selection in the future. What I would do is bring Matthew Corcoran in to play the six and move Pedro Soma to a box to box role where he could have an even bigger impact.

The center-forward position should be solved if Keyrol Figueroa is healthy and released for the U17 World Cup. The U.S. really missed his speed. They tried to play Ramos into space, but he just doesn't have the pace to threaten back lines. I would like to see Segares explore backup center-forward options in the final camp before the World Cup next month. My preference would be Dino Klapija. He is excellent in link up play and is adept at helping break down low blocks.

One adjustment Segares did make with this squad is that he brought in new wingers in Bryce Jamison and Nimfasha Berchimas and I thought both were top performers at the tournament. Berchimas brings a legit one on one threat — he had two goals and assist in this tournament. Jamison had a ton of great chances and was excellent in recovery. He stretched the back line and was decent in combination play. He was rough in the final third, but got in to great spots. Both made a great case to be on the final U17 World Cup roster.

Who helped themselves?

CB, Noahkai Banks, FC Augsburg

Banks was the big winner of the tournament and has become one of my favorite U.S. prospects. Up until this tournament I had not seen Banks play even though I have been trying for years. What I saw in Banks is a center-back prospect with every single tool you could ask for in a modern day center-back. He has size, mobility, ball control, vision, passing range, defensive instincts and can dominate his one on one battles. He isn't perfect, and his decision making both offensively and defensively need work, but the tools are overwhelming. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Banks could be the top center-back prospect in the youth pool. It's crazy that he hasn't been a locked-in starter for this team earlier, but my hope is that with his three performances in this tournament that he will be a lock for the U17 World Cup.

WING, Nimfasha Berchimas, Charlotte FC

As mentioned above, Berchimas was another big winner from this tournament as the youngest U.S. player on the roster. He scored two late goals against Ukraine to help the United States take the lead and he assisted on the only goal against Switzerland. He was dangerous and fearless in all three games. It's his confidence and bravery to attack as a fifteen year old that really impressed me. He didn't win all of his one one battles, but he won enough to keep defenses on their back heels. In my opinion Berchimas did what he needed to do to make the U17 World Cup roster — and if he does — he will be the youngest U.S. player to play in a U17 World Cup since Freddy Adu.

WING, Bryce Jamison, Orange County SC

Jamison brought speed and physicality to a front line that really needed it. I thought one of the biggest weaknesses of the U17 Concacaf Championship roster was the lack of pace out wide. Jamison was able to run behind back lines and cause problems in the press. He wasn't clinical in the final third, but he got himself into a ton of dangerous positions and gave hope that he could consistently get into dangerous positions going forward.

CM, Taha Habroune, Columbus Crew

Habroune solidified himself as a key component to the midfield in this tournament. He is one of the best ball progressors in the U17 pool and he showed enough defensively to be relied on in a box to box role. He also continues to show great instincts for goal in the final third. He isn't the most physical box to box midfielder and he needs to cut down on his turnovers, but he has shown enough at this point to likely be a starting center-mid going into the U17 World Cup.

LB, Peyton Miller, New England Revolution

I am not sure Miller did enough to win the left-back job outright and leave zero room for doubt, but he did enough to be the favorite going into next camp. He made his share of mistakes defensively, but he showed improvement from the first match to the third and I think he showed some very positive flashes on the ball. I would not be surprised to see Segares bring a new left-back, like Christian McFarlane, in the next camp before making a final decision on a starting left-back.

What next?

Gonzalo Segares will select one more squad before the U17 World Cup in early/mid October. I am told the boys will head to Brazil to play friendlies behind close doors. My educated guess is that there will be some turnover between this roster and the next with the goal of gathering new information on other players before making final decisions. I suspect we will 10 to 12 new faces for that camp. If I had to guess, these are the positions that are still up for grabs: backup goalkeeper, left-back, a center-mid spot, winger spot and potentially a backup center-forward. Of course this can change with injuries and releases.

The U17 World Cup group draw will take place this Friday on September 15th at 7am PST. The U17 World Cup kicks off on November 10th and is hosted by Indonesia.

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