United States wins second Nike International Friendlies title in three years

Americans claim 2nd Nike International Friendlies trophy in 3 years

jdill@bradenton.comDecember 14, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- After a demoralizing opening loss on Monday, the United States U-17 Men's National Team didn't just go through the motions in the subsequent matches at the 2013 Nike International Friendlies at Lakewood Ranch's Premier Sports Campus.

Rather, the squad threw an explosive attack forward.

The move worked to the tune of nine goals in two matches, the highlight being a 4-1 drubbing of Brazil in Friday's finale.

That victory coupled with England's 4-3 defeat of Portugal in Friday's early match meant Team USA reclaimed the tournament title they had won in 2011.

"They hung in there, they didn't get down," U.S. head coach Richie Williams said. "They knew they played pretty well in their first game, and we felt we should have gotten a draw but made a mistake. We made a mistake, all of us together, and they kept their head up and they kept playing hard and got two really good results against two of the best teams in the world."

The match against the Brazilians was a tense affair with two Brazil players being sent off with red cards for dangerous tackles.

The second occurrence came in the 86th minute and nine-man Brazil sat back without moving the rest of the match.

Williams instructed his players to sit on the ball, and the final minutes ticked off.

"I thought it was two 100 percent red cards," Williams said. "Obviously they weren't happy. We would have continued. We passed the ball, and they didn't want to come out and do anything. I've never seen anything like that. I don't quite understand why they did that."

Joe Gallardo scored a key goal to break an early 1-1 deadlock in the 22nd minute, before Brazil became shorthanded in the 40th minute with the first red card.

Gallardo then delivered two assists in the second half as a patient U.S. squad worked to find the open player.

"Joe is almost as dangerous or even more dangerous than I am," said Haji Wright, who tallied his second straight brace with goals in the eighth and 68th minutes. "So they have to be emphasis on both of us, instead of one of us. It's hard for the other team to stop us."

Haji Wright earned the golden boot for his five tournament goals.

Christian Pulisic was named the tournament Most Valuable Player, and goalkeeper Kevin Silva was the golden gloves recipient.

That meant the Stars and Stripes made a clean sweep of the awards to go with the first-place trophy.

"We have amazing strikers, who are just finishing everything," Pulisic said. "We really can't ask much more from our team. Everything just fell for us."

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