U.S. U-17s advance, Berchimas scores again, USMNT prepare for T&T, RBNY & Fire make news

The international window has brought with us news from Indonesia where the U.S. U-17 team has secured a berth in the knockouts of their World Cup after a win over Burkina Faso, the USMNT is set for matchday tomorrow, and some MLS teams have made curious decisions. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 15, 2023
2:30 PM

THE UNITED STATES U-17 team moved forward at the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Burkina Faso which clinched a spot in the knockout rounds. Elsewhere the United States national team is preparing to host Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday and there was some very surprising news in and around MLS on Tuesday.

There is a lot to breakdown, but let’s start in Indonesia with the U-17 World Cup.


U.S downs Burkina Faso


The United States U-17 national team is through to the round of 16 at the World Cup following a 2-1 win over Burkina Faso in the early morning hours of Wednesday in the USA. The team now has six points from its first two games. They still sit second in the group because France also has six points and has a one goal edge on goal differential.

The U.S. and France will face each other on Saturday at 7am EST with the U.S. needing a win to win the group. If France wins or draws, it will win the group and the U.S. will finish second. France is one of the tournament favorites.

Burkina Faso was considered a tough opponent heading into the tournament given that they defeated Nigeria, Cameroon, and Mali (who have been impressive at the World Cup) in qualifying. They only lost to eventual African champions Senegal on penalties, and Senegal has six points including a win over Argentina so far at the World Cup.

The U.S. team didn’t always carry the run of play in this game, but they did manage to get goals from two superior forwards in Keyrol Figueroa and Nimfa Berchimas. That allowed them to have a 2-0 lead at halftime. Then in the second half, the U.S shifted to a defensive approach. Burkina Faso had chances but it wasn’t until the 89th minute they pulled one back.


Thoughts on the win

There is a lot of talk on Berchimas who has been one of the revelations of the tournament. When you takeaway the performances some forwards have had against New Caledonia (-19 GD over two games), Berchimas has been the best attacking player at the tournament.

It’s not only his goals, but it’s also him having another called back for offside but still took a lot of skill, and it was him helping to create the team’s other two goals. Then there is the kicker – he’s only 15 and is even eligible for the next U-17 World Cup in 2025.


Charlotte FC has done a good job with his development and U-17 head coach Gonzalo Segares said after the win over South Korea that Berchimas has been well-prepared.

The big question after this tournament will be how Charlotte bridges the gap between youth and first team soccer. He’s still not ready for meaningful first team minutes, but he’s not far off from cameos in 2024. But it’s about managing expectations, finding appropriate levels to challenge him, and then finding ways he can be with the first team on occasion.

Also in this game, it was good to get Figueroa going. He was the team’s leading scorer at qualifying but has been dealing with injuries in recent months. For the U.S. team, having both Berchimas and Figueroa is a huge boost. They don’t need to be at their best to score if those players are in form.


The U.S. team hasn’t been great at this World Cup, but they have beaten two good teams. In this game, it took some good emergency defending and big saves by Adam Beaudry, who looks very impressive at the tournament. He is only playing because Barcelona's Diego Kochen is injured but Beaudry has been one of the top goalkeepers in the tournament. 

A huge takeaway is that Burkina Faso outshot the American team 26-7. But the U.S. had attacking players that could withstand that. On the other hand, the U.S completed 483 passes while Burkina Faso completed just 219.

The draw remains difficult for the U.S. team, if they beat France, they likely face Argentina in the round of 16. If they lose or draw France, they likely face Germany.  The big European teams have all been performing well at this tournament.

But expectations were low for this squad and they’re surpassing them. It’s a likeable team that has some of the old-time traits that are frequently dismissed – they work hard, they’re gritty, they fight, etc.

Whatever, it’s working.


USMNT prepares for Trinidad & Tobago


The United States will host Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday night in Austin. The game is more than just typical Nations League stuff because it does serve as qualification for the Copa America – which the U.S. team still needs to qualify despite hosting.

It’s not a great opportunity to learn about players as Trinidad & Tobago are struggling. Rather, this is just about securing results and then regrouping in March for the Nations League semifinal round which will be held in Dallas.

“November turns the page and now it's about competing,” Gregg Berhalter said. “We want to win the Nations League again, this will set us up to do this. We want to play in the Copa America, this will set us up to do this… It's easy for us to sit here on this side and say we want to change soccer in America forever, but the real meat of it is that we have to win games like this. We have to position ourselves to win trophies in the Nations League and to compete in the Copa America.”


The big question, of course, will be the wing players given that both Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah are out. Alejando Zendejas, Kevin Paredes, Brenden Aaronson, and his younger brother Paxten Aaronson are the most likely options. There are questions about each of these players. Zendejas hasn’t had a good first ear with the U.S. team but has been playing better for Club America. The elder Aaronson is stuck with a Union Berlin team where no one is playing well. Paxten Aaronson is still young and isn’t playing regularly. Kevin Paredes has only just recently become a starter for Wolfsburg.

"Obviously, I can agree that my Gold Cup wasn't the best, but you've just gotta look at the next opportunity you have," Zendejas said. "As they say in Mexico, 'de menos a más'. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of this opportunity. To play with my teammates and let them know what I bring to the table."


The other big question is the fitness level of Gio Reyna and how many minutes he can play. With top wing options out, he could be a useful playmaker. Berhalter said on Wednesday that there was no restriction on minutes for Reyna and there is no preplanned substitution for him.

The rest of the team is mostly known. With Tyler Adams out, Yunus Musah could slide deeper into the midfield behind Weston Mckennie and likely either Reyna or Luca de la Torre. Fullbacks Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson should be able to push forward a lot and provide service to the forward, likely Folarin Balogun. If all goes according to plan, it should be an easy day for the centerbacks and Matt Turner in goal.

"It was an interesting transition they have had," Berhalter said of Trinidad & Tobago. "After the Gold Cup, they shed half their roster, basically, and said - ok, we're starting over. You can see the hunger in this new group.”


Lesesne let go by RBNY


On Tuesday, RBNY announced that head coach Troy Lesesne would not return to the club despite that he led them to the playoffs with a strong performance down the stretch. There was also the announcement that the club mutually parted ways with sporting director Denis Hamlet.

For me, this decision was surprising. Lesesne did well with the hand that was given to him. It was not his fault that designated player Dante Vanzier was a distraction who underperformed, was overpaid, and was injured down the stretch. It was also not on Lesesne for the club not replacing the injured Lewis Morgan who was the team’s leading scorer in 2022.


Lesesne had the support of the locker room and the fans warmed to him as the year progressed. But instead, the club that has gotten so much wrong (from signing players to letting Bradley Carnell go) have now decided that they want to look elsewhere for a new coach.

 I would expect Lesesne to land on his feet while the Red Bulls have to make a personnel decision which has proven to be difficult in the past.


Chicago extends Heitz & Pelzer


In a move that stunned Chicago Fire fans, the club decided to give contract extensions to sporting director Georg Heitz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer.

The move was deeply unpopular with Fire fans who were relentless on social media. But it wasn’t unfair. They have very strong points that are obvious. Owner Joe Mansueto said that the team didn’t make the playoffs last year. This is true. But they also haven’t made the playoffs since 2017. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2009. To talk about this recent season misses the big picture entirely.

The announcement also cites young players being identified, but players such as Gaga Slonina, Chris Brady, and Brian Gutierrez were all in the academy before Heitz and Pelzer arrived.


Yes, the Fire have done well playing and selling young players lately. But that really only matters to a fanbase if the team wins. Selling players like Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams, Matt Miazga, Mark McKenzie, or Matt Turner is one thing. They came from winning teams. Selling good young players who don’t help a team before they’re sold doesn’t matter to fans.

Overall, there is a lot of disappointment in the Fire fanbase and it’s more than understandable.

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