The Development Academy may be in the offseason, but the past month has seen a flurry of national team call-ups for Chivas USA Academy players.
Last week saw two of the older academy players feature in the U-17 Copa Mexico de Naciones: Defender Hugo Arellano for the United States U-17 National Team and forward Ivan Gutierrez for Mexico's U-16 National Team.
Arellano (number 5) had an impressive tournament as he featured in every U.S. game, playing a total of 385 minutes, the most time of any American player. He appeared as a sub in the three group stage victories (China, Mexico, and Paraguay) and started the knockout stage matches.
The quarterfinal game saw Arellano start as a center back in a back four against Colombia. The U.S. scored first and Colombia equalized through an impressive individual goal by Colombian Edward Bolanos that left a couple U.S. defenders on the floor. Arellano was solid throughout and the game was decided on penalty kicks. The Chivas USA youngster was not one of the takers as the USA won after just three kicks.
The semifinal against Ecuador was more problematic for young Arellano, however. After going down 1-0, Arellano gave away a penalty to see the eventual tournament champions go up 2-0 and win 2-1 after a late U.S. surge. The penalty looked to be a harsh call by the referee on the replay but Arellano displayed good positioning and was very calm in possession the rest of the game.
The third place game saw the Stars and Stripes fall to Brazil 2-0. Brazil's Evander Da Silva recorded a brace as the U.S. could muster very little going forward.
Meanwhile, Arellano's Academy teammate Gutierrez, number 16, starred for the host nation's side. The pacey forward would be used as in impact sub throughout the tournament.
His first involvement was in the group stage game against Honduras, where he came on with his side up 1-0 and that score held throughout the game as chances were few and far between.
The next group stage game against Scotland allowed Gutierrez to again come on as a sub and this time he found the back of the net to seal the 2-0 win as his speed terrorized defenders.
Mexico would bow out spectacularly to Brazil in the quarterfinals; after leading 3-2 Guitterrez was subbed on. His side would fall 4-3 after two late goals for Brazil and some shambolic defending from the hosts. The Chivas USA youngster was a bright spot as again his speed was problematic for the Brazilians and he created several chances that his teammates should arguably have put away.
Both of the academy players can be happy with their performances overall and will return to the Chivas USA U-18 squad with some valuable experience ahead of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy campaign.
Going even younger into the youth ranks, the U-14 setup featured a very Chivas USA-centric week. The United States U-14 Boys National Team had a week long camp at the StubHub Center where they tested their mettle against a squad of Chivas USA U-16 and U-14 players along with other local Southern California academies.
Four Chivas USA academy players were called up to play for the U.S. U-14s. Carlos Anguiano, John Hilton, Kelee Cornfield-Saunders and Misael Becerra were the four youngsters and as this picture demonstrates they are currently in the...creative haircut stage of their development. (Some players are still stuck in this stage -- I'm looking at you DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes).
46 players in total were called up according to Top Drawer Soccer. The first scrimmage day saw half of the players feature against our very own Chivas USA youth squad and the other half scrimmage against each other in a Red v. Yellow game.
For the scrimmage against the Chivas youth setup only Becerra would feature for the U.S. as he came on as a 46th minute sub. The national team would go up 3-1 before the CUSA team made some substitutions that put more familiar faces together and see the side's quality improve. They would pull one back and after chances for both sides the game would end 3-2 to the USBNT.
As quoted in an interview with Top Drawer Soccer, Chivas USA youth academy coach Brian Kleiban was pleased with the performance of both sides saying "The national team was impressive for the first 15-20 minutes, they created some good opportunities splitting our two center backs and they were good goals. I think it was a well-played game. I think the [national team] staff was happy that they were put under pressure and given a different look than they normally get."
In the Red vs. Yellow scrimmage Hilton was pitted against his Chivas teammate Cornfield-Saunders in one of the key matchups of the day. The midfield battle was one of the high points of the game as Hilton the winger was most impressive with his speed and skill. The Manchester City target (Hilton) displayed some real flair on the ball as one of the highlights of the game was his left-footed elastico.
Anguiano was the only Chivas player to feature in the USBNT match against Real So Cal. He played in a defensive midfield position as his side routed the opposition 4-0.
Becerra made the last appearance of the four youngsters as a substitute as the national team took on FC Golden State. He came on after the US equalizer to make the game 1-1 and that's how the game would end.
Overall an important camp for the Chivas USA youth setup ended well for all involved.
To top it off the U.S. U-15 National Team coach Hugo Perez called up three more Chivas USA youth players for a training camp which began August 16 and runs through the 24th here in Carson, California. Defenders Anthony Ruiz and Daniel Villegas along with forward Mathew Huerta got the call for CUSA.
It's clear that the youth setup at Chivas USA is absolutely headed in the right direction. The future of the MLS will hinge upon the success of developmental academies and Chivas USA is taking that seriously, and that is something we should all be excited about.
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