March 29, 2011 MLS--U17s Serve Notice (from

U17s Serve Notice
Young Reds win two of three in youth showcase ahead of SUM Cup. March 29, 2011
Toronto FC Academy U17 team.

Toronto FC first team enjoyed a great weekend with their 2-0 win over Portland. But they weren't the only TFC outfit to find success in recent days.

The U17 Academy side played in an MLS Youth Cup showcase over the weekend where Jimmy Brennan's boys proved themselves to be a formidable side winning two over Sporting Kansas City and Chicago, but losing the third match to Columbus at Crew Stadium.

Toronto 4-1 Kansas City

Toronto FC Academy U17 coach Jim Brennan. In their first test the young Reds played a well organized, strong and physical Sporting Kansas City side and withheld early pressure. In the end the boys had a great performance and beat SKC 4-1.

A beaming Brennan exclaimed after the match, "we played them off the park with great football, each and every one of the players was up for this game. The first 10 minutes is when Kansas scored and they had us on the back foot, but once the nerves settled we had total possession and could have scored more than 4."

Reds received goals from Canada U17 World Cup stars Michael Petrasso at the 14th and 35th minute and Dylan Carreiro at the 55th. Michael Wagenknecht added the fourth 15 minutes from regulation.

Academy director Stuart Neely pointed out that learning a new system and style takes time and a lot of patience. "We are fortunate that we were only down 1-0 after 10 minutes," said Neely.

"We gave a goal away in the fourth minute of play as the pressure from Sporting was relentless. Truth be told, we could have made a few substitutions in that time frame, but we are here to develop young men and footballers. I am pleased we settled and began to dominate with some effective football. We must be patient in this process, for today was a good day, tomorrow is a new day and we must be consistent in our approach. There is a lot to learn for us all."

Toronto 2-0 Chicago

Toronto FC Academy U17 lads faced a very talented Chicago Fire side with seven new faces in the starting lineup. The two sides opted to battle in a scrappy affair for a while to gain control of the pitch. The feisty young Reds dominated a good portion of the match and created some quality chances which led to a penalty after Marco Bernabo of Windsor was hauled down in the box.

Michael Wagenkencht slotted home from the spot giving Toronto the 1-0 lead. Later in the match Michael Petrasso put the Reds clear with a 2-0 advantage and TFC could have had more but opportunities were missed by Jalen Brome and Sergio Camargo.

"We really should have been up by two or three at the half," said Head Coach Jim Brennan. "But I was content with the spirit of the players as they fought through some difficult challenges. We all knew it was going to be a good challenge for the boys and they appeared to be up for it."

"Defensively in the attacking third we created more problems for ourselves than the opposition with unnecessary chasing and not enough football," lamented Academy Director Stuart Neely. "Our back line was solid today as they battled for every ball and improved their attacking play. I cannot ask for more than that at this stage. Later, we will seek improvements."

Toronto 1-3 Columbus

Stuart Neely The U17s finished the showcase on Sunday with a match against host Columbus at Crew stadium. It was a sunny but cold day and the occasion special as the young group of players took to the pitch to come home with three wins and as many positive performances.

Though from the outset, Toronto FC Academy struggled to get their rhythm and Columbus – a visibly more physical and stronger side – controlled the match early on.

Confusion at the back and nervous decision making produced the first goal on a cross from Columbus to take a 1-0 lead and that was the theme for the entire 90 minutes.

The young Reds did manage to pull level at the 53rd minute through Brendan Woodfull when he met a cross from Kaheem Christopher, but it was still a frustrating day as TFC concede two in the second half.

"This is an example of learning how to simply work hard when things are going wrong for you," said Jim Brennan. "You simply have to grind out a result at times and today we had heavy legs, slow thinking and in the end a 3-1 defeat."

Woodfull's goal wasn't the prettiest, but Brennan didn't mind, "they all count," said the former Toronto FC first team captain.

Academy Director, Stuart Neely noted, "for as bad as we were today, we still hit three posts and missed three glorious opportunities to simply direct the ball into the net. Instead we lost composure in front of goal."

"Having said that, we did not deserve to win today. We lost control of our passing, positioning and possession. This was an invaluable experience for this young group and we can take many positives away from it."

Taking two out of three with little rest between matches is a success in any tournament. More importantly, the U17s gained an understanding of what lies ahead for them in July at the U17 SUM Cup that showcases young talent from around the league. Neely, Brennan and the boys will have some time to prepare for strong, physical sides such as Columbus.

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