U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Richie Williams on the group of forwards competing at the 2012 Nike International Friendlies:
On Rubio Rubin: “When I look at the guys who played in the Nike Friendlies last year, Rubio did very well and scored some goals. He’s been a very good player here at Residency from Day 1.”
On Ahinga Selemani and Sebastian Elney: “Ahinga and Sebastian are two forwards who don’t have Nike Friendlies experience, but these are two guys we’re going to look to over these three games to give us some offensive firepower and hopefully score some goals for us. Ahinga was with us last semester and Sebastian is a young player who’s obviously come on well for us, he scored against Canada last week and did a really good job.”
Here is a biographical rundown of the five forwards on this year’s Nike International Friendlies roster:
Birthdate: Jan. 30, 1996
Hometown: Escondido, Calif.
2012 Highlights: Since entering the U-17 Residency Program in the Fall of 2011, Baird has emerged as one of the most consistent starters on the team. Able to be deployed in midfield or at forward, Baird has scored three goals this year, including the first two in a 5-1 win against Chile on Oct. 23 at the Four-Nations Tournament in Santa Fe, Argentina. He has been a part of trips to international competitions in France, Costa Rica, Spain and Argentina during 2012.
Previous Years: Appeared in all three matches (two starts) of the 2011 Nike International Friendlies after joining the U-17 Residency Program in the 2011 Fall Semester. Baird earned starts against Turkey and Brazil during the tournament. Prior to the U-17s, Baird was part of the U.S. U-15 and U-14 Boys’ National Teams and he was previously a member of the San Diego Surf Academy team.
Birthdate: June 26, 1997
Hometown: Lake Worth, Fla.
2012 Highlights: One of just a handful of players born in 1997 and one of the youngest players on the roster, the Florida native recently scored his first goal for the U-17 MNT. Elney netted the game-winning goal in the 2-1 win against Canada on Nov. 18 at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He entered the match as a 71 st-minute substitute.
Previous Years: Elney was part of the U-15 BNT trip to Mexico for the Copa Mexico de Naciones during
June, just before his 15th birthday. Elney scored a goal during a 3-1 win against Costa Rica in the tournament. He was then called into a camp from July 22-29 with the U-17 MNT and eventually earned a spot in the Residency Program for the 2012 Fall Semester. Previously, Elney played his club soccer for Boca United.
Birthdate: March 1, 1996
Hometown: Beaverton, Ore.
2012 Highlights: Rubin was recently voted the 2012 U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year, joining such esteemed winners as Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, fellow graduates of the U-17 Residency program. Rubin’s ability to play all across the front line and his willingness to take a chance has helped him become one of the most consistent players on the U-17 MNT roster. The Beaverton, Ore., native has scored eight goals this year, including a stretch of scoring in four straight games from Oct. 6 to Oct. 25.
Previous Years: Rubin jumpstarted the USA’s 3-1 victory against Brazil during the 2011 Nike International Friendlies with a goal in the 2nd minute. The 5-foot-9 attacking midfielder entered the U-17 Residency Program in the 2011 Fall Semester and scored his first goal on Oct. 20, 2011 against a regional Spanish team at the 2011 AGS Cup. All told, Rubin has scored 10 goals during this U-17 MNT career.
Birthdate: March 15, 1996
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
2012 Highlights: Selemani has emerged as a force this year for the U-17 MNT, scoring eight goals so far during 2012 including a brace on May 30 in a 3-0 win against the Houston Dynamo Academy in the soft opening for BBVA Compass Stadium. The Michigan native has played a major part in tournaments in France, Costa Rica and Spain this year while chipping in goals on home soil in back-to-back matches against U.S. Soccer Development Academy sides St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri on Sept. 8 and Crew Soccer Academy on Sept. 10. Most recently, Selemani scored in a 2-1 win against Canada on Oct. 4 in Spain.
Previous Years: The crafty forward scored 11 goals in just 12 games for the Crew Soccer Academy Wolves during the 2011-12 Development Academy season. He made two appearances for the team during 2010-11, when it went by the name Derby County Wolves, scoring one goal.
Birthdate: Feb. 18, 1996
Hometown: Garland, Texas
2012 Highlights: Winn joined the U-17 MNT in June for the Copa Saprissa Internacional tournament after a very successful 2011-12 season with Solar Chelsea SC in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy where he was named the Central Conference U-15/16 Player of the Year after scoring 24 goals. After joining the Residency Program at the end of August, Winn has scored four times for the team, recently notching a goal in a 2-1 win against Canada on Nov. 18 in Fort Lauderdale. Winn also scored in a 2-1 win against Canada on Oct. 4 at the AGS Cup in Spain.
Previous Years: In the past, the Texan has been a part of the U-14 BNT during training camps and was also a member of the U-15/16 Academy Select Team at last year’s Nike International Friendlies.