The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team has experienced a successful 2014, compiling a 17-6-7 overall record and establishing itself as a strong force heading into the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in February that would qualify the team for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile in September.
A large factor in the strength of the team lies in its offense. In a span of 30 games this year, the U-17s have racked up 58 goals, with 15 different players scoring at least once. Forward Haji Wright leads the team with 18 goals in 20 matches played, while midfielder Christian Pulisic sits closely behind with 16 goals in 19 appearances.
Wright and Pulisic get much of the spotlight; however the USA offensive attack is successful because of the diversity it plays around with when it comes to lineups and positioning, as well as the liberty that U.S. U17 MNT head coach Richie Williams allows his players to have when they step on the field.
“We let them have a little bit of freedom,” commented Williams on the players moving from one spot to another up front. “We just want to make sure that they all earn a certain position but they can interchange positions at any time.
“Sometimes you see Haji wide or up front as a nine, and sometimes Christian will come a little bit deep, or also sometimes running behind the back four. As long as there is a balance with the top four positions, that they are not all on the same side of the field or all in the middle of the field, that we have some width, we encourage them to interchange positions and to look where the open areas are and the open spaces and I think it adds to our attack.”
For Pulisic and his teammates, having the green light to go ahead and create their own offensive attacks has proved to be a positive move that has in turn helped them find the back of the net much more often.
Wright has recorded four hat tricks this year and more recently, Pulisic scored a brace against England on Nov.28 to lead the USA to a 3-1 victory during the opening game of the 2014 Nike International Friendlies.
“We definitely have our freedom more up in the front four,” said Pulisic. “We have freedom up there. Richie likes to tell us that we can switch around, switch positions, and we’re all good at all positions up front.”