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Mexico’s U-17 Soccer Team Draws Huge Crowd at San Marcos

Before a full house at San Marcos High, the players from the Mexico U-17 and UCSB teams gather behind a banner that reads We Are United.
Before a full house at San Marcos High, the players from the Mexico U-17 and UCSB teams gather behind a banner that reads We Are United. (Felipe Garcia photo)
Before a full house at San Marcos High, the players from the Mexico U-17 and UCSB teams gather behind a banner that reads We Are United.
Before a full house at San Marcos High, the players from the Mexico U-17 and UCSB teams gather behind a banner that reads We Are United. (Felipe Garcia photo)

Mexico’s Men’s Under-17 squad is the country’s most successful national soccer team, bringing home two U-17 World Cup titles and a runner-up finish over the last two decades.

El Tri’s teens drew an estimated crowd of 5,000 to San Marcos High’s Warkentin Stadium and gave their fans a lot to cheer and toot their horns about in a 2-1 exhibition game victory over UCSB on Friday night.

UCSB’s Seo-In Kim tries to keep possession while being pressured by Mexico’s Andres Catalan. Click to view larger
UCSB’s Seo-In Kim tries to keep possession while being pressured by Mexico’s Andres Catalan. (Felipe Garcia photo)

The game was the second of a four-game swing through California as the team prepares for the North, Central America and Caribbean Regional Championship and World Cup qualifier in Panama next month. The U-17 World Cup is in October in India.

Following the game, several youngsters ran onto the turf field at San Marcos to meet the next group of Mexican star players, The U-17 program has produced some of the country’s most recognizable players like Giovani Dos Santos  and Carlos Vela.

Fans were treated to the speedy and exciting forward Daniel Lopez of Club Tijuana and the solid defensive work of Tijuana’s Raul Sandoval and Chivas of Guadalajara’s Saul Huerta.

Lopez got the horn blowers going when he got free in the penalty area and blasted a shot on goal that was beautifully kick saved by UCSB’s goalkeeper Tituon Le Roux in the ninth minute.

Mexico got on the scoreboard nine minutes later on a well-executed corner kick play. Alexis Gutierrez from Chivas found center back Huerta coming around a crowd of players and Huerta smashed a header into the back of the net.

Carlos Guerrero (17) celebrates with teammate Alan Maeda after scoring the game-winning goal in the second half. Click to view larger
Carlos Guerrero (17) celebrates with teammate Alan Maeda after scoring the game-winning goal in the second half. (Felipe Garcia photo)

UCSB threatened in the 34th minute. Forward Noah Billingsley came barreling up the middle, forcing goalkeeper Ivan Lopez to come out. Lopez was able to knock the ball off Billingsley’s foot but it went right to Derek Kryzda of the Gauchos. Kryzda took a shot at the open net but Mexico's Sandoval, while on the ground, managed to block the ball.

The Gauchos came at Mexico again in the final minute of the first half and scored the equalizer. Lopez tried to tip away a ball sent on goal but he tipped it off the cross bar and UCSB’s Felix Ruiz rushed in and bodied it into the goal just before the halftime whistle.

Mexico’s started nine new players in the second half. Lopez was one of two starters who remained in the game and he came close to scoring on a 30-yard shot. The ball hit the cross bar and newcomer Alfonso Alvarado jumped on the rebound and hit a shot right at Le Roux.

UCSB created some good scoring chances on free kicks during an up-and-back second half.

Mexico scored the game winner on a nice piece of work in the 77th minute. Andres Catalan sent a through ball to Victor Hugo Reyes and he took it down to the byline before hitting a cross into the center of the penalty area. Carlos Guerrero made the center run and put the finishing touch on the ball for a 2-1 lead. 

Billingsley made a run on goal in the 79th minutes but defender Alan Maeda and goalie Andre Alcaraz converged on him and force his shot to go wide.

Before the game, the two teams gathered at midfield in front of a banner that read United We Stand, Estamos Unidos.

The Mexican U-17s play Saturday night against the Ventura County Fusion at Ventura College.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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