Mike Garrity and his Under 18s squad arrived in New York last week to compete in the Newark Liberty International Soccer Summit, a competition that consists of eight teams from around the world. The eight teams are split into two groups of four. Liverpool were drawn in Group B alongside the hosts St Benedicts Prep, Fuddercol from Colombia and Maccabi Haifa of Israel. They would’ve been glad to avoid Serie A giants Inter Milan, who were drawn in Group A alongside QPR, the Players Development Academy and FC Greater Boston Bolts.
The Reds will be looking to emulate Porto who were the first team to win the competition, back in 1992, but will have to re-write the history books, as no other English team has won the competition, after Chelsea failed to win it previously. The good news however, is that the past winners Mexico Under 18s will not be competing in the tournament. The whole tournament will run from Tuesday 27th August until Saturday 31st August. All of Liverpool’s games will be played at the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Lubetkin Field. The Merseyside giants began their campaign against Fuddercol on Tuesday, before facing the hosts St Benedicts Prep. After a rest day on Thursday, they will face Maccabi Haifa on Friday and compete for 7th, 5th, 3rd and 1st place on Saturday, depending on where they finish in the group.
As mentioned before, their first game was against Colombian side Fuddercol, a side that they know nothing about so needed to be wary. Mike Garrity included new signings Kristof Polgar and Sergi Canos in the starting XI, as well as the Welsh wizard Harry Wilson, who had been in fine goalscoring form in pre-season. The Reds started the game on the offensive, and looked dangerous in every single attacking move. The Colombian side created the first chance of the game in the 18th minute as Andy Firth did brilliantly to deny Fuddercol striker Sanclemente to keep the scores level. On the half hour mark, Liverpool started pressing. Firstly, Harry Wilson went close with a long-distance strike before he turned provider for Canos, who could only head his effort wide of the mark.
On the 37th minute, the Reds created another chance as a intelligent through ball from Sheyi Ojo found Ryan Kent, but he couldn’t convert his 1 on 1 chance following a good save from the Fuddercol ‘keeper. 2 minutes later, Kent created another chance but could only fire his effort over the crossbar after connecting to Tom Brewitt’s cross as the half ended goalless. It only took the Reds one minute to take the lead in the second half, as Ryan Kent again caused havoc and was brought down in the box. Captain Nathan Burke calmly converted to score his 2nd penalty in consecutive games and his 3rd goal in 3 games. Liverpool then made their first change of the match as Sergi Canos was replaced by Alex O’Hanlon. Canos created very few chances on his first start for Liverpool Under 18s, and was taken off as a result. The Reds then made their second substitute just 8 minutes later as Ryan Kent, who caused Fuddercol trouble throughout, was surprisingly replaced by forward Louis Robles, who was out to prove a point to selectors. Then 4 minutes before time, substitute Robles proved his point by scoring an excellent goal which flew into the top left corner to double Liverpool’s lead. The game ended 2-0 to Liverpool Under 18s as they started off the tournament in the best possible way, keeping a clean sheet and picking up all 3 points. They next face the hosts St Benedicts Prep, who will be looking to get off the mark in terms of points after they lost 4-1 to Maccabi Haifa.
LFC Starting XI vs Fuddercol: Firth; Brewitt, Cleary, Polgar, Roberts; Wilson , Trickett-Smith, Burke, Ojo, Canos, Kent.
On Wednesday, they faced the hosts St Benedicts Prep. There was a minor setback before the game as Kick-Off was delayed by one hour to 8:30pm local time, for reasons unknown. Manager Mike Garrity made 5 changes from the side that beat Fuddercol in the opening game. The Reds were looking to make it 2 from 2 in the tournament where the home side was looking to pick up their first points of the tournament. Firstly, there was a change in goal as Andy Firth was replaced by Ryan Crump. The change was presumably due to squad rotation as Firth appeared to do nothing wrong in the opening game, as he kept a clean sheet and made several important saves in the game. The next change sees Sam Hart replace David Roberts at left-back whilst Under 16 goal machine Adam Phillips replaced Daniel Trickett-Smith. Following his goal in the first game, Louis Robles starts in place of Ryan Kent and the final change sees Alex O’Hanlon replace Sheyi Ojo. Liverpool again started the game well, showing attacking intent from the off. In the first 5 minutes, Adam Phillips tried to emulate his form in the Under 16s but was denied by the St Benedicts Prep ‘keeper following a well worked free-kick. After 10 minutes, the Reds took the lead. Harry Wilson continued his pre-season form in front of goal as his low drive beat the helpless ‘keeper to give Liverpool the lead. At the halfway stage of the first half, Liverpool were causing all sorts of problems for the hosts’ defence. Firstly, Adam Phillips and Louis Robles both tested the ‘keeper before Wilson was constantly being a handful on the wing with his pace and skill.
4 minutes later, Liverpool doubled their lead after Nathan Burke scored yet another goal from the penalty spot to double the Reds’ lead. That’s his 4th goal in 4 games and 3 have come from 12 yards out. In the 39th minute, Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 lead as new signing Sergi Canos cleverly lobbed the ‘keeper as the curtains closed on a phenomenal half for Mike Garrity’s side. The second half was very different to the first, as it was very lacklustre and chances were hard to come by. In the 70th minute, Liverpool made their first change of the game as Sergi Canos was again replaced despite his goal, but this time for England Youth International Sheyi Ojo. With 10 minutes left, the hosts did pull a goal back when Jose Maderos beat Ryan Crump in the Liverpool goal to set up a nervous finish for the visitors.
Thankfully, Liverpool didn’t have any more setbacks at they won their second group game 3-1, to put the second place in the group, behind Maccabi Haifa on goal difference. Their next game will be on Friday 31st August against top of the table Maccabi Haifa, who beat Fuddercol 7-0 in their last game. It will be an thrilling game as Maccabi Haifa have scored 11 goals in 2 games and both sides have conceded just once. Also, both teams have a 100% record and most importantly, the winner of this will qualify for the final so there is all to play for. The positive news for the Reds is that they are guaranteed to finish in the top after their early success at the tournament.
LFC Starting XI: Crump; Brewitt, Cleary, Polgar, Hart; Burke, Phillips, O’Hanlon, Wilson; Canos, Robles.
That brings an end to part 1 of Liverpool’s USA experience, part 2 should be up on Wednesday 3rd September, after the tournament has happened, which will consist of the Maccabi Haifa match, and the play-off after. Also, be sure to follow the guys a @LFCUSA who did a cracking job with their coverage and are well worth a follow, and for more Academy updates, be sure to follow my Twitter, which is @scotttayloruk.
Until Wednesday Reds…