The United States Men’s Under-17 National Team is in Honduras vying for qualification to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. By all accounts, this crop of youngsters are as deep and talented as we’ve seen in quite some time. While most of the headlines and plaudits are written about the duo of Haji Wright and Christian Pulisic, there are quite a few talented players on the squad. Luca de la Torre, Danny Barbir, Joe Gallardo, and Matthew Olosunde are some of the others who slip under the radar.
One name most people are unfamiliar with has a very recognizable last name. Joshua Perez is the nephew of former U.S. international Hugo Perez. Uncle Hugo amassed 73 caps, 16 goals and innumerable stepovers for the stars and stripes. It’s at this point unclear where the younger Perez plies his domestic trade. He’s been in and around the youth team Fiorentina in Serie A, but Italian reports suggest a deal to make him an official Fiorentina player isn’t final until some paperwork is straightened out. However, what is clear is the talent this young man possesses.
Heading into the U-17 tournament Perez was considered a safe bet to be a starter on one of the American flanks. But after an uninspiring performance against Cuba, he was benched in the following game against Trinidad and Tobago. The third game against Guatemala presented Perez with another opportunity and this time he didn’t hesitate to show everyone why he’s being pursued by a team like Fiorentina.
Here is a highlight compilation of his game against Guatemala, with some notes about why I think he’s a young player with a bright future:
0:37 – With some quick and shifty moves he draw a dangerous free kick. This will be a familiar trend throughout the match. His quick feet make it extremely hard to take the ball off of him.
0:51 – Yes, I know what you are thinking. “WHAT KIND OF GOALKEEPING WAS THAT?” And you would be right. But the initial ball by Perez is put in a fantastic spot. It made it difficult for the defenders and goalkeeper to deal with and had a US attacker been making the appropriate run it was a perfect ball.
1:15 – While this was extremely hard to notice in live action, the technical ability this one touch flick pass takes is extraordinary. A moment of brilliance that helps his side start an attack.
1:47 – His shot is high and wide, but his cut inside is exactly what you want to see from an inverted winger.
2:16 – After a great pass from Pulisic, he gets in front of a defender and fights off a tackle. Then he cuts to his dominate left foot and slots home the shot from 19 yards.
2:52 – ELASTICO! OH EM GEE! Weak footed cross … needs to work on it …
3:56 – His dirty work of tracking back and winning the ball leads to his team winning a penalty on the attacking end.
4:30 – Good penalty. That’s all I have.
4:58 – A nice little deft pass results in an eventual goal. It’s the little things that matter.
5:29 – There were many instances in the match to point out his work rate, but this one was the best. It’s 4-0. He has no business working this hard.
6:10 – We save the best for last. The things I like most about Perez are his dribbling ability and ball retention. Again there were many chances to point out these skills but I felt this was the best. First he sombreros one defender, then uses his insanely quick feet to dance around another, and then delicately chips a pass around a third. It’s moments like these that really stand out.