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Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Trip of a lifetime

By Sheldon Shealer

ORLANDO -- James Williams does not have a passport, nor has he been outside of the United States.

That's about to change for the 16-year-old from North Carolina who plays for CASL Chelsea FC Academy.

Williams was one of the 18 players selected Monday as part of the Disney Soccer Showcase under-17 all-star squad which will train and compete in England next summer.

"It means a lot to wear the Chelsea jersey," Williams said, referring to the sponsor of his club team, "but now to go to Chelsea and train with the team -- it's unimaginable."

The 18 players from among the 15 club teams competing in the Disney Soccer Boys Under-17 Showcase event were selected by coaches based on the players' showings at the event. No club had more than two players make the all-star squad. Texas led the way with five players, followed by North Carolina with three. No player was notified of selection until the team members were publicly announced during a break in the under-17 showcase schedule Monday at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

"I had no clue -- it feels great," said soft-spoken forward Jonathan Guzman, who has scored all of the goals for his Baltimore Casa Mia Bays squad at the Disney Showcase.

"I am sort of surprised," Williams added. "My team is great & a lot of really good players. I figured, it would be one of them. & I didn't think I would be the one selected."

The two most recognizable players are keeper Taylor Hafling and midfielder Paul Torres. Hafling, a standout at this past summer's ESP camp, plays for Javanon (Ky.) and is considered one of the nation's top Class of 2010 keeper recruits. Torres, who plays for the DC United USSF squad is a high school senior and has verbally committed to reigning NCAA national champion Maryland.

Complete Roster
Name, Age, Hometown, Club
Anton Sealey, 17, Austin (Texas), Lonestar SC 92 Red
Joe Garcia, 16, Buda (Texas), Lonestar SC 92 Red
Paul Torres, 17, Bethesda (Md.), DC United USSF
James Williams, 16, Raleigh (N.C.), CASL Chelsea FC Academy USSF
Ryan Brown, 17, Plano (Texas), Solar U-18 USSF
Taylor Hafling, 16, Louisville (Ky.), Javanon 92
Layth Masri, 17, Louisville (Ky.), Javanon 92
Gino Depaoli, 17, Highland Village (Texas), Dallas Texans U18 USSF
Coner Doyle, 17, McKinney (Texas), Dallas Texans U18 USSF
Steven Newman, 17, New Hope (Pa.), YMS Xplosion
Justin Rosner, 17, Brunswick (Maine), Seacoast United Maine
Glen Long, 17, Greensboro (N.C.), Triangle United Gold
German Mendoza, 16, Durham (N.C.), Triangle United Gold
Jon Guzman, 16, Gaithersburg (Md.), Baltimore Bays Casa Mia Bays '93
Brandon Moore, 16, Lawrenceville (Ga.), Concorde Fire Elite
Malcolm Miller, 17, Roswell (Ga.), Concorde Fire Elite
Kyle Gusftason, 17, Libertyville (Ill.), Eclipse Select 91-92
Nicholas Spann, 17, Santa Rosa (Calif.), Santa Rosa United Gold

The all-star team will train with Chelsea's youth squad in mid-August and ultimately compete against several of the top youth programs from English Premier League programs.

ODP Inter-Regional Results

In what is becoming a familiar outcome, 1992 Region I nets an early goal and hangs on for a 1-0 win.

For the third straight day, the Region I squad won a 1-0 decision, this time on a goal by Eric Medrano in the 24th minute. The result caps a 3-0-0 run through group play with three goals for and none allowed as Region I advances to the U.S. Youth Soccer Boys ODP Inter-Regional final.

1992 Region I will face 1993 Region IV, which posted a 2-1 group-clinching victory over 1993 Region III. For the second straight outing, 1993 Region used an own goal for the winning margin.

In the day's other matches, 1992 Region IV edged 1992 Region III 2-1 on goals by Brian Godinez sandwiched around a score by Patrick Mullins. All three goals came during a five-minute stretch. Zach Batteer netted the only goal in 1993 Region I's 1-0 victory over 1993 Region II.

Under-17 Showcase

Blue: Lower Merion's (Pa.) bid for an upset was squashed in the closing minutes, however, the American club team posted a 2-2 draw with the youth team from Chelsea. Milton Rico staked Lower Merion to a 1-0 lead with an early goal. The Pennsylvania side nearly went up 2-0, but Kevin Isreal's shot, which beat the Chelsea keeper, clanged off the post. Only a minute later, the English team was awarded a penalty kick, which was converted by rising star Frank Nouble. In the second half, Lower Merion again surged ahead, this time on a goal by Max Tassano, assisted by Voltaire Escalona. Just when it appeared Lower Merion would pull off the stunner, Chelsea's Aziz Deen-Conteh scored the equalizer in the closing minutes. "This result validates all the work we have put into the program, and into the academy," Lower Merion coach Miguel Nulia said. "The result was fair, and it was positive for the boys." Chelsea advances to the final Tuesday to face Javanon, which advanced to the final on a tiebreaker with Solar U-18 USSF (Texas).

White: The Dallas Texans were held to a 1-01 draw by YMS Xplosion, but it mattered little as the club had secured a date in Tuesday's championship match against Concorde Fire (Ga.), a surprise winner in a group that contained the Baltimore Casa Mia Bays (Md.) and Triangle United (N.C.).

Sheldon Shealer covers youth soccer for