Sports

Wenzel sets his sights on soccer World Cup

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Danny Wenzel is playing against the best soccer players in the world. The 16-year-old Federal Way native is currently in Kingston, Jamaica, with the United States under-17 Men’s National Team playing for a berth into the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Wenzel’s team downed Trinidad-Tabago Monday in the opening round of the 2007 CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament, 3-0, and then beat Canada, 2-1, Wednesday in their second match. The US could have clinched a spot in the World Cup yesterday with a tie against Jamaica. The 2007 World Cup will be played in South Korea Aug. 18-Sept. 9.

“Jamaica is our biggest game because if we get a result we’ll qualify,” Wenzel said. “All of our focus is on that game, getting a win and moving on from here.”

Wenzel played a key role in the US win over Canada. The defensive midfielder controlled a lot of the tempo of the match during the 2-1 win and was named the Sierra Mist Man of the Match. Wenzel’s passing gave the US numerous goal opportunities.

“We came out and executed our game plan very well in the early going, but you’ve got to finish a couple of those other opportunities we had,” said U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth. “If we would have gotten the third goal, I think we would have made it easy on ourselves and now it’s done.”

“We’ve just been practicing just playing simple and we just put it all together,” Wenzel said after the Canada match. “I think by us keeping the ball, Canada just seemed to get tired. We just need to do that for the full game.”

Wenzel is currently living, training and taking high school classes in Bradenton, Fla. at the prestigious IMG Soccer Academy. A bulk of the under-17 National Team trains there. The IMG Soccer Academy is a program that is fully funded by the United States Soccer Association. The program allows an athlete to finish four years of high school in an accelerated two and a half years, while giving them elite-level instruction in the sport.

Wenzel is scheduled to graduate from high school in December, which is a year and a half earlier than he would have attending a conventional high school. He has already committed to attend Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. on a full-ride soccer scholarship. Wenzel will enroll at Wake Forest beginning in January. Wake Forest lost in the national semifinals last season.

Wenzel has had a hectic year of soccer. Following the CONCACAF qualifier, he will return home to Federal Way before heading out to Spain and Brazil for training and games prior the World Cup — assuming the United States qualifies.

Tacoma Tides set to begin 2007 season

The city of Federal Way will be well-represented on the Tacoma Tide semi-pro soccer team. The Tide will be playing their second season in the Premier Development League, which is just a few notches below Major League Soccer.

Most of the players are from local neighborhoods, regional clubs and now play on the collegiate level around the country. Federal Way natives Ciaran O’Brien and Steve Mohn will be huge parts of the Tide. O’Brien is a Decatur graduate and currently plays at the University of Santa Barbara and Mohn graduated from Jefferson and is now at the University of Washington.

“It’s local talent, and basically, the future soccer professionals are playing right here in Tacoma,” said general manager Mike Jennings. “While scattered around the U.S. for college, these athletes bring their skills back to their roots for a summer in Tacoma.”

The Tide will also be coached this season by Federal Way’s Fran O’Brien, who is a former Irish professional player.

“I’m really looking forward to coaching these lads,” O’Brien said. “I worked with some of them before they left for college and I’m interested to see how they have developed over the past year.” 

The season begins on Friday in Yakima before the team’s home opener, May 18, against the Ogden Outlaws at Curtis High School. Tickets are $4 for students and $7 for adults. For more information, visit www.TacomaFC.com.

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