Birmingham Legion FC's Matthew Corcoran has made consecutive starts for the United States at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, and is likely to play a key role in the Round of 16 against Germany on Tuesday. | Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer
For any player at the FIFA Men’s U-17 World Cup, there’s hardly any extra motivation needed.
For United States midfielder Matthew Corcoran, though, the sense of pride he feels while competing at the event is unsurpassable.
“My whole family is a military family,” said Corcoran. “So, this country means a lot to us. I think to play for this badge, it’s really everything. It’s a blessing, and it’s an honor, so every time I step on this field wearing it, I want to show my best and do my best.”
So far, so good for the Birmingham Legion FC midfielder.
Stepping into the starting lineup for the second game of the group stage against Burkina Faso last Wednesday afternoon and retaining his position against France in the final group stage game on Saturday, Corcoran has produced two good performances as the side’s holding midfielder as the United States advanced to the tournament’s Round of 16 in Indonesia.
Called into the squad for the first time in the final camp before the tournament in October, Corcoran’s ability on the ball – and his range of passing – has helped the United States create the style of soccer Head Coach Gonzalo Segares has been aiming for.
“I think obviously we’re a team that wants to keep the ball, we want to control the game,” said Corcoran. “I think there’ll be a good test tomorrow to see how well we can do that against a top team, but I think our movements have been [good], our creativity, we work well together to create different situations where we can exploit the opponent.
“I think overall, we’re just being brave with the ball and trying to play out of situations where it’s a little riskier, but that's what we want to do.”
Having made more than 30 appearances for Legion FC in the Championship’s regular season this past campaign, Corcoran is among the emerging teenage talents in the Championship. He’s joined by Orange County SC forward Bryce Jamison, who has appeared in all three group stage games, and San Diego Loyal SC’s Duran Ferree in the United States’ squad, while the Charleston Battery’s Fidel Barajas and North Carolina FC’s Adrian Pelayo are representing Mexico at the tournament.
For Segares, the introduction of Corcoran into the group has been a seamless process for the coaching staff.
“For somebody that came in late towards the team he has adapted really well with the culture,” said Segares. “He is very professional, the way that he behaves and the way that he prepares for these games and yeah, he has given us a boost there in the midfield. Especially in a game that we’re missing some key players, he will be definitely important for us to have another great performance like the ones he has already had.”
Orange County SC's Bryce Jamison has featured in all three group stage games for the United States at the FIFA Men's U-17 World Cup. | Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer
The United States will face Germany in the Round of 16 on Tuesday (3:30 a.m. ET | FS1 | Universo), providing a major test for Corcoran and his teammates. The Germans won the UEFA U-17 Championship earlier this year in Hungary and took victory in all three games in the group stage to reach this point. Now the side led by Bayern Munich youngster Robert Ramsak and Barcelona B’s Noah Darvich is looking to win its first FIFA Men’s U-17 World Cup title in program history.
The challenge facing the United States is magnified by the fact that the side will be without three players due to suspension in defenders Tyler Hall and Noahkai Banks and midfielder Paolo Rudisill. Segares believes Corcoran’s presence alongside Seattle Sounders FC defender Stuart Hawkins, San Jose Earthquakes defender Oscar Verhoeven and Spanish-based midfielder Pedro Soma will be important to try and contain the German attack as the U.S. looks for its first win against the European power after defeats in the 2011 and 2007 editions of the tournament.
“I think Stuart has done great,” said Segares. “Pedro definitely hustles, he has a great defensive mentality. Oscar has been fantastic locking down either on the flanks where he plays – if it’s on the left or on the right – again, Matthew Corcoran, also.
“I think that overall, the team does a very good job with that willingness to get back behind the ball, to defend as a team, as a unit, having each other's back and doing it together. That has been a key message. We have shown it in the group stage games and [Tuesday] it will be no different.”
With everything on the line, Corcoran is ready to get to work and try to lead the United States to what would be a major victory.
“It’s everything we have for 90 minutes and that’s the only focus,” said Corcoran. “We don’t save energy. We don’t conserve, we just give it everything we have. We know that if we win this, we can keep advancing, but this is our only focus right now.”