The United States Under-17 National Team on Thursday finished up their two-week long training trip to Spain with a 2-1 loss to Spain's youth squad. Esteban Rodríguez scored on a fifth-minute penalty, but the home side responded with tallies in the 15th and 17th minutes.
Wilmer Cabrera's charges finished the trip 1-3 and will return to the Bradenton, Fla., residency program, where they will train for the CONCACAF U-17 championships, held in Jamaica from February 12-28. The top four squads from that tournament qualify for the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
In Spain, the Americans scored only three goals, but Kellen Gulley netted two of them in his team's sole victory, a Sept. 9 match with Rayo Vallecano's youth side.
After Thursday's match, the forward spoke with MLSsoccer.com about the experience in Spain and the residency program.
"It's good," he said of the training trip. "We just lost to Spain today, so it's a sad way to go home. They were really good."
For the 5-foot-11 forward from Clinton, Miss., seeing how the European youth lives and breathes soccer was eye-opening.
"It's all about football here," said Gulley, who played the second half on Thursday. "In Bradenton, yeah we play soccer, but there are a lot of other sports around us. Over here, it's all focused on one sport. It's like second nature to them, playing soccer. We talk about it at the table all the time."
Soccer might not run through everyone's blood in the States, but Gulley feels comfortable on the campus at Bradenton. He spent last year in the residency, and it's becoming a home away from home.
"It's like a family now," he said. "I know everybody. Everybody knows me."
The member of the MS Chicago Fire Juniors hopes the time spent honing his skills in Florida leads to a professional contract.
"I want to do something after residency or maybe even during residency," he said. "I was talking to my mom about college and I don't want to do that."
Gulley and his teammates are aware of the search for the next great American forward, although they try not to focus on that discussion.
"We joke about it at the table, but I don't think anybody likes to brag," the striker said. "It will make us seem cocky, I guess,"
But there's a modicum of pride about being the leading scorer on the trip.
"It's good to take home with me," he said with a laugh.