The USYNT has advanced to the quarterfinals of the U-17 World Cup against England on Saturday. They have provided a breath of fresh air for the American soccer fan at a moment in time when we all really need it.
Most of the attention has been focused on the attacking triumvirate of Josh Sargent, Andrew Carleton, and Tim Weah. This is understandable as the trio is playing well and is providing the spark that the United States needs and they are all scoring and assisting goals.
But there has been one player, along with an honorable mentions to James Sands and the aforementioned Sargent, that has been irreplaceable to the squad - and that player is Chris Durkin of D.C. United (currently on loan at the USL’s Richmond Kickers).
Durkin started the opening match against India in central defense and helped keep a clean sheet in addition to scoring the second goal of the match which gave the US some breathing room against an enthusiastic Indian squad. His performance earned him the man of the match award.
For games 2 and 3 of the group stage Durkin was deployed as a number 6 in midfield, his preferred position, and his play helped to dictate the tempo for the United States.
Durkin commented to American Soccer Now this week regarding this role:
“I definitely feel a little more at home as a No. 6 because that is where I've been playing with Richmond all my games this season.”
Game 4 against Paraguay saw him back in central defense alongside Sands. Even though he proved more than competent defensively it was Durkin’s ball playing skills that set him apart as his passing often sprung the counterattack and he was directly involved in the buildup for the 3rd and 4th goals against Paraguay.
Durkin may not be the flashiest of players. But his stability and effectiveness is something that the USYNT needs from one of its most important players.