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Jun, 2022

Two ISC Standouts Lead the U.S. to CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship Title

Internationals SC midfielder Mia Bhuta and goalkeeper Victoria Safradin represented the U.S. in the Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship, helping lead the U.S. U-17 Women’s Youth National Team to a win over Mexico in the title match.  Safradin earned Best Goalkeeper honors, while Bhuta was named captain for several matches and scored a brace against Curaçao. 

The team’s success in the competition allowed the U.S. to qualify for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup held in India from October 11-30. 

“In the Women’s World Cup, we know that we will face very tough competition and compete against teams with varying styles of play,” Bhuta said. “We are going to continue to focus on strengthening our connection as a team to prepare for this tournament.  We are focused on our goal of winning.  Personally, I'm continuing to work hard and improve on all aspects of my development in order to be as prepared as I can for this event.”

“My expectation for the Women’s World Cup is that it will be a very challenging event,” Safradin said. “All the teams there have worked hard to earn their spot in the tournament, so the level of competition is going to be extremely high.  What I will be doing personally to prepare for such a global event is making sure I'm staying physically fit and healthy first of all.  It's going to be a physically demanding event, and I'm going to work hard and do extra work on the field to guarantee that I can handle everything that is expected.”

The U.S. defeated Grenada, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Jamaica, and Canada before the championship match against rival Mexico.  Double-digit wins came against Grenada (20-0), Puerto Rico (13-0), and Curaçao (11-0). 

“This was my first international competition so I was very excited to compete,” Bhuta said. “Each game brought new challenges that we were able to overcome and grow from as a team. Our mentality and preparation for each game remained the same from the first game against Grenada to the final against Mexico.  We wanted to dominate.”

“The experience that I had facing some of Concacaf’s best teams in an international competition was incredible,” Safradin said. “Here playing in the U.S., we as players never really realize the fact that the USA isn't the only place where talented female soccer players are made.  We know that Europe has very talented players, but this past tournament showed us that even Central America can breed great players as well.  It was an eye-opening experience overall.  Taking on Mexico was a great experience as well.  Their squad was super talented, and they were the most challenging team we had to face.  So, for our USA team they made us have to really prove our talent and worth.  The atmosphere during the game was incredible as well.  There were so many Mexican families cheering and blowing horns, making the game feel so intense.”

Being able to represent the United States has been a special experience for the dynamic duo.

“Having the opportunity to represent the United States is a privilege and an honor,” Bhuta said. “We know that there are standards and expectations we must continue to uphold. Playing for the United States has always been a dream of mine.  When I put on the crest, I'm representing all the coaches, teammates, and people in my life that have helped me to achieve this dream.”

“Representing my country at the national level was the biggest honor I have ever had in my life,” Safradin said. “It has been my dream ever since I was a little girl to one day wear the USA crest, and the fact that I finally was able to wear it while also playing my first games with the team was just incredible.  The greatest moment of all was when the national anthem would be playing and my hand would be on my heart and touching the crest.  This was the most memorable experience of all.”

The pair have accomplished so much but they still have many more goals to work towards.   

“I want to continue to work hard every day to become the best version of myself,” Bhuta said. “By immersing myself in a variety of uncomfortable environments, I hope to become 1% better every day, and put myself in a position to earn opportunities like competing in the Women’s World Cup.  As I look forward to my college career at Stanford, I want to take advantage of all opportunities to learn and be curious both on the field and in the classroom.  In the future I want to continue to grow my platform with the aspirations of having a larger positive influence on society and create a better world for generations to come.”

“A short-term goal I have for myself is to be able to represent and play with the national team in India,” Safradin said. “A long term-goal would be to play professionally after college and even to represent the full national team.  On top of that, during college I want to go win a national championship with my school, the University of Virginia.”

Both Bhuta and Safradin have unique playing styles that would be an asset to any team.

“I play as a box-to-box midfielder,” Bhuta said. “In the attack I'm the connection between the defense and midfield/forward line.  I like to create opportunities to attack and connect with my teammates.  On defense, I break down the other team's attack and prevent them from progressing through the midfield.”

“I would describe my playing style as similar to the European style of goalkeeping,” Safradin said. “There is a difference between styles when it comes to American soccer and European soccer.  Being raised and surrounded by only Europeans, I feel it influenced my playing style a lot.  I feel American soccer values more goalkeepers with size and strength, while European soccer values more of a goalkeeper who is athletic and moves quick.  I consider myself an athletic goalkeeper who also loves to dive and jump, and I would put this more into the European style of soccer.”

Getting to represent your country at the international level requires an incredible amount of time, preparation, and hard work.  It also requires a solid foundation of skills and knowledge of the game.  Both players have benefitted from their time at Internationals SC, and they credited the club and coaches for being a major part of their success on and off the field. 

“At ISC Keri [Sarver] and Zdravko [Popovic] have done an incredible job of creating an environment that replicates the standards at the national team level,” Bhuta said. “Their emphasis on everything from technical details to recovery and mental health prepares me for the professional environment at the national team level.  They have built a club with a strong culture that values respect, family, and hard work.  The ECNL has provided high level competition every week that prepares me for competitions like CONCACAF.  Other events such as selection games and showcases all provide players with unique opportunities and exposure.”

“ISC and the ECNL have been the key factors in preparing for this level of competition,” Safradin said. “ISC alone has always been known for being a competitive, talented, and high standard-holding club, and these factors made the move from playing with my club to playing with the national team quite easy.  The level of competition at ISC alone is already high, but in addition playing in the ECNL is also another high-level competition that just adds to it.  The Ohio Valley Conference alone is full of a bunch of teams that are very talented, so playing against these teams definitely adds to the preparation needed before I go and represent the national team.”

ECNL and Club Director Keri Sarver is incredibly proud of everything this pair has accomplished.

“Mia and Viki are excellent role models for other players in our club aspiring to reach the highest levels,” Sarver said. “They are have truly dedicated themselves to improve all aspects of their game in order to earn the opportunity to wear the USA crest.  It is easy to see that both have the physical, technical, and tactical qualities required to play on our national team but what most people may not see is that their mentality and consistency day in and day out is on par with the best players to come through our club and some of the top players I have coached at the YNT levels.   They sky is the limit for these two!”

The ISC family was excited to watch their players on national television, playing against the top teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.  The club is now looking forward to seeing Mia Bhuta and Victoria Safradin compete at the highest level of the game in the U-17 Women’s World Cup this fall in India.  Clearly, it’s an exciting time to be part of the Internationals Soccer Club. 

Photo Credit: U.S. Soccer

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