The meteoric rise of former Liberian refugee Alex Nimo continued as he scored twice on Monday night to lead the United States to a 3-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago in its opening game at CONCACAF's Under-17 World Cup qualifying tournament in Kingston, Jamaica.
Nimo, who only entered the U.S. U-17 residency program in January, needed just two minutes to score the first goal of the game and his first goal for the USA, beating a T&T defender on the right flank and scoring from close range after his cross was blocked and came back to him.
"I didn't know what to do since it was my first goal," said Nimo, who raced to the corner flag and danced after his goal. "I was relieved and really excited."
Playing just his sixth international match, Nimo found the net again in the second half. He buried a shot from 10 yards with the efficacy of his hero, the Brazilian Ronaldo, whom he emulated in Buduburan, the camp located in Ghana that was at its peak the home to 50,000 Liberian refugees. Nimo would scratch No. 9 on the back of his shirts with chalk and pretended to be Ronaldo, playing soccer for hours on end in the dirt streets of Buduburan.
Eight years ago, Nimo and his family left Buduburan and arrived in the United States, where they were granted political asylum and moved to Portland, Ore., with the assistance of such charities as Catholic Ministries and Habitat for Humanity. Nimo, whom the late Clive Charles brought into the FC Portland youth program and who wore tennis shoes to his first tryout, was previously targeted for inclusion in the U-17 residency program but had to wait until after he and his family were granted U.S. citizenship last November. In the meantime, he starred for four seasons at Benson High School and is considered the best player ever to come out of the Portland Interscholastic League.
MCLOUGHLIN REPORT. The U.S. attack was a question mark entering the U-17 qualifying tournament, but John Hackworth's Americans put three goals past T&T. Ellis McLoughlin, another product of the Pacific Northwest, put the USA up, 2-0, with his team-high 13th international goal six minutes before halftime. But the Crossfire product's night ended on an unhappy note in the 80th minute when he was given a straight red card for a challenge near midfield.
T&T outshot the USA, 11-10, but goalie Zach MacMath, getting the surprise start over Josh Lambo, registered the shutout. Three '91s -- FC Dallas draft pick Abdus Ibrahim, Greg Garza and MacMath -- started against T&T, and Hackworth's other two '91 players -- Bryan Dominguez and Nick Millington -- both came off the bench.
The win moved the USA, the only country to have played in every U-17 world championship, into third place with three points after one game. Canada and Costa Rica, which played to a 0-0 draw, are tied for first place with four points apiece. Host Jamaica, which had a bye Monday night, and Trinidad & Tobago have no points. The top three teams from the five-team group advance to this summer's Under-17 World Cup in South Korea.
The USA returns to Group B action at Kingston's National Stadium Wednesday against Canada. Jamaica meets Costa Rica in the other game.
April 30 in Kingston
USA 3 Trin. & Tobago 0. Goals: Nimo 2, 62, McLoughlin 39.
USA -- MacMath, Williams (Turk, 68), Bates, Shea, Wenzel, Nimo, Garza, Jeffrey, Ibrahim (Millington, 65), McLoughlin, Schuler (Dominguez, 79).
Trinidad & Tobago -- Samuel, O'Neil, Bateau, Rochford, Adams, Paul, Cyrus (De Silva, 58), Sullivan (Molino, 34), Lewis, Knox, Joseph (De Freitas, 64).
Yellow cards: USA -- Williams 24, Ibrahim 28, Bates 69; Trinidad & Tobago -- Joseph 54, Paul 81.
Red card: USA -- McLoughlin 80.
Referee: Ruiz Bondilla (El Salvador).