[CONCACAF UNDER-17 CHAMPIONSHIP] For much of the game, the U.S. U-17s found themselves under pressure from Haiti -- much like their U-20 counterparts had been
against Haiti in February -- but they eased to victory with a 3-0 win on two goals from Christopher Lema and a late strike from Ahinga Selemani in the Concacaf Under-17 Championship at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama. The win is the first step in the USA's bid to keep its record intact of being
the only team to have qualified for every U-17 World Cup.
(Click here for USA-Haiti highlights.)
Haitian forwards Jonel Desire and Jean Wisner Derival created all kinds of problems for U.S. defense, but they were undone by poor finishing. U.S. goalie Jeff Caldwell was called upon to make six saves and he got help from midfielder Elijah Martin, who cleared a shot by Arcus Carlens off his line with his head in the first half.
After an unsettled start, the USA started to put sustained pressure on Haiti. Rubio Rubin hit the right post in the 20th minute, and four minutes later Corey Baird was taken down inside the area after eluding his defender on the right side. Lema stepped up to take the penalty kick and put the USA ahead 1-0.
The USA made it 2-0 in the 73rd minute when Baird sent in a cross from the right side and Rubin did well to head it back into the path of Lema, who scored his second goal of the night with a first-time strike.
Selemani's hustle earned him the third goal in the 86th minute. After tussling with a Haitian defender at the endline, he did not give up on the play and while the Haitians were pleading for a foul, he buried his shot to finish off the scoring.
The USA will play its final group game against Guatemala on Thursday (kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET; television: Fox Soccer, delay, 7 p.m. ET). It will clinch a berth in the quarterfinals unless Haiti beats Guatemala on Tuesday.
The top two teams in each group move on to the all-important quarterfinals. The tournament's four semifinalists will qualify for the 2013 U-17 World Cup Oct. 17-Nov. 8 in the United Arab Emirates.
-- Mexico beat Cuba, 5-1, in Sunday's other game. Jamaica finished with nine players but managed to tie Panama, 1-1, on Saturday. Canada beat Trinidad & Tobago, 2-0, in the other opener.
April 7 in Panama City
USA 3 Haiti 0. Goals: Lema (pen.) 27, 73, Selemani 86.
USA -- Caldwell; Moore, Redding, Donovan, Requejo, Lema, Baird, Martin (Turner, 90+3); Winn (Sonora, 61), Selemani (Elney, 87), Rubin.
Haiti -- Cleef; Guerson, Carlens, Ednel (Esterdy, 65), Josue (Frederic, 34), Wilmont, Erickson, Jean-Marie (Philippe, 39), Derival, Etienne, Desire.
Referee: Christophel Stewart (Cayman Islands).