[CONCACAF UNDER-17 CHAMPIONSHIP] Roberto Elis and Kevin Alvarez scored
second-half goals to give Honduras a 3-1 win over the USA in the Concacaf Under-17 Championship quarterfinals. The result earned Honduras a berth at the 2013 Under-17 World Cup and snapped the USA's
string of having qualified 15 straight times for the world championship that began in 1985. The USA's exit after a disappointing showing will accelerate consideration of whether it's time for U.S.
Soccer to shut down the U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla., launched in 1999 ...
All the U.S. U-17s but U.S. goalscorer, the Argentine-based Joel Sonora, are currently enrolled in the residency program. But the USA -- which had won all seven previous meetings with Honduras in Concacaf U-17 play -- was no match for an excellent Catracho team built around six starters from Olimpia's reserve program.
Honduras and the USA traded goals late in the first half -- Sonora, the son of former MLS defender Diego Sonora, scored on a blast from 25 yards -- but it was all Honduras after the break.
Elis sneaked behind defender Tommy Redding to put away a through ball from Olimpia teammate Brayan Velasquez. Elis could have made it 3-1 when he blasted a shot off the crossbar on a breakaway minutes later, but Alvarez put the game out of reach with a free kick from 25 yards in the 69th minute.
There was much anticipation about the current U.S. U-17 group when it beat Brazil 3-1 at the Nike International Friendlies in December 2011. Junior Flores turned heads with a magical performance against Brazil and was soon signed to a pre-contract by German champion Borussia Dortmund only to take effect when he turns 18, but by Concacaf qualifying he was no longer a fixture in the U.S. lineup.
Shortly after the current cycle began, Colombian Wilmer Cabrera did not have his contract extended, and he was replaced by Richie Williams, most of whose coaching career had been spent as an assistant with the New York Red Bulls.
The results in 2012 did not match some of the early success the U-17s had, so their early exit from the Concacaf qualifying tournament doesn't come as a complete surprise.
The loss means that for the first time, the U-17s will spent the rest of the school year in Bradenton without having something to play for. Will its door shut after they head out this year?
The growth of the Development Academy -- and MLS academy teams in particular -- means that Bradenton may no longer be the essential development program for young standouts if once was. While its boarding school environment draws attracts many players and provides a soccer setting that some wouldn't otherwise get at home, it isn't for everyone.
At the very least, a U-17 national team built around Bradenton-based players may no longer work. The group Williams took to Panama City from Bradenton was a very average team. Only Sonora, who plays in Boca Juniors' youth system in Buenos Aires, isn't in residency.
In the bigger picture, the early exit was another blow to the U.S. youth program. It marked the third time in three years a U.S. team failed to qualify in an age group competition after the U-20s in 2011 and U-23s (Olympic qualifying) in 2012.
April 14 in Panama City
USA 1 Honduras 3. Goals: Sonora 45; Alegria 42. Elis 58, Alvarez 69.
USA -- Caldwell; Moore, Redding, Donovan, Requejo; Turner (Glad, 46), Lema (Elney, 70), Sonora (Winn, 77), Rubin, Selemani, Baird.
Honduras -- C.Hernandez; Alvarez, Romero, Santos, J. Hernandez, Garcia, Velasquez (Arita, 92+), Alegria, Elis (Bodden, 88), Borjas (D.Flores, 72), R.Flores.
Referee: Henry Bejarano (Costa Rica).