Improved USA set to put record streak on line

[CONCACAF UNDER-17 CHAMPIONSHIP] The USA defeated Panama, 1-0, to win Group B at the Concacaf Under-17 Championship in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The key game comes Tuesday with a berth in the 2011 Under-17 World Cup on the line when it faces El Salvador in the quarterfinals. ESPN Deportes and ESPN3.com will air the game at 3 p.m. ET.

The USA is the only country to have played in every Under-17 World Cup. The 2011 competition will be played this summer in Mexico.

Oliver won the aerial battle off a free kick delivered by Alejandro Guido to give the U.S. the only goal it would need.

U.S. coach Wilmer Cabrera made three changes to the lineup from Monday’s 3-1 win over Cuba, starting Joe Amon at right back, Alejandro Guido in the central midfield and Marc Pelosi on the wing.

In what represents a geographic shift in the national team program, Amon, a product of South Carolina United FC, was the only player from a state on the Eastern Seaboard to start either of the first two games.

The other 13 starters hail from California (5), Texas (4), Indiana (1), Ohio (1), Colorado (1) and Japan (1).

“I think we improved today and played well against a very tough team who was obviously playing for the chance to reach the quarterfinal,” Cabrera. “Panama is very good, and they put a lot of men behind the ball but we were moving the ball, we had patience and we kept the ball most of the time. Little by little we were creating opportunities. Both individually and collectively, we improved as a team today, which is important.”

The 1-0 loss was enough for Panama to claim second place ahead of Cuba on goal difference. Cuba and Panama tied, 0-0, on Wednesday.

Costa Rica edged El Salvador, 3-2, in a wild game to take first place in Group A. Haiti, the third team in the group, withdrew from the tournament after its first game because of illnesses in the team.

Feb. 18 in Montego Bay
USA 1 Panama 0. Goal: Oliver 50
USA -- Pina, Amon, Souders, Fehr, Acosta. E.Rodriguez, Dunn (Carroll, 84), Guido, Pelosi, M.Rodriguez (Koroma, 70), Oliver (McBean, 83)
Panama -- Picart, Francisco, Chen, Wright, Pinzon (Browne, 62), Paredes, Narbon, Goot, Santamaria (Aguilar, 83), Stephens (Villa, 90+1), Gonzalez.
Referee: Enrico Winjgaarde (Suriname).

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