U.S. U-17s fare well in their first big test

By Mike Woitalla

The bad news: The USA blew a chance to clinch a spot at the 2015 U-17 World Cup on Sunday. The Americans led Honduras 2-1 when in the 88th minute David Sanchez scored with his shoulder to earn the host of the U-17 Concacaf Championship a 2-2 tie.

The good news: The USA will qualify if it beats Jamaica on Wednesday. Or if it ties the Jamaicans and Honduras fails to beat Guatemala by seven goals.

Even if things don’t work out for the Americans on Wednesday, they’ll remain in the running. Their worst-case scenario is a do-or-die playoff on Sunday against one of the four teams that finished second or third in the two groups. (Group winners play for the Concacaf title with their World Cup spots already guaranteed.)

U-17 World Cup qualifying: Concacaf schedule and results

Coach Richie Williams’ team entered Sunday’s games after comfortable wins over Cuba (5-0), Trinidad & Tobago (2-0) and Guatemala (4-1). Honduras had beaten Jamaica (2-0) and T&T (2-0) and tied Cuba (1-1).

For the first time in this tournament, the young Americans faced a team that attacked constantly and played in front of more than a sprinkling of spectators. In fact, the 18,000-seat Francisco Morazon Stadium was intimidatingly packed with home team supporters, including jerks who threw debris at U.S. goalkeeper Will Pulisic.

Pulisic made a spectacular diving save on Darixon Vuelto’s hard low shot in the 77th to preserve the 2-1 lead. But he was stunned when Sanchez seemed to misjudge a chip from Jorge Alvarez only to watch the ball bounce off Sanchez's shoulder and loop into the top corner of the goal.

In the 90th minute, the U.S. sub Brandon Vazquez dribbled from the halfway line toward the Catrachos' goal before Alvarez clipped him from behind at the edge of the penalty area and got red-carded. The Americans squandered the free kick and settled for a tie, which serves them better than it does the Hondurans.

The USA had gone down 1-0 in the 16th minute, but were ahead, 2-1, by halftime thanks to goals by Luca de la Torre and Josh Perez, his fourth goal of the tourney. Perez also assisted on de la Torre’s goal.

Most impressive was how the USA responded after falling behind in the first half. Honduras did take control in the second half, but the U.S. defense, hardly called upon in the first three games, stifled the Catrachos until the shoulder goal.

The Americans played without stellar playmaker Christian Pulisic, who suffered a knee bruise against Guatemala, and stayed on the bench.

Two years ago, when Panama hosted the qualifiers, Honduras knocked out the USA with a 3-1 win, marking the first time the USA missed the U-17 World Cup since its inception in 1985.

This time the U.S. youngsters didn’t fail their high-pressure test.

March 6 in San Pedro Sula
Honduras 2 USA 2. Goals: Matamoros 16, Sanchez (Alvarez) 88; de la Torre (Perez) 23, Perez 32.
Honduras -- Perello; Matamoros, Andrade (Vuelto, 46), Maldonado, Ortiz; Grant, Arias, Alvarez, Galeano, Vargas (Sanchez, 80); Quaye (Sevilla, 71).
USA -- W.Pulisic; Olosunde, Velela, Arellano, Nelson (Da Silva, 82); Calvillo, de la Torre (Adams, 67), Zendejas; Perez, Gallardo (Vazquez 73), Wright.

7 comments about "U.S. U-17s fare well in their first big test ".
  1. Aresenal Fan, March 9, 2015 at 8:36 a.m.

    Keep it up boys!!

  2. Greg Milton, March 9, 2015 at 11:36 a.m.

    The US finally fielded a team of mostly skilled players. There are still a few traditional cookie cutter cogs out there but for the most part, the U-17s play with creativity and skill.

  3. Oswald Giovannetti, March 9, 2015 at 11:59 a.m.

    It was sad to see the U17 blow a lead and settle for a tie when they could have been the winners. I blame coaching for that. Too many coaches go on a one-goal-saving bunker to preserve a slim lead, rather than keep playing as they were when they gained the lead. This team is too good to just sit back and kick the ball up without any purpose. Mr. Williams please wise up.

  4. Miguel Dedo, March 9, 2015 at 1:53 p.m.

    For their first three matches our guys have played the beautiful game, lots of quick play through midfield. Last night they came up against Honduras, who played as cynical a game as I have ever seen. Their only tactic was to kick the ball forward as far as they could, then try to run over the US. Every time the US moved through midfield a Honduras player would grab a US player − lots of deserved yellow cards for Honduras. Three US players went out with injury. One of the best US player was already out with injury, so the ranks are getting thin. Too bad the host team chose to style themselves after Murder Inc instead of the beautiful game.

  5. Rick Estupinan, March 9, 2015 at 5:18 p.m.

    The Hondurans are a bunch of shameless tugs.For them all that matters is to win,no matter how they do it,playing real good football witch they do posses or trying to intimidate the opposition,and this they do it very often.And this is how they managed to tie the game.
    The coaching,very bad,having the US boys to retrieved and defend a slim lead instead of going forward and clinch a definite win.I am sure we will pass by Jamaica with no problem and win the whole thing.

  6. BJ Genovese, March 9, 2015 at 6:19 p.m.

    Cuba, TnT, Guatemala, and Honduras. I think everyone should settle down a bit... One of the keepers barely crested five feet. I guess it's the only way to move through... But a perspective has to be maintained.

  7. John Bishop, March 10, 2015 at 3:26 p.m.

    How come no mention that USA's 2nd goal was an obvious offside since Honduran player was standing beyond goal line?

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