One of the U.S. national team program's consistencies for nearly three decades was that the USA always qualified for the U-17 World Cup.
But the streak -- 14 straight World Cup appearances since the tournament’s 1985 inception -- came to an end in 2013 under Coach Richie Williams, who had taken the helm for that cycle.
Williams kept his job. The 2013 qualifying tournament format meant that the USA’s third game -- after wins Haiti (3-0) and Guatemala (1-0) -- was do-or-die. And the young Americans perished with a 3-1 loss to Honduras.
Williams welcomed the new format for 2015: Five group-stage games, and the group winner qualifying automatically. The goal for the USA was to win the group and avoid a one-off clash.
As it turns out, this year’s U-17s again face a do-or-die game, because after winning their first three matches -- Cuba (5-0), Trinidad & Tobago (2-0) and Guatemala (4-1) -- they blew two chances to clinch qualification.
On Sunday, they tied Honduras, 2-2, conceding a late equalizer, when a win would have clinched. On Wednesday, they squandered their second chance – losing 1-0 to Jamaica when a win, or a tie it turns out, would have booked them a ticket to the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile in October.
The USA will face Costa Rica, Canada, Jamaica or Mexico on Sunday.
The tie against Honduras, in front of 14,000 home fans against a team that had qualified for the previous three U-17 World Cups, didn’t seem so bad. More troubling was not getting a result against Jamaica.
The decider came from Nicholas Nelson’s penalty kick in the 57th minute after Costa Rican referee Ricardo Montero called a handball on U.S. captain Hugo Arellano, who had lunged to intercept a low cross with his chest.
From then on, the Jamaicans, aside from escaping a handball call of their own in the penalty area and surviving a couple goalmouth scrambles, kept the Americans at bay by winning one-on-ones and booting the ball out of bounds and downfield.
In the first half, U.S. keeper Will Pulisic and his counterpart Jahmali Waite each made a pair of key saves, but most of the play was in the Jamaican end.
Before the halftime whistle, Eric Calvillo hit the post with a 40-yard shot, Alejandro Zendejas had three chances. He was denied by Waite on a fourth-minute breakaway, struck a high rebound wide from 12 yards out, and had a well-struck curling shot tipped around the post by a diving Waite.
In the final phase of the game, the U.S. game deteriorated severely. Williams subbed defender Alexis Velela out for striker Brandon Vazquez and the Jamaicans kept the Americans occupied by sending and chasing down long balls deep in the U.S. half.
In its last two games, the USA struggled in the second half. That’s a problem Williams will need to find a solution for by Sunday.
March 11 in San Pedro Sula.
Jamaica 1 USA 0. Goals: Nelson (pen.) 57
Jamaica -- Waite; Talbott, Hinds, Grant, Brown; Beckford (Adamolekun, 46), Hammond (Williams, 78) Brown (Senior, 83); Dawkins, Bartley, Nelson.
USA -- W.Pulisic; Olosunde, Velela (Vazquez, 76), Arellano, Adams; Calvillo, C.Pulisic, de la Torre; Perez (Gaines, 72), Zendejas, Wright (Gallardo, 69).
Ten foreign clubs join MLS's Generation adidas Cup
The second phase of the 2014-15 Generation adidas Cup, an annual tournament for U-17 MLS academy teams, kicks off March 29. Seventeen of the 20 MLS clubs are sending teams and will be joined by 10 foreign clubs and Chivas USA, whose first team folded after the 2014 season.
The three MLS teams not represented are newcomer New York City FC, which recently announced the launch of a U-14 Academy team but doesn’t yet field older age group teams yet, Montreal and Vancouver.
The tournament consists of two regional events, one held in the fall and one in the spring, for each of the three regions: East, Central and West. The top two teams in each regional group qualified for the Champions Division, a final group stage that will determine the overall winners of the 2015 GA Cup. The remaining teams qualified for the Premier Division.
Toronto FC Sporting KC, River Plate (Argentina), Aspire Academy (Qatar), FC Dallas Real Salt Lake, Athletic Club Bilbao (Spain), Pumas UNAM (Mexico), SJ Earthquakes, Philadelphia Union, Palmeiras (Brazil), Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany).
NY Red Bulls, Houston Dynamo, Recife (Brazil), Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire Orlando City, LA Galaxy, Tigres (Mexico), Chivas USA, Sagan Tosu (Japan), D.C. United, Columbus Crew SC, Medellin (Colombia) Portland Timbers, Colorado Rapids, New England Revolution.
id2 all-stars beat Argentinos Juniors, tie San Lorenzo
The id2 National Selection finished up its four-game tour of Argentina with a 3-1 win over Argentinos Juniors and a 1-1 tie with San Lorenzo.
Lorenzo Lopez (Crossfire Oregon) had two goals against Argentinos Juniors, while Luis Arriaga (Santa Rosa United) had the third goal against Argentinos Juniors and tying goal against San Lorenzo. The id2 stars finished with one win, one loss and two ties against Argentina under-14 teams.
Arriaga, who is one of five id2 players who traveled with the U.S. under-14 national team in February to Spain, also scored in the opener against Velez Sarsfield.
The id2 program is operated by U.S. Club Soccer.
id2 National Selection Argentina Tour:
March 3: 3-3 vs. Velez Sarsfield Infantiles
March 5: 1-3 vs. Boca Juniors Infantiles
March 7: 3-1 vs. Argentinos Juniors Infantiles
March 9: 1-1 vs. San Lorenzo Infantiles