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US U17 MNT drops World Cup opener

Article Written by J.R. Eskilson
Published: October 27, 2019

The U.S.’s stint in the 2019 U17 World Cup might be over as soon as it began. USA dropped the opening game from Group Stage on Sunday with a 3-1 defeat against Senegal. Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio scored the opening goal in the third minute of the game. NYCFC right back Joseph Scally provided the assist on a perfect early cross that Bus headed home for the first goal of the game. 

USA had a chance to double the lead when Giovanni Reyna skated into the box with the ball at his feet and teammate Ricardo Pepi in the center of the box. Reyna tried his luck with a shot from a tight angle, which resulted in a comfortable save for the Senegal goalkeeper. 

Senegal grew into the game with every minute after conceding the early opener. The squad from Africa almost had the equalizer in the 20th minute through striker Souleymane Faye, but Damian Las made a terrific save to keep USA in the lead. 

USA had hopes of getting into the locker with the lead, but Faye turned that dream into a nightmare when he got onto the end of a long kick into the attacking third in the final seconds of the half. He ripped a shot with his left foot that snuck into the goal for the equalizer right before the halftime whistle. 

USA looked like it needed to regroup at the break. Despite having a significant advantage in possession, USA did not look threatening the attacking third and struggled to create much through the wings or through the center. 

The second half saw a brief moment of promise from USA when they finally strung together a sequence of quick, smart decisions on the ball. The movement ended with Adam Armour dropping off a pass for Busio who saw his shot hit off a defender and sail out for a corner kick. 

On the ensuing corner kick, Reyna delivered a perfect service for Tayvon Gray. However, the center back’s volley was saved off the line and the rebound was also blocked out. 

Senegal took the lead on a strange sequence. Senegal goalkeeper  Ousmane Ba elected to go quick on a counter and booted the ball over 2/3 of the field. Las elected to stay on his line and the USA defense could not catch up to Faye. Las did well to block Faye’s initial shot on the breakaway, but Aliou Balde scored on the rebound.  

It went from bad to worse minutes later when Senegal sliced through the USA midfield and defense with a passing sequence near the top of the 18-yard box. Faye was once again in the middle of the play and ended up serving the ball across the box that squirted past Las for an easy tap-in for Amete Faye. Senegal’s two substitutes early in the second half scored within 15 minutes of entering the game. 

USA looked like they just wanted to get to the locker room after the third goal, but Senegal still had more dancing to do. Gray was beat on a long ball again, and he pulled down Souleymane Faye from behind. Gray was shown a red card for his foul. Senegal’s Pape Sarr buried the free kick into the upper corner of the net for their fourth goal of the game. 

USA looked nothing like the team that showed such promise during the Concacaf Championship earlier this year. Senegal presented some problems for the group and USA could not break the opposition down at all in the first half after the opening goal. The midfield was non-existent in the build-up, which left a lot of the play through the wings, which did not look like a strength for this age group going into the tournament. 

Rafael Wicky’s group does not have much time to adjust during the World Cup. The next game is on Wednesday against Japan. 

USA Starting XI: Damian Las; Joseph Scally, Tayvon Gray, Kobe Hernandez-Foster, Adam Armour; Adam Saldana, Daniel Leyva, Gianluca Busio; Griffin Yow, Ricardo Pepi, Giovanni Reyna

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