The U.S. U17 Men’s National Team is moving onto the quarterfinal of the 2017 World Cup. USA destroyed Paraguay 5-0 on Monday in the Round of 16 matchup. Timothy Weah scored three goals, Josh Sargent and Andrew Carleton added one each in the dominant showing from the Youth National Team. It was the first U.S. U17 MNT in the knockout round of the World Cup since 1999.
U.S. struck first in the 19th minute off a goal from Weah. The finishing tally was nice, but the lead-up to the decisive moment was the ideal way John Hackworth and his staff want this group to play with quick passing, limited touches, and utilizing the strength of the speed in the attack.
Josh Sargent brought down a bouncing ball with a chest pass to Carleton who hit an absurd pass with his first touch. Carleton’s pass had enough back spin on it so it sat perfectly for Ayo Akinola to run onto and deliver to the center of the box for Weah. From Sargent to Carleton to Akinola to Weah, the USA only took four touches and had the lead before Paraguay to catch their breath on a perfectly executed attack. Brilliance in its execution, it was the best goal USA has scored in India.
USA went into the break up 1-0, but perhaps should have held a 2-0 lead. In added time, Carleton snuck behind the Paraguay defense on a throw-in and lifted a cross to the far post for Akinola. The ball took an awkward bounce right before Akinola who tried to use his stomach to push it over the line, but the referee ruled that the ball did not go all the way over the line.
The U.S. attack came alive in the second half. Weah made it 2-0 with, arguably, the best goal of the tournament. The play started with Akil Watts winning a header off a long clearance from the Paraguay goalkeeper. Carleton brought down the header from Watts and relied a subtle lay-off to Indiana Vassilev, who hit a long switch to Weah on the left flank. Weah cut in from the left channel and hit a rocket from 18 yards out to the upper corner of the net.
The goal might have broke the spirit of the Paraguay defense and goalkeeper because USA started to pour on the goals after that moment. Watts was involved in the next goal as he got down the right flank on a link-up play with Akinola. Watts, the former winger, made easy work of the passive defense from the Paraguay right back to get to the end line. He played the ball back to an unmarked Sargent inside of 12 yards from goal. Sargent, unselfishly, squared the ball to Carleton who finessed it into the bottom corner of the net.
The U.S. defense did not slow down after that goal. Sargent scored his second goal of the tournament off an assist from Carleton. On any other day, there would be more made of the remarkable strike from Sargent or the timing of the pass from Carleton. But on a day when USA played inspired soccer for 90 minutes, this goal seemed like a side dish of green beans on a plate of filet mignon and lobster.
The final goal of the game came from Weah. Akinola tried to take on the defense on his own but a Paraguay defender knocked the ball off his foot. Carleton was in the right spot to pick up the ball after the tackle and played a perfect pass to Weah for the finish.
Carleton finished the game with a goal and two assists, but he was involved in all five goals. It was one of the best performances from a U.S. Youth National Team player at World Cup in history.
It was not all good news for USA on the day though. Akinola left the game on a stretcher. He was hacked down on the play leading up to the fifth goal. Blaine Ferri exited the game in the first half after he could not walk off an early tackle, and spent a lot of time limping in the middle of the field. Midfielder Christopher Goslin, who has been the key player in every game so far, received his second yellow card of the tournament on Monday, and will miss the quarterfinal.
USA is back in action on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (PT) against the winner of England/Japan in the quarterfinal.
U.S. U17 XI: Justin Garces; Sergino Dest (Chris Gloster 46’), Chris Durkin, James Sands, Akil Watts; Christopher Goslin, Blaine Ferri (Indiana Vassilev 34’), Andrew Carleton; Ayo Akinola (Taylor Booth 81’), Josh Sargent, Tim Weah