USA Qualifies for Under-17 Men's World Cup

USA Qualifies for Under-17 Men's World Cup
by Travis Clark
February 22, 2023
Players featured in this article:
MF | Austin FC
F | New England
GK | San Diego FC
Adrian Gill |  2024
MF | FC Barcelona
MF | Crew Academy
D | Seattle Sounders
Sawyer Jura |  2024
D | Portland Timbers
Cruz Medina |  2024
F | San Jose
MF | Feyenoord
Pedro Soma |  2024
MF | U.E. Cornella
MF | Dynamo
MF | Phil. Union

Playing high stakes games on the road in Concacaf never seems to be easy for any United States men’s squad.

The Under-17 MNT side dug deep on Tuesday night to secure World Cup qualification, surviving a grueling matchup against Guatemala to secure a spot at this year’s youth competition.

Keyrol Figueroa bagged a brace, highlighting a five-goal effort as the U.S. squad held on for a 5-3 victory in Guatemala City. Brian Romero, Aiden Harangi and Taha Habroune chipped in goals to advance to the semifinals of the Concacaf Championship.

Facing the tournament hosts, getting an early goal had to be high on the list of priorities for the U.S. Seven minutes into the game, Romero cashed in. The goal came as a result of the hard work of David Vazquez. His pressure on a Guatemalan defender forced a turnover just outside the penalty box. The Philadelphia Union winger whipped a cross in front of goal, allowing Carmona to slot home the crucial opener.

Vazquez again showed his quality on the team’s 28th minute tally. Cruz Medina played him into space down the left wing. Vazquez shimmied into space, and crossed it towards the top of the six-yard box. Figueroa didn’t corral it cleanly, but spun around and slotted home to make it a 2-0 lead.

Pressure did come from Guatemala, and the hosts halved the lead before the break. Olger Escobar converted a penalty kick to make it a 2-1 game in the 45th minute, giving coaches and players on both sides something to think about at the break.

Things really cut loose in the second half. After just eight minutes had elapsed, three goals had been added to the tally. The first went the way of the U.S., as Harangi hit a worm burner from outside the box to restore a two-goal lead in the 51st minute. Guatemala answered back straight from kickoff through Gabino Vasquez.

But once again, the U.S. responded. Figueroa followed up a shot that was blocked, firing home a low blast off a defender. It was his second of the game and the third goal in a three-minute span.

Supported by a boisterous home crowd, Guatemala didn’t fade. And once again, they found a way to make it a one-goal game. Carlos Aguilar headed home a free kick in the 74th minute, upping the pressure on the young Americans.

After weathering the storm, the U.S. gave themselves breathing room in the 83rd minute. A well-worked move that began with a great bit of skill by Vazquez ended with Habroune’s goal. After corralling the ball in traffic, Vazquez picked out Micah Burton in space, who guided the ball into the path of Paulo Rudisill. The LA Galaxy Academy midfielder hit a perfect cross that eluded the goalkeeper and Guatemalan back line for Habroune to tap home and restore the two-goal advantage.

There would be no late dramatics as the U.S. clinched a spot at this year’s World Cup, scheduled for November in Peru.

U.S. Lineup: Duran Ferree; Aiden Harangi, Christian Diaz, Tyler Hall, Sawyer Jura; Pedro Soma, Taha Habroune (Stuart Hawkins), Cruz Medina (Adrian Gill); Brian Romero (Paulo Rudisill), Keyrol Figueroa (Micah Burton), David Vazquez (Ezekiel Soto)

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