The United States U-17 Men’s National team beat Canada for a second time in the CONCACAF Championship, with goals from Micah Burton and Keyrol Figueroa setting up Sunday’s against regional rivals Mexico.
Canada 0 – 2 USA
After having already beaten their northern neighbors Canada in the third group-stage game, head coach Gonzalo Segares and his young squad knew they held the keys to securing a spot in Sunday’s final, and only needed to avoid a let-down following their high-scoring quarterfinal two days before.
Segares trotted out a different look compared to the teams that beat Canada nine days before and Guatemala in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. Perhaps with an eye towards the likely final on Sunday, he rested Liverpool prospect Keyrol Figueroa, joint top scorer in the tournament, as well as defenders Christian Díaz and Sawyer Jura, along with the entire midfield and front line that started on Wednesday.
Even though the fresh lineup didn’t run rampant over the Canadians, they still clearly held the upper hand from start to finish, and in the end did more than enough to secure the win without too much stress.
Overall, the baby Yanks held the advantage on possession with 55%, and outshot their opponents by a 15-4 margin, while forcing Canadian keeper Alexander O’Brien into a several saves in addition to the two he conceded.
Of the overseas contingent in the American squad, Eintracht Frankfurt academy player Aiden Harangi earned his fourth start in six games in the defense, while Barcelona’s Adrian Gill went the distance in the midfield alongside San Jose’s Edwyn Mendoza for his third start of the tournament. Figueroa as well as UE Cornellà midfielder Pedro Soma both played the final ten minutes as substitutes.
Barely one minute into the game, Seattle Sounders attacking midfielder Christopher Aquino already tested O’Brien with a 12-yard volley when a poor clearance fell at his feet, however the keeper was up to the task with a reflexive block.
Aquino had another crack from distance just past the 28-minute mark when he spotted a clear line between the defense, but once again, O’Brien had no problems to make the save.
The Americans kept pushing and created their opening in the 35th minute, after Micah Burton was tripped up 27 yards from goal as he attempted to release a pass to Aquino on his right.
The Austin FC prospect took the resulting free kick himself, and struck a highlight-reel beauty, sending his looping, left-footed shot into the upper left corner, well out of O’Brien’s reach, giving his team the 1-0 advantage.
Just before the hour, substitute Brian Romero teed up a deep cross from the right flank, which Paolo Rudisill headed downwards into the turf, with the bounce towards goal forcing O’Brien once again into action to prevent the goal.
Despite only trailing by one goal, the Canadians were never able to make any headway against the formidable American defense, and a late goal as added time expired simply put an exclamation point on the inevitable result.
David Vazquez simply beat his marking defender on the left edge of the area, creating time and space to knock a low cross towards goal. O’Brien mistimed his lunge at the ball, and Figueroa was waiting at four yards out to calmly collect the ball and hit a simple side-footed shot over the line for the final 2-0 advantage.
The score was Figueroa’s seventh of the tournament, leaving him even with Mexico’s Stephano Carrillo.
With the victory, the team will have a less han 48-hour turnaround before they take the field against Mexico in Sunday’s final, who easily beat Panama by a 5-0 score in their semifinal.
While both teams have already qualified for the World Cup, they will still have bragging rights on the line, with the Americans looking to make up for their predecessors’ overtime loss to Mexico in the 2019 final.