A loss to rivals Mexico halted the perfect run through the CONCACAF Championship by the USA U-17 Men’s National Team, with Pedro Soma providing the lone bright spot for the Americans with his first goal in the jersey.
Mexico 3 – 1 USA
Less than 48 hours after their semifinal win over Canada, head coach Gonzalo Segares fielded most of his midfield and attacking players that put away five goals against hosts Guatemala in the quarterfinal five days earlier.
Notably, Liverpool prospect Keyrol Figueroa, who was aiming to claim the tournament’s Golden Boot as top scorer, returned to the center of the front line, flanked by Philadelphia’s David Vázquez and Charlotte FC’s Brian Romero.
Highlights of the game can be seen here.
Nevertheless, the Mexicans wasted no time in giving the Americans their first deficit of the tournament, although they will owe keeper Duran Ferree a thank-you card for his role.
In the tenth minute, Mexican attacker Brandon Lomeli ran onto a poor clearance from American defender Sawyer Jura, and charged into the right side of the area.
While the Nexaca winger had a tight angle and the defense had recovered enough to make his scoring chance anything but a sure thing, Ferree still lunged recklessly feet-first at the ball, only succeeding in taking out Lomelli’s feet for a clear penalty.
Stephano Carrillo stepped up to the spot and coolly beat Ferree with his shot straight down the middle, for his eighth goal of the tournament, one which would be enough to eventually secure his spot as top scorer.
Jura was pulled at the half in favor of Eintracht Frankfurt’s Aiden Harangi, however El Tri still increased their advantage just five minutes after the break.
The goal came moments after Ferree made an excellent save to deny José Urias on a breakaway, leading to a corner for the Mexicans. They opted to take it short, giving substitute Yerar Azcarate the space to fire a cross into the area from the flank, which Luis Navarrete headed into the far corner for the 2-0 advantage.
Sensing the game reaching the point of no return, Segares changed the song in the 64th minute, bringing on the productive trio of Christopher Aquino, Micah Burton and Paolo Rudisill, who combined for six goals in the first six games of the tournament, for Taha Habroune, Romero and Vázquez, respectively.
This did succeed in shifting the momentum, with Figueroa coming close to equaling Carrillo’s goalscoring mark with a distance blast in the 68th that forced Norberto Bedolla into a diving save.
On the ensuing corner, Aquino’s inswinging delivery from the right side was headed in by Pedro Soma, with the Spain-based midfielder making contact in the middle, and sending the ball to the right edge of goal to cut the lead in half.
However, the Americans were unable to find a second breakthrough, and eventually Mexico were able to secure the win in the closing moments.
Ferree once again lost his cool when trying to deal with a dangerous situation, this time lunging in a similar fashion to his first penalty at the feet of Joaquín Moxica, both conceding the penalty and being forced to leave the game after his second yellow card.
Isaac Martínez struck the lethal blow from the spot, sending his hard shot to the right while defender Stuart Hawkins, who was forced to put on the gloves following Ferree’s exit, made a half-hearted move in the opposite direction.
The goal brought the final score to 3-1, giving the Mexicans their ninth overall CONCACAF U-17 title, and the sixth straight in tournaments where they participated.
Despite the loss, the main objective of the tournament was achieved for the Americans, namely qualification for the U-17 World Cup taking place in Peru during November and December.
Overall, Segares led his squad to an impressive record of six wins and one loss, with a total of 24 goals scored by ten players. Figueroa missed out on the Golden Boot award thanks to Carrillo’s penalty, however still finished the tournament with seven goals through as many games.
Despite the strong run, only two American players were named to the tournament’s best XI, including obvious choice of Figueroa, as well as midfielder Cruz Medina, who scored a hat-trick in the team’s group-stage opener.
The team will likely have further camps and friendly games during the remaining seven-plus months until the final tournament. The draw for the groups will not take place until August, after the European, South American, African and Asian regions have completed qualification.