After a tight opening 90 minutes on Sunday night, one moment of brilliance from Nathan Smith delivered the Under-17 CONCACAF Championship to the United States.
The American left back beat Canadian goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau for the first time in the tournament with a blast from 35 yards in the second minute of extra time. His right-footed effort glanced off the post to the Crepeau’s left and into the back of the net, giving coach Wilmer Cabrera's group the game-winner of an eventual 3-0 win in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Andrew Oliver also scored eight minutes later, and Alfred Koroma ended the scoring in the 119th minute for the Americans, who will join Canada, Panama and Jamaica at this summer’s Under-17 World Cup in Mexico.
The title was the first for the US in the tournament since 1992.
Neither team managed to tally in regular time, forcing the match into 30 minutes of extra time. But Smith wasted no time breaking the deadlock just 120 seconds into the extra period with his majestic, curling hit.
Oliver then padded the lead in the 100th minute with a wonderful individual effort. The forward used his speed to get behind the Canadian defense and dribbled around Crepaeu before tapping the ball into the net for his fourth goal of the tournament.
Koroma capped the scoring in the 119th minute, taking a great pass from Jack McBean tapping it past Canada's embattled backstop.
The only negative for the US side was a late scuffle that marred at least a bit of the win, with Oliver and Candian defender Marco Lapenna sent off after an incident that will force them to miss the opening match of the World Cup in June.
Goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh was the hero for the US in the first half, stoning Canadian attackers on a couple different occasions. The American backup – playing for a suspended starter Fernando Piña – did well to fearlessly charge off his line multiple times and win foot races with onrushing forwards.
Crepeau, meanwhile, nearly made a mess of an American corner kick in the 53rd minute, but defender Marco Lapenna cleared the ball that the goalkeeper accidentally punched toward his own net.
Crepeau's handling betrayed him again a quarter-hour from time. The netminder came out to gobble up a ball but spilled it to Pelosi. The dangerous midfielder passed to Oliver, who missed the net with his chip.
It was an unfitting end for the Canadians who, prior to Sunday’s final, had not allowed a goal in tournament play.
But it was an equally triumphant moment for the Americans, who earned their seventh win all-time over Canada in the CONCACAF U-17 tournament in eight games. The runner-up finish was the highest for a Canadian side in the tournament after finishing third three times.
McIntosh; Smith, Souders (Fehr 46’), Carroll, Amon: E. Rodriguez, Dunn, Pelosi, Serna (Koroma 56’); Oliver, M. Rodriguez (90’)
Crepeau; Piette, Stanese, Lapenna, Alderson (Jalali 102’), Aleman, Nanco, Gasparotto, Chapman (Hamilton 56’), Patrasso,
Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.