It took the United States Under-17s just one game to improve on their win total from last year's Nike International Friendlies.
Twelve months after going 0-2-1, the Americans dominated first-half proceedings against the Korea Republic on the Reach 11 fields in Phoenix. The Stars and Stripes did enough to take a 2-1 lead into the break, courtesy of goals from Matt Dunn and Mario Rodriguez, and the score line held up for the final 45 minutes.
No. 10 Alejandro Guido stood out in the playmaker role while left back Kellyn Acosta looked strong pressing forward in the first half. The center back pairing of Mobi Fehr and Crew Soccer Academy product Andrew Souders shut down the Asian side's attack.
Dunn opened the scoring in the 10th minute, slamming home a ball that Korea failed to clear. After a short corner kick, right back Nathan Smith sent a cross to the far post. Rodriguez headed it back across the box to the head of Fehr. His glancing effort fell to Dunn and the FC Köln standout didn't miss from close range.
Rodriguez should have doubled the lead soon after but took an extra touch after rounding Korea goalkeeper Ham Seok-Min, allowing the defender to recover with a sliding challenge.
Rodriguez made up for his miscue in the 37th minute, finishing an excellent counterattack initiated by Marc Pelosi. The striker received the De Anza Force player's pass, cut inside with his touch and beat center back Lim Dong-Hyun before blasting a strike into the back of the net.
The US struggled to mark on corner kicks throughout the first half, and Korea made them pay with their fourth attempt. Houston Dynamo academy 'keeper Fernando Piña came out to punch the ball but missed, and Shin Il-Soo headed it home.
Korea looked the stronger team after the break but were unable to create any serious chances as fouls bogged down the match.
Kim Min-June was shown a yellow card for a challenge on Rodriguez in the 53rd minute, and the frustrated American earned a caution seconds later for dissent. Tarik Salkicic was also warned before the hour mark.
In the 64th, Han Nam-Kyu replaced Korea's goal-scorer. The substitute picked up a yellow moments later after a hard foul on Pelosi.
In the 75th minute, Andrew Oliver replaced Rodriguez, who seemed to pick up a right calf injury or start suffering from a cramp. Three minutes later, Myeong Jae-Kang came on for Bang Chan-Jun.
Wilmer Cabrera used another substitute 10 minutes from time, taking off a dangerous Esteban Rodriguez for Nico Melo. Korea's captain, Hwang Ju-Hyun, earned the night's second to last caution soon after and the final personnel change was Kim Seung-Jun for Shim Gwang-Uk. Myeong was the last man on his team into the referee's book.
The victory puts the Americans in first place after Brazil and Turkey tied 0-0 in the tournament's first match.
US starting lineup
Korea starting lineup
I.S. Shin-H.Y. Shin
Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.