Wilmer Cabrera is one satisfied coach.
His US U-17s will play Jamaica in Friday's CONCACAF Championship semifinal, but that result is secondary. Qualifying for the World Cup was the top priority.
“Overall I’m happy with the personality and determination that the players showed on the field," Cabrera said after the US prevailed 3-2 against El Salvador in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Championship. "It’s a good win for us. We’re in the World Cup.
"We came here to prove what we can accomplish in three games and we made it to the World Cup. Now we’re one of the four top teams and tomorrow we’ll think about what’s next."
Alejandro Guido, the US' most creative player against El Salvador, echoed the thoughts of many of his teammates when he discussed the victory.
[inline_node:328504]“It’s the best feeling," he said. "It’s everything I’ve ever wanted, everything the team’s wanted. Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to go to a World Cup — and especially this one because it’s in Mexico. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
With the win over El Salvador, the US reached a record 14th straight World Cup. In fact, they are the only nation that has never missed the pinnacle of youth soccer.
This group, however, can achieve something no previous American U-17 squad has accomplished: win the CONCACAF Championship.
It won't be an easy task as the Americans will be without starting goalkeeper Fernando Piña and left back Kellyn Acosta in the semifinal after both received red cards against La Selecta. Midfielder Matt Dunn will also miss the match due to yellow card accumulation.
Additionally, Cabrera will likely give an opportunity to some of his charges who didn't see the field over the course of the first three games. The US XI that lines up against Jamaica or El Salvador won't be the A squad.
Not that it matters.
Central defender Mobi Fehr said he understands the importance of what he and his teammates accomplished on Tuesday.
"It feels great to make it to the World Cup because it was our main goal," he said. "It was great to make it happen."
Noah Davis covers the United States men's national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.