The US Under-17 national team got the victory they needed to finish atop Group C at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship. Now they've got a winner-take-all date with Honduras this weekend, and the victor gets a berth in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Thanks to Corey Baird’s 49th-minute strike, the US defeated Guatemala 1-0 in Panama City on Thursday to finish the qualifying tournament's group stage with two wins in as many games. As group winners, the Americans will face Group D runners-up Honduras, who lost to Mexico 2-0 in Thursday’s later game.
After a relatively quiet first half, Baird put the US on the board four minutes out of halftime thanks to the work of left winger Rubio Rubin. The Portland-area native raced down the left side to the end line and looped a cross just over the outstretched hand of Guatemala ‘keeper Nicholas Hagen and to the feet of an unmarked Baird, who one-timed it easily into the net.
Rubin was the US’ most active player and jumpstarted the Americans’ attack by firing the first shot on goal of the match, a rocket from the left side in the 39th minute that Hagen had to punch out. Rubin nearly served up another from the wings in the late going, as his cross in the 72nd minute – this time from the right wing – found Junior Flores at the far post, but the Virginia native put it just wide.
Also driving the US attack was midfielder Joel Soñora, who made his first start for Richie Williams’ side. The Boca Juniors Academy product nearly scored in first-half injury time when he cracked a shot from the top of the area that Hagen had to tip over the crossbar.
Williams went with a slightly adjusted lineup from the one he fielded for the US’ 3-0 victory over Haiti last weekend. The back four remained the same, but Soñora was slotted into central midfield, while Flores slotted in up top.
The US get their date with destiny on Sunday, when they’ll face Honduras in the quarterfinals back at Estadio Rommel Fernández (6 pm ET, Fox Soccer). All four semifinalists in the CONCACAF tournament qualify for this fall’s U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. The US have never failed to qualify for the tournament, featuring in each of the previous 14 editions.
USA – Baird (49’)
USA – Chris Lema (caution), 63'
GUA – Derián Ramírez (caution), 86'
USA: 1-Jeff Caldwell; 2-Shaquell Moore (capt.), 4-Tommy Redding, 5-Conor Donovan, 3-John Requejo Jr.; 8-Christopher Lema (6-Tyler Turner, 72), 19-Joel Soñora, 10-Corey Baird (18-Angel Heredia, 78); 20-Junior Flores, 9-Ahinga Selemani (17-Sebastian Elney, 83), 7-Rubio Rubin
Subs Not Used: 11-Alan Winn, 12-Evan Louro, 13-Peter Schropp, 14-Justen Glad, 15-Mukwelle Akale, 16-Elijah Martin
Head Coach: Richie Williams
Guatemala: 1-Nicholas Hagen; 3-Allen Yanes, 4-Derián Ramírez, 5-Gabriel Pérez (20-Sebastián Arana, 35)(13-Diego Ruano, 80), 7-Christopher Ortiz, 8-Diego Meda, 10-Luis Samayoa (18-José Vigil, 77), 11-Mario Hernández, 14-José Ruiz (capt.), 15-Marvin Rivera, 16-Kenndell Curup
Subs Not Used: 2-Wilson Garcia, 6-Edwin Flores, 9-Emiliano Menendez, 12-Pablo Flores, 17-Elias Hernandez, , 19-Jair Espinoza, 20-Sebastian Arana
Head Coach: Juan Manuel Funes