The United States under-17 national team took on Croatia in their second group match of the U-17 World Cup. They rebounded from a tough opening match loss with a 2-2 draw. A first half two-goal lead should've been enough to secure the three points, but they were unable to hold onto it as the Croatians roared back with two of their own and probably should've won it if not for some bad luck.
The young American side once again started off on the back foot. They withstood some early pressure from Croatia and were able to keep it scoreless through the first 20 minutes thanks to some wonderful saves by Will Pulisic.
His cousin, and Borussia Dortmund product Christian, would get the Americans out in front in the 21st minute. Luca de la Torre sent the talented Pulisic in on goal with a nice throughball, and he finished expertly to give the U.S. a much-needed 1-0 lead. A bit of serendipity for Pulisic, who holds a Croatian passport and has received interest from their FA in the past.
The goal turned the match around for the U.S. and it sparked them to life. After a few promising attacks they were able to double their lead in the 40th minute. Pulisic again played a huge part as his great work down the right flank resulted in a perfect cross to the head of Brandon Vazquez for a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Croatia came out of the locker room determined to get back into the match and it showed. They peppered the American's goal with shots, but the other Pulisic stood tall and made several more stellar saves. However, the pressure would finally pay off in the 65th minute as a cross into the box was knocked down fortuitously for Karlo Majic to hammer home from close range to cut the U.S.' lead in half.
An equalizer would come just 10 minutes later after nothing but constant possession and chances by the Croatians. Luka Ivanusec was on the receiving end of a nice one-two passing sequence and his first time shot was able to beat Pulisic to bring the score level.
Croatia pushed hard for the winner in the final minutes and were dreadfully unlucky as they hit the post three times, including twice just as the full-time whistle was about to blow. The teams split the points.
U-17 starting XI vs. Croatia: W. Pulisic; Adams, Arellano (c), Barbir, Nelson; McCabe, de la Torre, C. Pulisic, Zendejas; Vasquez, Perez.— U.S. Soccer YNT (@ussoccer_ynt) October 20, 2015
- A very disappointing end to such a promising start to the match.
- Christian Pulisic was inspirational in the attack and it's clear why he gets so much praise from scouts and experts alike.
- While this team's attacking exploits improved from the last match, their defending still has as many holes as Charles Barkley's golf swing.
- Overall, results don't matter at this age level. The fact that this team has great technical quality is a very encouraging sign and one that should give American soccer fans hope for the future.