The U17 women’s national team has been eliminated from the 2016 U17 Women’s World Cup after a lackluster group stage.
They went 1-0-2 in group, beating Paraguay 6-1 but then falling to Ghana 2-1 and then again to Japan 3-2.
The game against Japan was a crucial must-win in order to advance and at first it seemed like the U17s would find a way through despite being outplayed by Japan since practically the opening whistle.
Ashley Sanchez scored on a big long ball, bursting through two Japanese defenders like the Kool Aid man to pounce on the ball and place it very nicely.
The US managed to get to halftime 1-0, but Japan leveled the score in the second half at the 53’ and then scored a one-two punch of back to back goals in the 75’ and 77’ to make it 3-1.
The US managed to pull one back on a penalty kick in stoppage, once again scored by Sanchez.
In a game where Japan had 66% possession, outshot the United States over two to one, and earned eight corners vs one for the US, that 3-2 scoreline is somewhat deceiving. Japan was in control of much of the game, and the scoreline was kept respectable in large part due to the goalkeeping of Laurel Ivory.
This is a discouraging result for the team and the program and calls for some introspection into the way the team is being developed in terms of tactics and getting players to stop being so static. There’s been much touting of the revamping of the women’s program from the top down since Jill Ellis took over the senior team, with talk of consistency between the different age levels so that players who get called up to the next age bracket or the full senior team find themselves prepared to play up to the level. With proper development the youth program absolutely could be producing more Mallory Pughs, which is crucial to the continued dominance of the program.