The U.S. U-17s, labeled the best team in the men’s side of the U.S. Soccer family, managed to barely scrape into the knockout stage of the FIFA U-17 World Cup today after falling to Colombia. Needing only a draw to secure first place in the group, the U.S. lost to Colombia and Ghana beat India by a wide enough margin to drop the Baby Yanks down to third place in the group. Luckily, the U.S. still had a good enough standing to secure one of the two third place berths into the knockout rounds.
The first half was largely even between the two sides. Colombia came out strong with a high, energetic press that the U.S. initially struggled to deal with. A bouncing throw-in in the box proved too much for both U.S. defenders and goalkeeper Justin Garces to deal with, and Colombia took the early lead off some comical defending.
Colombia with an early goal off a long throw. Garces needs to take control of his area better. pic.twitter.com/jd5kqAwkkC— J.R. Eskilson (@JREskilson) October 12, 2017
The U.S. worked their way back into the half, taking more control of the game, and broke open a stingy Colombia defense through some nifty work by Andrew Carleton, with George Acosta providing the clinical finish at the end of the cross.
That score would hold until halftime, and both teams would go into half with nearly identical possession and shot stats, as well. Unfortunately, Colombia came out quickly again in the second half, and this time the U.S. couldn’t respond. On 70 minutes, the Colombians took the lead once again through a powerful free kick.
Colombia regains the lead off of a free kick. 1-2 70' pic.twitter.com/cJilFH1AXC— J.R. Eskilson (@JREskilson) October 12, 2017
The South Americans sealed the game late on, completing the victory once play had become stretched and the U.S. was caught with players upfield.
Colombia makes it 1-3. Only stoppage time left for the US U17s pic.twitter.com/vo9HKG4tZf— J.R. Eskilson (@JREskilson) October 12, 2017
Justin Garces will shoulder his fair share of blame for the loss, but ultimately it was a poor result for the entire team after Colombia had previously lost to Ghana, who this team beat 1-0, and barely managed to squeak by India 2-1, who the U.S. dealt with comfortably to start the tournament. The team looked a bit tired on the field as well, which is most likely a consequence of a lack of rotation. 8 of the 11 players on the field for the U.S. started and played the vast majority of all three group stage games, while Sergino Dest and Ayo Akinola also played at least a full game earlier in the group stage. George Acosta was the only player on the field who didn’t play the previous game against Ghana, and coincidentally, he was on the end of the best U.S. chances on the night.
This was clearly the first choice team for coach John Hackworth, but they looked tired in the midfield, Chris Durkin and Chris Goslin not looking nearly as dominant as usual, and the team suffered for it. The U.S. will need to rebound quickly if it wants to make Hackworth’s pre-tournament goal of a quarterfinals berth, as they await either Paraguay or Iran, most likely, in the round of 16.