The U.S.A. opened their 2017 FIFA Men’s U-17 World Cup against hosts India in front of 50,000 spectators. Despite a tremendous home atmosphere, the U.S. entered the game as heavy favorites and dominated the game. The Baby Nats came out with a plan to dominate possession and impose themselves on the match and largely executed it coming away with a 3-0 victory.
The Stars and Stripes started out brightly as Andrew Carleton was sent through and rounded the keeper in the early minutes but a heavy touch pushed the ball out of bounds. In the fifth minute, soon to be Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent forced India keeper Dheeraj Moirangthem to make a save to deny the U.S. an early lead.
Though the Red, Red, and Red dominated possession and had several threatening moments where it looked as though they would break through, they failed to score or create dangerous chances as the first half wore on. For their part, India did an effective job containing Josh Sargent aside from his early chance to begin the game.
The U.S. persistence paid off though just before the 30 minute mark. Sargent received a throw in at the edge of the India penalty box. He found himself marked by just one India defender for once and he promptly nutmegged his marker and looked to be through for a one on one with Moirangthem. Before he could take on the keeper, Sargent was pulled down and the referee promptly awarded a penalty. Sargent stepped up and coolly slotted his spot kick to put the U.S. ahead 1-0.
The first half featured very little for Justin Garces to do. India had few chances to get forward and didn’t manage a shot in the early going. In the 40th minute, India did put together an attack down the left flank but two U.S. defenders descended on the attacker and cleared the ball from danger. It took 42 minutes for India to get their first shot as a long range effort from outside the 18 yard box was easily saved by Garces. The opening 45 minutes ended with the score at 1-0.
As the second half began, the U.S. came out eager to double their lead. It almost happened as Andrew Carleton was through on goal in the 49th minute catching India somewhat disorganized in defense. He sent a low shot at goal that was just palmed away by a diving Moirangthem with the rebound cleared by India. It seemed like the U.S. was getting more chances and the second goal came in the 52nd minute. A corner taken by Blaine Ferri was poorly cleared, landed near Chris Durkin, and the D.C. United academy product hammered it home to put the U.S. ahead 2-0.
India nearly pulled one back in 56th minute when a through ball put Durkin in a two on one. Garces came sprinting off of his line to help but failed to win the ball and attacker Komal Thatal very nearly chipped the a shot over a charging keeper. Luckily, the ball floated harmlessly over the crossbar.
With the game marching into the final half hour, the U.S. made their first change in the 66th minute taking Ayo Akinola off for George Acosta. Akinola had an uneven game without much influence on the match. The change pushed Acosta centrally and allowed Andrew Carleton to resume his usual position on the left wing.
In the 70th minute, James Sands took down Aniket Jadhav for a free kick in a good spot. India subbed in two attacking players before the set piece and it nearly paid off. Timothy Weah found himself one on one and his challenger illustrated why Weah is thought of as such a promising attacker as he was dribbled around twice and allowed a dangerous cross that was fortunately dealt with by the U.S. defense.
The U.S. nearly found a third goal as the match entered the final quarter hour with a short goal kick and quick passes played through their half until George Acosta received the ball at midfield. The substitute pinged a looping pass into the path of Andrew Carleton who took a powerful shot that went just wide of the India goal.
In the 83rd minute, the U.S. almost saw their clean sheet disappear as a turnover landed at the feet of Suresh Wangjam. His shot was headed out by Durkin saving if not a goal, a difficult save for Garces. The resulting corner kick led to a shot for India defender Anwar Ali that ricocheted off of the cross bar. The ball was cleared to George Acosta who looked up and saw Andrew Carleton making a run for the India goal. His long ball was pulled down by the Atlanta United product and Power Spring Pulisic took on the India keeper, pushing his shot past him for the third U.S. goal of the match.
The scoreline would stay at 3-0 as the U.S. saw the game out. Despite an uneven opening third to the match for the U-17s in attack, the team fell into a rhythm as the game progressed and their nerves settled. The clean sheet and three goals put the U.S. at the top of Group A on goal differential. They will take on Ghana, who won their opener against Colombia, this coming Monday.