It wasn’t easy, but the U.S. U17 men battled their way to a 2-0 win over a tough Trinidad and Tobago side Monday evening in Honduras, behind goals from Joe Gallardo and Haji Wright keeping its World Cup qualification on track.
This was not the same T&T side that lost 4-1 in its opening match to Guatemala, and it was apparent from the get go that the U.S. were in for a far sterner test than the one they faced in defeating Cuba 5-0 in the opener.
The very athletic Soca Warriors pressed the U.S. all over the field, giving the Young Yanks little time on the ball, and forcing the U.S. into numerous turnovers,. With the tournament’s quick turnaround, Williams made some changes to his lineup, so continuity may have been an issue as the Americans took time to settle into this match.
For all of that, the Young Yanks had the more dangerous possession, although Hugo Arellano had to play a captains part with his 35th minute clearance, when Kareem Riley’s cross left U.S. keeper Will Pulisic stranded.
The Americans were protecting a 1-0 lead at that point, having broken through via Joe Gallardo’s 31st minute free kick. Gallardo tallied a hat trick in the opening win over Cuba and he took his free kick well, although T&T clearly need a lot of work on its defensive wall.
Gallardo’s strike was enough to send the U.S. to the locker room ahead 1-0 after 45 minutes, with a chance to stamp its authority on this game in the second half. Instead the second half turned out to be something of a mirror image of the opening stanza.
The Americans continued to struggle with T&T pressure, before a moment of individual brilliance gave the Young Yanks with a second goal. This time the moment came from the run of play, rather than a free kick, and Haji Wright was the provider.
Wright picked up a through ball from Christian Pulisic and blew past the the Soca defense, before picking his spot with a fine left footed shot to beat Levi Hernandez in the T&T goal.
Wright’s goal sealed the deal for the the U.S., but not before Will Pulisic came up with a big double save in the 87th minute to preserve the shutout. Richie Williams will need to coax better performances out of his team going forward, particularly now that the Soca Warriors have provided a potential blueprint to unnerve the U.S. with pressure.
It wasn’t perfect against Trinidad And Tobago for the U.S., but with two clean sheets and six points from two games, the Americans head into Thursday’s match versus Guatemala sitting comfortably atop Group A.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
TRI 0 0 0
USA – Joe Gallardo 31st minute
USA – Haji Wright (Christian Pulisic) 71
USA: 1-Will Pulisic; 2-Matthew Olosunde, 14-Tanner Dieterich, 5-Hugo Arellano (capt.), 3-John Nelson; 16-Thomas McCabe, 8-Luca de la Torre (13-McKinze Gaines, 64), 10-Christian Pulisic (18-Tyler Adams, 83); 7-Haji Wright, 9-Joe Gallardo (19-Brandon Vazquez, 90+1), 20-Alejandro Zendejas
Subs Not Used: 4-Alexis Velela, 6-Eric Calvillo, 11-Josh Perez, 12-Kevin Silva, 15-Daniel Barbir, 17-Pierre da Silva
Head coach: Richie Williams
TRI: 1-Levi Fernandez; 3-Keston Julien, 4-Tekay Hoyce, 6-Kareem Riley, 7-Shakeem Patrick; 8-Joshua Burnett (17-Jeankeon Alexander, 84), 10-Morgan Bruce, 11-Jarren Nixon (9-Chaz Burnett, 60), 12-Kierron Mason; 14-Isaiah Hudson (13-Kishon Hacksaw, 82), 19-Noah Powder (capt.)
Subs Not Used: 2-Isaiah Garcia, 15-Darnell Hospedales, 16-Shobai Celestin, 18-Jean-Paul Rochford, 20-Tyrek James
Head coach: Shawn Cooper
Stats Summary: USA / TRI
Shots: 12 / 10
Shots on Goal: 4 / 2
Saves: 2 / 1
Corner Kicks: 8 / 2
Fouls: 14 / 11
Offside: 1 / 3
USA – Thomas McCabe (caution) 74th minute
TRI – Joshua Burnett (caution) 78
USA – Matthew Olosunde (caution)